The K-12 experience

Posted by celestechilds - 07 February, 2012

The latest PARENTS+ event provided a wonderful chance for parents to hear from the leaders and division heads of Randolph School to see what extraordinary opportunities our children have as they move from division to division.

The students have a sequenced experience here that is mapped out and redirected as needed. As Head of School Byron Hulsey pointed out, it is a blessing to be able to see the big picture and to see how all three divisions are connected and stitched together.

The panel discussed how each grade level provides a foundation for the next grade and/or next division to build on. Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs, Jerry Beckman, meets regularly with all division leaders and Dr. Hulsey to ensure open communication between all divisions. The panel of speakers agreed that the most important thing is that the children continue learning all the time. They don't want the students to worry about being wrong; they want the students to know that it's okay to try and not succeed; it's not okay not to try. Randolph provides a safe, secure place for the students to do this.

Building a strong foundation in Lower School
Head of Lower School Cindy Shaw talked about several key points that she feels make her division flow smoothly and prepare the children for Middle School.

  • It is important to build a strong foundation for the children's education. Beginning with Kindergarten, they nurture the students and provide a lot of opportunities for positive reinforcement in order to "grow healthy children." School should be a joyful place, and the love of learning begins at this young age.
  • Team approach: All teachers, specialists, etc. work together to make sure the students are at the center of all decisions being made and that the curriculum is building on itself from year to year.
  • Focus on developmentally appropriate activities and curriculum for the students at each grade level, which includes helping the children develop independence as they get ready (and they all mature at different speeds).
  • Provide help with transitions from grade to grade: For example, in 4th grade, the students will transition to two classroom teachers to get them ready for middle school, where they will have different teachers for each subject.

A sense of belonging in Middle School
Head of Middle School Polly Robb said that her biggest hope for Middle School students (5th-8th grade) is to feel they have a place to belong.

  • The best middle schools are places where the students and the faculty can experience success together and bounce back from failures together, and this is what they strive to do in this division.
  • As they prepare students for Upper School, transitions and challenges are important at this stage, and the Middle School stresses that it's not all about grades at this point. It is a time for the students to find their interests and to have social opportunities to build relationships.
  • Students feel like they belong if they are connected. Strong relationships are built through an atmosphere that allows for students of all ages to connect. One example is the House System, where students connect with one another, students connect with teachers, and teachers connect with other teachers. Randolph wants the students to be comfortable with their teachers even before they have them in a classroom setting. In addition to getting to know teachers through the House System, students also get to know teachers through Advisory and other teacher-led opportunities.

Manage your choices in Upper School
Head of Upper School Brent Bell said the transition to Upper School also focuses on relationships with teachers and a respectful give and take for students and teachers. At this level students are given significant freedom and with that comes a significant amount of responsibility to manage that freedom correctly. Mr. Bell emphasized the following for the high school students:

  • Do your best at this level. Everything matters: your grades, your extracurricular activities, etc.
  • Be a good friend.
  • Be respectful in your relationships with adults.

He emphasized that change and anxiety is normal for all kids at all levels. But a fundamental part of growing up and developing is to be faced with choices. The Upper School wants the students at this age to know who they are supposed to be (not who their parents or others think they should be) and to begin to manage their choices.

The panel discussion ended with time for questions. Many of the questions were about communication and how parents can support their child and the importance of self-advocacy as a life skill. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It's important for children to learn to ask for help when they need it, starting at a young age. Parents of younger students can support this by letting the teacher know that the child wants to speak with them. Across the grade levels, parents are urged to begin conversations with the teacher (or coach) and then, if they still have questions, to speak with the dean, the division head, then Mr. Beckman or Dr. Hulsey.

Topics: 4th grade, Academics, community, houses, Lower School, Middle School, parents, teachers, Upper School

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