We recently sent out a postcard invitation to our K-4 Admissions Open House, to be held on the evening of January 23. Generally, we select a single image, but this time, we used 16 pictures, including 10 from our Instagram feed, where we are sharing and crowdsourcing pictures for our #rstories13 project.
Some of the pictures we used, like the Middle School students holding (math) trophies, are fairly straightforward, but two of them I fought for. Well, it didn't really come to that, but I would have fought for them.
When we were looking at the layout someone said, people may not get that one.
I said, that's okay, and left it in because:
a) It's a sign in a Middle School classroom and if Middle Schoolers can figure it out, so can you; b) it totally speaks to a mindset we hope to instill in our students; c) the idea of this postcard, and of our word-of-mouth marketing campaign, is to provoke conversation; d) discomfort is not a bad thing; e) questions are how you learn;
f) while we encourage students to ask questions and seek feedback, this particular question has been banned in this classroom because it is one that aspires not to deeper understanding or intellectual confidence or being invested in your learning but to adequacy, knocking it out, being done with it.
"I posted that sign forever ago, in 2007," says Tim Moore, 7/8 Dean and 8th grade social studies teacher. "It was my first year teaching geography. I wanted kids to be confident in and trust their ability to think independently. If their idea or 'answer' didn’t work out, they would simply just need to try again! I told them that asking 'Is this okay?' implies that I am looking for one standard response, outcome, etc., and I didn’t want that, because we all learn and think differently!!! I wanted students to create original work, ideas, etc., and not stress over whether or not their work was 'pleasing me.'"
The other one that my colleagues weren't so sure people would get is this one. It's a Minecraft conversation.
"Kids would get that," someone said. "Their parents might not."
Even if you don't know about Minecraft, you get that it is a conversation happening on a computer, but if you recognize it as something from Minecraft, you might then wonder how Randolph is using Minecraft in the classroom. If you would like to know more, you can read this story, which includes a video of the 6th graders using MinecraftEDU.
Unless you were there, you would not know that the picture of the boy tying his friend's shoe was taken by a 1st grader. Several of the Lower School classrooms have Photographer as a class job, along with more traditional roles like Line Leader, and a student in Nichole Knapp's class was taking pictures of what kindness looks like, inspired by junior and president of the Random Acts of Kindness Club Michelle Caudle's visit to Lower School Community Time. This is about a young student actively thinking about the school experience and wanting to capture and celebrate something.
We had a poster with the question, "How do you know you're learning?" at the Randolph booth at Under the Christmas Tree, as well as a whiteboard that asked “Why Randolph?” (also pictured on the card). Students contributed answers, including: "When I can teach someone else and they understand" and, "When you dream in Spanish."
At the start of this school year Head of School Byron Hulsey put this question to the faculty and staff: How do our students know they are learning? We talked about this at our faculty meeting yesterday morning. An 8th grade teacher, Betsy Allen, said that students learning about the U.S. Constitution now want to observe a trial. Upper School Head Brent Bell sees change and growth as students take initiative to start projects like Septembeard. Cathie Dunar mentioned a rap that four of her Latin students recorded to learn the reflexive pronouns (qui, quae, quod and so forth). Nichole Liese did the NaNoWriMo (a national write a novel in a month) project with her 7th grade English classes and even though the month is over, more than half of them are continuing to work on their novels. Lauren Mosley, Assistant Director of Institutional Advancement, has been reading to Kindergarteners all year and observed that at the start of the year they just wanted to be read to, but now they want to read to her and talk about other books they are reading. They are truly readers.
In November, people took pictures of food, for our schoolwide photo theme. We found stories of learning with food, learning about being without food and ways that our community comes together over breakfast, lunch and dinner. Two of the pictures we used for the card were taken at the swim and dive team dinner on the eve of the city meet. Another shows an advisory breakfast in Mr. Cobbs' room, around the Harkness Table. You can read more about that here.
Grade 5/6 Dean Jon Bluestein snapped a couple of pictures of Mike Bonaker's 6th graders using flour and cocoa powder to make impact craters on the surface of the moon. It was a nice illustration of how our teachers make learning fun and provides a view into a classroom where students are actively engaged in their work.
"Tell me about this chair"
This picture was taken when the Upper School Technology in Science class visited our 1st and 2nd grade classrooms as part of learning about design and environment. Spiderweb chairs, mobile furniture, iPads and ClassDojo are all things the older students learned about from the younger students. They are going to implement some design changes in Andrea Wimberly's Upper School science room as well as doing some other cool things like helping UAHuntsville engineering students design a payload to Venus. They probably won't get a class pet, but you never know. You can read more about this new elective, their visit to the Lower School and the new classroom/learning lab furniture here.
Interactions between older and younger students build a sense of community and are an important part of the K-12 journey. Senior-Kindergarten buddies get together for reading, crafts, the Halloween parade, Kite Day and the Maypole dance at Closing Convocation. Two of these events are shown on the postcard.
More than a game
The football picture speaks to our belief in the importance of athletics and the arts as an important part in developing the whole child. In the fall, when I worked with our three AP Language and Composition classes on visual narrative, students found multiple uses for it. It shows the relationships that develop at school and the importance of putting in the work, whether in athletics, 8th grade history or anywhere else, because the experience will be richer and more meaningful. We are also fortunate to have an athletic director and head football coach who can articulate the important moments that happen over the course of a season.
The experience of being a Raider includes being a fan, both at spirit nights, like A Day on the Farm or Holiday Hoops, but also at away games. Ryan Liese, 9/10 Dean, took the picture of fans at an away game at the end of the season. AP Language student Owen Averbuch was one of several students to write about the positive impact of athletics on the community. Noel Estopinal wrote about the K-12 community spirit of home football games. "We are one family. We win together, lose together, and come together to create one body."
So there you have it. The stories behind the 16 pictures, in about 1,300 words. Thanks for taking the time to learn more about these pictures and about Randolph. We look forward to continuing the conversation.