We have a number of Randolph employees whose roles are unique to our school and whose work makes a difference to the quality of the student experience. Assistant Head of Lower School and Lower School Director of Teaching and Learning Laurel Shockley '89 is one of Randolph's Difference-Makers.
What do you do?
As the Assistant Head of Lower School, I wear many hats. One of my principle roles is working with teachers to make decisions about our curriculum in Lower School.
I head up a core group of teachers, our CASL group (Curriculum and Student Learning). During our regular meetings, we look at new curriculum and programs that might benefit our students while reviewing our current curriculum to make sure it meets the goals we have set for our students.
I work with teachers to find beneficial professional development for our faculty. I plan our division’s community learning efforts, working with each class to help them understand why we are carrying out these projects and our responsibility to our community.
I organize monthly assemblies for our K-4 students that celebrate the growth happening in all areas. I meet with the classroom and specialist teachers in each grade level once a week to collaborate on upcoming plans.
I coordinate Lower School Interim each spring. I plan special events like Yappy Hour and Meet at the Movies.
A highlight of my week comes early every Tuesday morning. I started a Lower School running club that meets Tuesday mornings to run. I enjoy logging miles with our students and watching them reach their running goals..
At school, I’m never without…
My phone! I am in different spots in the Lower School all day and I am fortunate to see so many amazing things happening. I try to use my phone to take pictures whenever I can. I like to tweet the pictures so others can see what I do! I also use the pictures I take during monthly assemblies.
What’s different about your work here?
I was fortunate to teach at Randolph before I was an administrator here. I taught 3rd grade for many years, and then taught kindergarten through 4th grade in the science lab. Having taught in public school before teaching at Randolph, there were so many things to appreciate when I arrived. It is important for me to be able to use my creativity in everything I do. I was fortunate as a teacher to be able to do that, and now as an administrator I feel the same freedom. My ideas are valued and I am given space to explore them. The collaboration with teachers and administrators always keeps what is best for our students as the main focus.
When you tell people what you do, what kinds of things do they ask?
Do you miss teaching? The answer is yes! But, in my role, I am able to work with students quite a bit. As we adopt new programs, or I learn about different strategies that we decide to implement I get so excited that I sometimes want to borrow a class to try it out myself! I do think that my teaching experience stays close to my heart and helps me support our teachers well.
What do you want people to know about the developmental needs of young children?
I have gained a lot of perspective over the years, as a teacher, administrator, and parent. When working with young children, I believe it so important to understand that they are learning – everything! It is definitely not all about academics. Young children are learning the key social skills that will be important throughout their lives. Keeping a growth mindset is key. When children fail to meet a goal or have a behavior misstep, we should not focus on punishment, but about taking the opportunity to teach the child how to improve or handle the situation better. Young children reach developmental milestones at different times. Each child is growing and reaching those milestones a bit differently. We have to keep those differences in mind and strive to meet individual needs.
Young children are excited and curious learners. We feel that our job in the Lower School is to nurture and grow that love of learning in our students. The beginning of a child’s educational career should be positive, filled with experiences that are designed for how young children learn. In the Lower School, we keep students’ developmental needs in mind as we plan every experience at school, from how we design the schedule, to the curriculum we select, to the furniture in our classrooms, all of these things are chosen based on the developmental needs of our students.
What does a child need to be happy/successful at school?
Children need to have positive feelings around school. Their experiences in the Lower School will form the basis for their attitudes toward school for years to come. We want students to build confidence in Lower School. We do not have grades in the Lower School because grades impact the desire to learn for learning’s sake. We want our students to be curious, risk taking learners who are intrinsically motivated.
Describe a great day at work.
If I’m not starting the day on the track with the running club, I am either greeting students on car line or as they arrive in the halls. Kids are often bringing in donations for our food packing program or donations of materials for the design lab. I put those items where they need to go during arrival time.
This month is Fabulous February, so we are sharing the love with our teachers this month – doing special things to let them know how much we appreciate them. We have had Twitter Challenge Tuesday, Seesaw Surprise day, and Wear What You Want Wednesday.
If it is an assembly morning, I prepare for the children to arrive and then enjoy celebrating student accomplishments from the month.
I have been very involved with the formulation and now implementation of our Strategic Plan, so lately many of my days have involved a meeting that is focused on moving that plan forward.
I am often able to watch our students in a music program or working on a special project or joining a class to prepare food packs for our community service.
With Interim coming in March, I have been busy making plans for that special week when all of our Lower School students get to spend time exploring a topic outside of the usual curriculum.
Before the day ends, I get the after-school club rosters out to teachers to help them direct students where to go. During dismissal, I enjoy helping our students get into their cars safely and wishing them a good evening. Believe it or not, these interactions are an important part of their education here. I am in my office after school, catching up on emails and making lists of what needs to get accomplished the following day.
What are some things you love about working at Randolph?
The location of my office in the kindergarten hall makes for a happy day every day. I enjoy getting to know the kindergarteners so well during their first year at Randolph. Their smiling faces, our conversations, the pictures they color for me, and sweet hugs make my job the best! I also enjoy reading research and finding new approaches to educating young children. There has been so much new brain research recently that is fascinating as it applies to education of young children. Working with the amazing teachers and with our Head of the Lower School, Cindy Shaw, is inspiring as well. Our Lower School team is so supportive of our students and each other.
Favorite school tradition?
There are so many! Since I am an alumna of Randolph, I will say the random order of the diplomas at graduation and the pot of money attached to the last one chosen. (I didn’t win my year, but I remember who did!) Randolph has changed in many ways since I graduated, but I love that some of the traditions have lasted through the years.
Best time of the school year?
There are incredible things about each part of the school year. Some think the third quarter of school drags a bit because of the cold weather and long stretch before Spring Break. I think it is the most special time because it is the magical part of the year when young children seem to make breakthroughs. Reading clicks, writing starts to take shape, collaboration starts to happen more naturally, and all of the work in the first half of the year starts to show. We have all also formed bonds by this time in the year that we know will last forever.
You can follow Mrs. Shockley on Twitter @LaurelShockley.