Pensamiento, Pensée, 思考
November 29, 2018
Among the most frequent questions asked by both prospective and newly enrolled families are those about our World Language program. Why do students learn three languages simultaneously? Wouldn’t it be better to teach one language more frequently and more in depth? My child is bilingual and speaks French fluently, how will he be challenged? Don’t the children become confused?
The answers to these important questions lie, quite simply, in the research. By every measure, language study at an early age creates a firm foundation for children to become lifelong language learners. While introducing them to other languages and cultures, it encourages open-mindedness by promoting curiosity about the world and other ways of life. Early exposure to other languages empowers children to become both confident risk-takers and critical thinkers. Most importantly however, early study of multiple languages assures the brain FLEXibility necessary for young children to succeed in related academic pursuits. As twentieth-first century educators, we recognize the importance of action research and from neuroscience we know that the brain is elastic, not fixed. Early language learning programs akin to our approach use the brain’s natural inclination to seek out, recognize and create patterns – every day and with startling frequency.
At PDS, our FLEX (Foreign Language Exploratory) program emphasizes receptive language, with students expected to do more listening than speaking, as they are in the input phase of learning. The idea is to replicate, as practicably as possibly, the way one’s native language is acquired. Pedagogically, the program is delivered in short classes over the course of an academic year or years. Neither oral nor written fluency of the target languages is expected. Taught in multi-modal contexts where both the visual and the textual reinforce conceptual content, the modalities of the brain work together, in a FLEXible manner, not in isolation. A tangential goal is to give students a foundation for future language study, introduce basic phrases in a number of languages in order to sharpen listening skills and familiarize students with the notion that ideas can be expressed in a language other than English.
FLEX programs could be described as ‘language potpourri’ or ‘sampler courses’ which allocate a limited number of classes to each of several languages. Not so here on River Road. We are not a smorgasbord lot – we sample nothing, but embrace our work with gusto, strive to remain FLEXible in our approach and joyous in our lives lived with your children.
Gratitude Requires Courage
November 15, 2018
gratitude. n.: the state of being grateful: thankfulness.
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (6th edition). (1999). Springfield: Merriam-Webster.
Gratitude, authentically achieved, can be life changing but it is a high bar, one that demands a good deal of courageous reflection. The algorithm is straightforward, but hardly simple. It requires ongoing, systematic scrutiny to heed the multiple opportunities for gratefulness that are granted us each day.
The best-selling author, Saran Ban Breathnach, set forth the challenge more precisely. “abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend….we [can] choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but [be] grateful for the abundance that’s present”.
I must admit, my struggle to attend to all that is wondrous in my life is underscored each year by the advent of the Thanksgiving holiday. But thankfulness is not an event and an annual inventory of personal abundance is not enough. If I do not want my work to achieve gratitude to go the way of the un-realized New Year’s resolutions, then I need to be unyeilding in my search for gratefulness. I must be more courageous. I need to operationalize my reflections, to plumb both daily and life-changing events for opportunities to be thankful and to record them in earnest. This I know.
But what of life at Primary Day? How can we realize our abundance and demonstrate gratefulness? I think the answer lies in the collective commitment to children and their well-being that we live every day. For us, the question is not which garden to tend, but how to celebrate opportunities to be thankful and turnkey those into genuine gratitude. We must be resolute and courageous, as we school each other in the importance of ‘year-round’ gratefulness.
Be assured of my gratitude for your support and confidence in our shared mission.
Throwing Something Back
October 25, 2018
“We make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give.”
An essential part of a Primary Day education is a commitment to teaching our children to care – for themselves, for their classmates, for their families and for those in need. The importance of social action grounded in selfless giving cannot be overstated. While our community service programs offer opportunities for all of us to engage and contribute, it is in our conversations, and yours at home, that our children learn about their responsibility to care for others and for our collective future together.
As we work to shape the service thinking and future practices of our children, we must emphasize that philanthropy is a critical part of a democratic society. Broadly defined, philanthropy represents a collective responsibility for humankind as it is through our giving that we can provide opportunities for growth and change. Yes, our lives are made richer by our giving and we must do all that we can to cultivate this truism for our children’s sake.
What is also true is that philanthropy represents giving and sharing on many levels. Volunteerism is, at its core, a philanthropic enterprise and represents a contribution of the purest sort. With that said, generous financial support for charities, programs and schools represent another, equally impactful, type of giving.
At Primary Day, we look to every member of our school family to support our philanthropic efforts to the most ambitious extent possible. While contributions to The Primary Circle: The Annual Fund for PDS impact our small community in ‘real time’ it is this, and other, philanthropic endeavors that we need to consistently model for our children. If we make a point each and every day to throw something back our community will grow together in exponential ways – and together we’ll nurture the next generation of a philanthropic society.
“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”
- Maya Angelou
Our DNA is Yours – PDS @ 75!
October 11, 2018
Have you ever thought about what makes the Primary Day legacy so compelling 75 years on? What breathes life into this unique school year after year? Of course, we have a distinct brand; a mission statement; a vision, brochures, posters, and a website. They all help get the message out, but they aren’t enough. Not even close. There’s one ingredient that’s greater and more important than all of those combined. It’s you…our parents.
Parents sustain our legacy through their passionate commitment to this unique school. Today’s Primary Day exists through the vociferous, enthusiastic participation and contribution of generations of parents whose active commitment and pronounced support sustains the heritage we share from one generation to the next. Our DNA is yours!
The enrollment team orchestrates and leads our annual enrollment charge. That said, we depend on parents to participate in an orchestral performance that can be heard throughout greater Washington. Through your community connections, you turnkey both your personal experience and your heartfelt emotions in order to energize the next class of parents. The result: nearly 85% of new families come to PDS through parent referrals. That’s powerful in itself, but even more so when you learn that most schools aspire to 75%!
As PDS embarks on another great year, the enrollment team – and now you know that team includes you – will be assembling the next class of PDS families whose community and educational values mirror your own. That’s what makes the Primary Day legacy so powerful, so sustaining. Thank you.
The Power of Agile Thinking
September 27, 2018
The most successful schools recognize the generational value of families and students—from the first inquiry to the planned gift of a proud alumnus. As families traverse the route of admission to enrollment and next-school placement and as their children emerge as alumni who will refer others to the School and engage with the community for a lifetime, the power of a Primary Day education is affirmed.
As an independent school, we have always enjoyed the freedom to explore innovative advancement approaches, respond to community needs with precision and design flexible learning environments to respond to changing demographics. We work hard to keep the thinking nimble and the focus sharp.
Our mission is distinct and our vision for the future, impassioned. To insure a forward trajectory, we have spent considerable time in recent months researching best practices relative to a new concept in independent schools, that of Mission Integration. Enabled by the professional gifts and talents of existing staff and inspired by the true collaboration that characterizes our work together, we have reconfigured both our Advancement and Enrollment teams to sustain our strong culture and brand supported by shared decision making. Traditional job descriptions have been replaced with a more strategic leadership of mission-based initiatives. We have fashioned a Mission Integration team at Primary Day.
In collaboration with the Board of Trustees and the faculty, the team will employ a cohesive approach to advancing the School’s mission. By implementing best practices and, in anticipation of a board-adopted Strategic Plan, the stage will be set for our vibrant future. Members of the Mission Integration team include the following colleagues: the Assistant to the Head of School, the Assistant Director of Enrollment Management, the Business Manager, the Director of Advancement and the Director of Enrollment Management. Agile thinkers all!
As always, I welcome your thoughts and your questions about our thinking.
Magna-Tiles and Rubber Ducks
September 17, 2018
Managed institutional growth is born of community engagement. The power of candid conversations, collaborative planning, and passionate involvement cannot be overstated. Taken together with an unwavering dedication to a clear mission, the very best of schools thrive and serve generations of students. This is who we are.
Primary Day was not your typical ‘start-up.’ Washington, the beleaguered capital city of a nation at war, was an inauspicious environment to inaugurate a new institution. Our tenacious, passionate, and committed founders were not deterred. In the years before the doors opened in the fall of 1944, three courageous women invested much of their time in developing the Phonovisual method, and they were convinced of its efficacy. They had engaged in challenging discussions, collaborated with university-level educational experts and were headstrong in their planning for what would become The Primary Day School. This is the heritage that is ours today.
However, the school’s future wasn’t assured by its founders alone, but by the faculty and the parents of the children taught in those early classrooms. Candid conversations, active listening, strong partnerships, and mutual trust enabled institutional growth in very real ways. Our move to River Road was made possible by a group of intrepid parents and benefactors who demonstrated an unwavering confidence in a school that had produced successful young learners from the very start.
Our enduring success is a product of that same reliance upon and trust in our relationships, and by collaborations that ignite a synergy of ideas, opportunities, and actions. For decades, my predecessors have collaborated with this community, sustaining its changing needs and drawing from its evolving capacity to contribute to its future. With traditions as touchstones, and as steadfast caretakers of a remarkable legacy, they fortified an already firm foundation. I am privileged to follow their lead.
As we prepare to celebrate our seventy-fifth year and chart our future, active listening, sincere engagement, and forthright dialogue will be essential elements for success. The PDS legacy was forged in a turbulent era and today we are challenged to envision our future in likewise unsettled times. Together, our collective resilience will prevail.
So, what of Magna-Tiles and rubber ducks? My challenge to each member of our community is to be as courageous as our founders, as unabashedly philanthropic as those first parents, and as committed as our earliest colleagues. Help us “get our ducks in a row” for the future! If you have a great idea — or a suggestion for growth, improvement, or change — grab a duck from the bowl in the front office, bring it to me with your thinking and together we’ll add your idea to the growing flush of ducks we’ve already collected. Interested in an authentic, engaging conversation about our future? My door is always open, the latchkey is out, and there is a pile of Magna-Tiles on the table to help us assemble a vision for PDS. Together.