The First Six Weeks of School

Hillbrook Voices

Contributed by: Head of Lower School Colleen Schilly.

As we enter into the first three weeks of school, children and adults in the Hillbrook community are beginning to find a rhythm in the routine and expectations of the new school year. For elementary age students, the first six weeks of school are a pivotal time during which we set the tone for the year to come. At Hillbrook, we believe that by investing in the following fiveIMG_1399 things children are more available to learn, meet challenges, and reach their potential during the rest of the year. We spend these weeks:

  1. Establishing a safe and caring community that is connected and joyful.
  2. Familiarizing children with all their learning environments, both indoors and outdoors.
  3. Teaching and modeling expectations for the safe, respectful, and appropriate use of materials and tools for learning, exploration, and play.
  4. Co-creating expectations for how we learn and resolve problems.

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Lessons From The Road: For Traveling & Living

high fiveI recently had the opportunity to travel across country for 11 days. After driving over 4,000 miles, sleeping in a different place every night, camping under stars, taking hundreds of photos, and seeing our country in ways that took my breath away…I learned some things and was reminded of many more – about traveling, mostly…but also about living:

Strike a balance: Planning comes naturally to me. I like a schedule and a sense of what is coming next. Some of my best memories (from this trip and beyond) are those that were a result of spontaneity. I’m learning to hold them both and value them equally. To allow my nature to create a plan…but to leave ample room to change that plan spontaneously. We had planned to visit at least 2 spots that, because we spent the bulk of our day exploring something else or because we were exhausted from being on the road, we ended up not visiting. Would they have been beautiful? Certainly. But allowing for a change of plan meant a gentler, healthier overall 11 days. Plans & spontaneity can coexist.

Turn around if necessary: On our first real day-of-adventure we awoke in Badlands National Park in South Dakota. We were up with the sun and had our campsite packed up…we were among the first in the visitors center, coffee in hand. We enjoyed a beautiful hike back through some of the formations to a spot overlooking the prairies below. Feeling energized by the physical exercise and the natural beauty surrounding us, we quickly packed up for another, longer hike through some prairie lands. Within a few tenths of a mosquito bitesmile it was clear that the mosquitoes were mustering their forces and had some serious battle plans. After a half mile or so we turned around. We did something else. You don’t have to be a hero. Go get a beer instead. 🙂 But seriously…when all of the warning bells are going off: listen. Backtrack. Go a different way or stop and reset. Life is too short to lose your leg to mosquito bites…or stubborn pride.

Pick the right sunscreen: Seriously. Goopy, thick sunscreen is the worst driving around with the windows down, getting sweaty, and absorbing dust. Bad sunscreen gets in your eyes (and god forbid you wear contact lenses) and stings them like hundreds of tiny needles. In my humble opinion the good sunscreen is anything Neutrogena. Consider yourself warned and wisely advised.

Eavesdrop on (and occasionally converse with) strangers: Turns out children say amazing things to their parents in National Parks.

photo bombBadlands, young boy to mother: “This is better than…better than…ANYTHING!”

Yellowstone, young girl to father (with evident disdain in her voice): “Dad! This is one of those UNCOOL geysers.”

You’ll find that asking someone to take your photo will always result in a story. The friends of a woman who took our photo at the entrance to Grand Teton National Park photo bombed our picture after deciding we weren’t looking excited enough! After offering to take a photo of two folks at Crater Lake National Park, they asked if they could return the favor and snapped some of the most amazing action shots of us jumping in to Crater Lake (the country’s deepest lake) together. I don’t know the name of the girl who took our pictures…but I’ll always remember her. Strangers aren’t always dangerous.

water jump

Appreciate and savor it: There were moments on the trip that felt like all of the stars aligned and we couldn’t have orchestrated it more beautifully even if we’d been able to control/plan it. 80-85 degree weather and sunshine every day? Check. Arrive at Old Faithful in time to get a cocktail on the deck of the hotel and see the geyser go off on the bearfirst sip? Check. Drive into Yellowstone park and see a mama grizzly and her two cubs? Check. Find an equal quality but peacefully secluded swimming hole a few hundred yards from the really crowded swimming hole? Check. Snag one of the few remaining campsites? Check. There were plenty of times that things didn’t go perfectly….but why focus on those? Effortlessly timing it right is a beautiful thing…appreciate that joy, celebrate it when it happens and let THOSE memories prevail.

Share the wealth: One of my favorite parts of chronicling our journey on a photo stream was getting to share it with friends and family instantly…and to read their comments and questions and feel like the circle of who was a part of our move was a little bit bigger, and a little more full of love and joy in our journey. Keep in mind that no photo or video will ever do justice to your experience (on the road or elsewise). That little uncapturable psunrise2iece will always be just yours. Your story. Your experience. Your memory.

Wake up early for the sunrise: You will never regret it.

Explore on, friends!

The Dastardly Winter of 2015

Though snow days and delays are stacking up – the reality is that missed school days don’t have to be a lost opportunity for your children/students to continue learning and growing. They don’t have to all become lazy, purposeless 10947279_928295667180645_6322206310509400710_ndays (though research shows that boredom and slowing down are both healthy triggers for innovation and happiness). With the right mindset and perspective, the unexpected gift of time can be a chance to create, learn, rest, and connect….with the outdoors, with books, with your creative side, and with each other. Play is just as pivotal for adults as it is for children. Here are some helpful resources to spark ideas for days when Mother Nature says “Nope!”:

Washington Post: Four Ways to Combat the Winter Blahs

NPR: 8 Picture Books That Make Us Wish We Were Kids Again and Picture Books You Don’t Have to Be a Kid to Love

Snow Day Boredom Busters: 40 Indoor Activities When the Kids are Stuck at Home

Play Minute-to-Win-It Style Games with easy materials and guaranteed laughs.

50 Ways to Keep Kids Busy Indoors

How We Choose

While teachers of children at all ages know that providing meaningful and authentic choices can impact student engagement, enjoyment, and ownership over their learning…the reality is that not everyone (nor every culture) approaches or responds to choice in the same way.

How Cultures Around the World Make Decisions

These two resources from TED shed insight on how we make choices, how our choices impact our attitudes and beliefs, and how our cultural background informs how choice fits within our value system. Children’s cultures and home lives are intrinsically important parts of their world, and will inevitably impact how they respond to choices. These are useful resources for 21st century educators navigating increasingly global and diverse classroom environments.

 

Have 5 to 20 minutes while you’re traveling?

This TED Talk Playlist provides 11 talks geared for students (and some given by students) in the late elementary through high school age range. From the astonishing wonders of various sea creatures, play-dough, electricity, & large-scale puppetry to spoken word poetry, the feminist voice of young teenage women, and the global street-dance culture…there’s sure to be something here to pique the curiosity and wonder of you and your children/students.

Becoming a More Grateful Parent/Teacher

Regaining Gratitude This Thanksgiving by Madeleine Levine, PhD

Some good nuggets in here on modeling gratitude by living gratefully, patiently, kindly, & flexibly in front of children.

“I will remember the success trajectory is a squiggle … not a straight line. Few of us become successful by simply putting one foot in front of the other. Most of us encounter a multitude of twists, turns, direction changes, and stops on the way to our goals.”

Happy Thanksgiving!