Kate’s Blog: Suggested reading/listening as we go back to school

It’s been a very busy month of back-to-school, which means that I have been remiss in attending to my blog.  It seems that many people are busy thinking about how children learn best, what we need to teach (as both parents and educators), and how that education should look as we move forward.

At ISTP, we have revised our mission and developed the strategic plan for the next five years.  Key aspects of both are renewing our efforts to truly engage students in learning, to help them be good risk-takers and therefore innovative, and to develop the skills necessary for strong collaboration.  We do not make these goals in a vacuum, but look carefully at research, best practices, and trends in education.  So it is no surprise that other schools are wrestling with how to best educate students in a holistic manner, but it is always interesting when numerous articles, books, or segments on the radio pop up at the same time.

Three pieces particularly spoke to me.  The first one was one that I not only read, but was also sent to me by parents, colleagues, and friends – an article from the New York Times called “What if the Secret to Success is Failure?”  It profiles a top independent school and a charter school in New York City, as each of their principals seeks to find better ways to help their students succeed.  The short answer is to develop “grit” – an ability to face challenges and learn how to fail.  It is a great article that speaks to our desires for students to develop the ability to take risks, and to learn from their mistakes.

The next is a book that I am admittedly not finished reading, but it was highlighted in Fresh Air on NPR, and the clip I heard talked about how beneficial bilingualism is for children – so it of course caught my ear and I bought the book immediately!  It is called Welcome to Your Child’s Brain and is an interesting look at how we develop and learn.  It is a nice reminder of how we learn best when our brains are ready, and pushing a child to do something too early will not help the natural process. One of the authors talks about how it is better as a parent to focus on things like fostering self-control and willpower instead of teaching math and reading at an early age.

Lastly, a number of us heard a segment on NPR called “Don’t Lecture Me” on our way home from 1st and 2nd Grade Back to School Night, about how colleges are re-thinking how they are educating students.  It was a very interesting piece that really emphasized the importance of connection and engagement – between subject matter, between teacher and student, and amongst students.

All of these are excellent food for thought as we embark on another academic year, with a focus on developing the social emotional learning in our students while providing a rigorous academic program.

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