Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Waiting on the world to change"

A Peace Assembly, a Show of Work, a Witch Trial.  Engaging , empowering action up to the last minute before break.

There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children.  There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they grow up in peace.
                                                                                                            ~ Kofi Annan

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It makes sense to collaborate

Collaborating, communicating.  The back and forth and give and take allows for feedback and clarity, and makes the learning stick.  Why work in isolation?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wisdom from Finland

Everyone is talking about Finland!  Their school model includes supporting the highest caliber teachers and not rushing children into academics.  There is time for play and exploration.  A Finnish education minister says, "We don’t measure children at all. It’s about being ready to learn and finding your passion.”  And lo and behold, the students do really well. 

Several years ago a Finnish student-teacher came to Parker for 3 months.  Kaisa Kukkonen's smile and enthusiasm inspired everyone she met.  She exemplified an education that bred independence, joy, and exuberance for learning.  She found Parker to be a lot like her elementary school in Finland.

Here is a New York Times article: From Finland, an Intriguing School-Reform Model.  See if you think Kaisa was on to something!

Monday, December 12, 2011

First LEGO League competition

Parker Math Club participated in a First LEGO League competition this Saturday at RPI.  Click on this YNN news clip to see our kids there in their bright blue t-shirts.  Thank you to Shelli Casler-Failing and Katy Perry, our math and science teachers for taking on the challenge - and for all the parents who supported the team.  Congratulations to our terrific students who worked so hard and put themselves out there!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Volunteers do their share

A Book Fair for the Library and 8th Grade's Oxfam Hunger Banquet were just part of a full week. The Oxfam event raised awareness about world hunger and over $1,024 for hungry people.  Thank you to the 8th grade and all the many guests and volunteers who made Oxfam and the Book Fair successful. 

When you come to Parker you never know what you'll see.  Yesterday as Laura took a visitor on tour, they encountered violin lessons, Band practice, a Pattern Museum in Pre K, and middle school social studies teacher, James, ironing a tablecloth for the Oxfam event!  This morning students sang "MICE, MICE, make it nice - Do your share and show you care..." as they broke into teams to clean the common areas of the school.   MICE stands for Make it Clean Everywhere.  They do!

Then Pre K Planet Parker headed into the woods for a snowy afternoon.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Doing "small" well

Mayor Bloomberg said recently that class size in schools doesn't matter - it's having good teachers that makes the difference.  True on some level, but simplistic.  It really does depend on good teachers -  and also a class size that is appropriate for the task. 

For hands-on experiences, smaller groups work best.   But with a couple extra adult hands, a big class can work, too.  (Today at the book fair, it took 5 adults to help 17 K-1's write their wish-lists!)  Math classes here are small.  What a luxury to have 7 or 8 students working with a teacher on math concepts.  They can move along quickly and make sure everyone is progressing.  But sometimes a discussion is better with more voices, like the Morning Meeting in 2-3, with 18 diverse viewpoints.

Even when we are all together, the Parker community is small.  Everyone knows everyone.  And that does take really good teachers who are intentional about making the community warm and supportive.  With Buddies, mentors, all-school assemblies, Winter Fridays, and now our twice weekly all-school exercise sessions, our students have the kind of small-school experience that you can't trade for anything.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Great place to work

Parker was named one of the Best Places to Work in the Capital Region by the Business Review!  Click here for photos of the winning companies - look for a few familiar faces in the mix.  Parker is also prominently featured today in the Business Review's supplement.

There was an awards lunch that those of us who could leave school attended, along with Christine Cunningham, our Board chair, and Ronnie Mangione, a trustee.  Several trustees sponsored our table for lunch.  When we carried the 20th Anniversary banner up to the podium, we felt so proud!  Back at school the teachers had treats and flowers.  The award is the result of the truly collegial and supportive relationships of everyone at Parker!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A developmental understanding of gender and sexual diversity

Yesterday's workshop with Jennifer Bryan about Gender and Sexual Diversity was thought-provoking for teachers and staff.  She challenged our ideas about diversity and praised our mission that puts emotional security at the heart of learning.  We talked about developing a shared understanding and language,  helping all children feel included, and bringing parents into the conversation.

Watch for more as we explore bringing Jennifer back to school for a parent workshop in the spring.

Special Friends

Before Thanksgiving, we invited family and friends to enjoy a harvest Feast with Pre K and a program in the afternoon.  What a lovely way to share thanks with those we love!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Crazy for LEGO robotics

We have robotics on the mind!  We just received a grant from the General William Mayer Foundation to greatly expand our LEGO robotics program.  We'll be adding robotics into the whole school and using some of the robotics challenges for summer camp offerings.   

Math teacher, Shelli has introduced First LEGO League into Math Club.  They will be competing in their first competition this winter.  Here is what it is all about:

In the 2011 Food Factor Challenge, over 200,000 9-16* year olds from over 55 countries will explore the topic of food safety and examine the possible points of contamination our food encounters – from exposure to insects and creatures, to unsterile processing and transportation, to unsanitary preparation and storage – then find ways to prevent or combat these contaminates.  In the Food Factor Challenge, teams will build, test, and program an autonomous robot using LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT to solve a set of Food Safety missions as well as research, develop, and share their innovative food safety solutions.

My step-daughter teaches at a school outside of Boston.  They won first place in a LEGO creativity contest.  Here's the video that won.  It shows a bit about what First LEGO League is all about.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Your Thoughts, Six Words, Please Send

I recently heard Michele Norris from NPR talk about her new memoir, The Grace of Silence and her poetic project The Race Card.  For the The Race Card project, she started with actual post cards asking for ideas about race using only 6 words.  The profound, funny, poignant, and moving responses are amazing to read. 

Our middle school language arts classes are reading Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry and they might try their hands at Michele's challenge.  Favorites of mine: Our Untold Stories Keep Us Separate - and -   Start with kids, and MIX well.  What are yours?

Friday, November 11, 2011

An impossible dream?

The bees were put to bed for the winter with some tasty fat cakes  - and the Bee Club harvested the first batch of honey!

This article, Girls Just Want to Go to School by Nicholas Kristof is inspiring and heartbreaking.  That we are fortunate beyond words is something I think about every day. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Learning like a scientist

Alison Gopnik, U.C. Berkeley professor of psychology talks about the best ways to teach and learn in this interesting interview.   She says: "it seems children learn by exploring—by experimenting, playing, drawing inferences... We all have the capacity to function the way scientists do."  Her books, The Scientist in the Crib and now, The Philosophical Baby, tell us so much about the brain, parenting and teaching.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I just participated in an amazing workshop called The Music Paradigm with conductor, Roger Nierenberg.  I was at a conference for Heads of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut independent schools.  120 of us sat among about 30 string musicians, and experienced the beautiful sound and flow of talented musicians led by a passionate maestro.  We learned that a symphony orchestra can be a metaphor for an organization and it's leader - and that a shared vision can inspire. 

I now can't stop hearing Tchakikovsky's Serenade for strings...and thinking about our beautiful vision for education at Parker!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Feeling vital and alive

Getting outside makes you feel better.  Where to Find Happiness, an article from the Huffington Post describes the work of Dr. Elizabeth Nisbit, of Carleton University.  She says, "spending time in nature or going for a walk outdoors is a mood booster and makes us feel more vital and alive."

No wonder Parker is such a great place to work and learn!  

Monday, October 31, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Parker Day

If you have heard the "denim" commercial for Target, you will get the song that one of the advisories performed today at the Robert C. Parker Day assembly:

Spoken:  Hey kids, you're not only here to get one of the greatest educations available in the world, but you're here to have the full Bob Parker experience, too!

Sung to piano accompaniment: 
Never content with complaining, impatience, or laziness
Mountain climbing, enthusiasm, and passion
Crew and trumpet and grammar

Shout: He hated bad grammer!

Excitement, fun, and energy
Parker, Parker, Parker, Parker

Yell as a group: Cheers to Robert C. Parker!!