ENGAGE is the newsletter of the Head of School. His message to parents is reproduced here.
Welcome to the new school year! I hope your summer was filled with rejuvenation, experimentation, and time with family and friends. Now it's exciting to bring our learning community back together, and we're looking forward to parent-teacher conferences and the first day of school. It will be good to reconnect, so please bring your children to their classrooms and stay for our Welcome Back Reception on August 27. This community gathering was well attended and received a lot of positive feedback last year, so we want to do it again.
Extending our love-of-learning culture to the parent community
Since classes finished last June, our faculty, staff, and administrators have been hard at work on a number of program initiatives. More on those at the end of this message. In addition to these enhancements, we have another important goal this year: Extend love of learning into the parent community by delivering high-quality family education to support a healthy school culture. We want to pilot new approaches so we can better serve your needs and ensure strong school-home partnership. My team and I want to make sure that PBS parent education is a love-of-learning opportunity: a way to strengthen our spirit of community, appropriately customized to address the concerns and challenges we're seeing. To do that, we need your help and input.
Before sharing how I'd like your help, there are four reasons why it's important to rethink our approach to parent education:
- The power of language and tone: PBS teachers have done a lot of collective professional development on what Responsive Classroom calls the "power of our words." We want to create a similar learning opportunity for parents so we can be fully aligned.
- Unity of action: Research makes clear that the student experience in school is enhanced when there's a strong school–home partnership. We want to think intentionally about what that looks like.
- Collective problem-solving: Faculty and parents have shared the need to address issues with student cohort dynamics when they occur. I think we can improve shared understandings and intentions through discussion, education, and collaboration.
- Increasingly difficult landscape: We foresee stress and anxiety in middle and high schools remaining a problem in the future, and correspondingly the need to offer our students increasingly strong emotional intelligence and executive function skills.
I want you to know that we've been listening carefully and that we are committed to identifying strategies to address. All this will not be solved through a quick fix, in a couple of emails, or even in this article. So here's how I'd like your help as we start the year:
- Parent-teacher conferences: Teachers are eager to hear what you have to say about your children and how they can support a visceral drive for learning. Conferences offer the best way to begin building relationships with teachers, so please share openly.
- Back-to-School Night on August 30: Together as a classroom parent community, teachers will lead a discussion on these questions: What do we want the classroom to feel like for students? …for parents? …for teachers? These questions are key because we need to be intentional about putting our language and tone into action. Your input and comments will influence a community-wide charter and our new approaches to parent education. Your attendance is essential so we can hear multiple perspectives.
- GATHER on August 31: I will lead off a three-part series on Partnership appropriate for students, parents, grandparents, and guests.
- Grade-level coffees (schedule): My team and I will share our ideas about new approaches to parent education and ask for your input and comments. We will also co-create a PBS Community Charter based on what we learned at Back-to-School Night and GATHER. Our Charter will define what we mean by healthy school culture supporting our mission, so please attend so we can hear your perspectives.
I recognize that the first month of school is busy and intense, so I want to thank you in advance and encourage your participation at these key engagement opportunities. Tell us what you think about partnership, how to design a Community Charter, and how PBS parent education can be a love-of-learning opportunity for you.
I'm grateful for your support and ideas!
My colleagues and I do everything we can to support a positive and high-quality student experience in the classroom. We continue to dedicate substantial time and resources to program growth, improvements, and enhancements. We are focused on various initiatives, which we'll roll out over the coming months. For now, I want to draw your attention to two areas that we believe will advance the excellence of our program:
Stay tuned for more innovations and updates this fall, and welcome again to an exciting new school year.
Scott Erickson has been Head of School at PBS since 2011. In that time, he has focused on curriculum growth, faculty support and professional development, expanding parent and community relationships, partnering with the board to strengthen the school’s financial position, and developing and implementing the school’s Strategic Action Plan. Scott enjoys reading, public speaking, projects at home, exercise, traveling, and time with family, friends, and pets.