It’s great to be back at blogging after a bout with COVID, Wilbur’s passing, wild weather, and a power outage put the blog on the back burner. Rather than one central theme today, I decided to go with three short vignettes:
One of the many joys of being Armstrong’s Head of School is the ability to bounce around to different classrooms to see our students and faculty in action. All these visits could inspire a blog! Whether participating in Ms. Sieling’s fifth-grade math class that created board games to reinforce their understanding of concepts, running in a second-grade relay race created by Mr. D. and Mr. Adamis in PE, or attending the Middle School debate elective run by Ms. Yelland, Mr. Novick, and Ms. Dake, I am lucky to experience our students’ laughter, skill-building, and energy.
A recent visit to Ms. Norland’s fifth-grade music class made a different impression. First, let me say how brave all music teachers are to teach a subject that involves making a lot of noise. Not easy! The class was particularly interesting because I had no experience playing the ukulele. I was at the same level or even behind the students; I was learning as they were. I also experienced our students' empathy, as one saw me struggle and offered me their ukulele, which had color-coded strings to identify notes more easily. Ms. Norland taught a great lesson –and I could appreciate it not only as a classroom guest, but also as a student in the learning process.
While I often visit classes, I rarely get to teach one myself. This week offered an opportunity with a few math teachers away at Outdoor Ed and on the D.C. trip. I taught a sixth-grade math group focused on geometry. The students were fantastic, not just because they were stuck with the Head of School for 75 minutes, but also because I could see their sincere engagement with the material. Leading a class reinforces many essential aspects of being an Armstrong teacher. Our students all have dyslexia, but the way each of them learns is different, and my teaching methods had to vary from very verbal to very visual. The class was also at the end of the school day – some students were still very focused; others were running low on batteries – and I had to adjust accordingly. All the students appreciated it when we talked about real-world applications of our work. It is one thing to talk about our educational process; it is even more satisfying to practice it.
Two of the refrains I most often hear from parents/guardians are “How can I feel more a part of the community?” and “What can I do to support our fabulous teachers?” April 22nd offers a chance to do both. We are trying something new this year – The Armstrong Benefit – at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos. By moving away from our annual event at the Academy of Sciences, we are offering adults (and alums) a chance to focus on getting to know one another without the parenting responsibilities of last year’s event. We expect a good turnout, including dozens of faculty and staff members and their significant others – with your chance to interact with them in a more social setting. We also will show support for all our faculty and staff by honoring two Armstrong legends, Russ Smith and Scott Douthit (“Mr. D”), who have changed the lives of thousands of Armstrong students and are retiring at the end of the school year. We hope to see you for this fun benefit essential to maintaining our educational strength at Armstrong.
Have a safe, fun, and dry weekend everyone!