30 Oct

Message from Kathy Christoph

Folks,

It’s hard to believe that November is next week, and with that, we are quickly approaching our first formal written communication about your child’s progress. (Just a reminder:  There is no school for your children next Friday, Nov. 6) As you approach the process with your child, let me share with you a personal story and a short review of what D-E is striving to emphasize in our assessment process.

As many of you may know, my husband and I have two children, now young adults finding their way in the world. Each daughter attended private school in her formative years and went on to successful college graduation and beyond. As I listen to their stories about their jobs and life experiences, I have come to re-affirm my deep and abiding belief in the importance of two sets of different skills: academic skills and ‘non-cognitive’ skills. My daughters have each mastered the art of learning new skills, new content, new approaches, and new ways of doing things. I think the ability to be a life-long learner is one of the many gifts of an independent private school education. At the same time, what contributes just as importantly, if not more so, to their success—or challenge—in any situation is their ability to persevere when faced with a challenging situation, to collaborate in all sorts of work situations, to take risks and step out of their comfort zones, and to look for creative solutions to problems. In essence, it is their acquisition and deployment of these non-cognitive traits that give them the necessary ‘oomph’ to succeed.

I share my perspective with you because it ties in well with the direction that D-E is taking with its traits initiative and assessment process and because we are approaching our first formal communication with you about your child.  As Head of School Dr. DeJarnett often shares with our community, researchers have proven that non-cognitive skills and attributes are just as important as cognitive skills in determining academic and life success.  D-E  has adopted eight traits that we, as a School, believe will help contribute to life success and happiness for each and every child. These traits are referred to as our D-E Student as Learner traits.

The faculty and I are concentrating on recognizing and communicating these traits to your sons and daughters and to you. Each department chose three to five traits upon which to focus, learning to how to recognize and foster these in the classroom and in the HomeBase.  During the course of regular classroom interactions this fall, teachers have been dialoguing with your child about these traits.   In HomeBase, your child’s advisor has begun to engage the group in activities and discussions that illuminate the traits; activities and experiences that will continue throughout the year. In assigned assessments, these traits have been taken into consideration. And now, with these interim comments, teachers are communicating with both you and your child.

The HomeBase teachers share the written comments with each child during an extended HomeBase on November 12. We then release the comments to parents on Friday morning.

As you read your child’s comments, I urge you to think along several concurrent lines. First, look for overall strengths and challenges. Secondly, look for academic growth and performance. And third, look for mention of the Student as Learner traits.  You should find evidence of at least one in every comment. Engage your child in a conversation about his/her perspective. Help your child set reasonable goals and develop an action plan. There is much to be gained in this process, and it will reinforce the reflection your child does here at school with his/her HomeBase advisor. Working together, we can help our children learn the skills of self-reflection, mid-point adjusting, and goal setting.

We do not send out a hard copy of the comments or the 8 Traits themselves, so the D-E Student as Learner Traits are briefly summarized for you below.

Engagement

How well is the student able to:

  • Exhibit intellectual curiosity and seriousness of purpose about the subject matter and course assignments
  • Embrace challenges and high standards
  • Demonstrate and maintain focused attention
  • Demonstrate responsiveness in ways that include but are not limited to oral, in-class participation
  • Be physically present

Perseverance

How well is the student able to:

  • Work at a challenging task for an extended length of time
  • See setbacks as opportunities to grow

Critical thinking

How well is the student able to:

  • Examine implications and consequences of a belief or action
  • Question the validity of claims and sources
  • Suspend judgment to check the validity of a proposition or action
  • Take into consideration multiple perspectives
  • Examine implications and consequences of a belief or action
  • Use reason and evidence to resolve disagreements
  • Re-evaluate a point of view in light of new information

 Collaboration

How well is the student able to effectively work in a small group and full-class setting to:

  • Respectfully listen to and empathize with the point of view of others
  • Include and encourage the ideas of others
  • Communicate, contribute and compromise
  • Work towards an equitable distribution of tasks
  • Manage conflict
  • Keep the group’s goal above one’s own

Creativity

 How well is the student able to:

  • Think about how something might be done differently,
  • Change perspective,
  • Generate new ideas and alternatives,
  • Consider novel suggestions from others

Risk-taking

How well is the student able to:

  • Try something new and different while facing the fear of making mistakes and failure
  • Try something unfamiliar and challenging which is outside their comfort zone

Organization

How well is the student able to:

  • Comply with the organization created by the teacher
  • Create and maintain his/her own systems to keep track of information, tools, and materials
30 Oct

As I Walk the Halls

Want to know about inverse relationships? You might want to ask one of our 8th grade scientists; they have been measuring the height of shadows throughout the school day and recording the angle of the sun. They are discovering the relationship between the heights of sun versus the length of the shadow. This activity will connect to their work on understanding seasons as well as the different angles of the earth’s rotation.  And you may want to ask them about Star Lab!!

Our 7th grade students are quite busy these days! In English, they’re immersed in their dystopian story unit after finishing their first major essay on An American Born Chinese. In math, most of our youngsters are figuring out how to add integers and working with coordinate planes. The water cycle is a major focus in science right now. Each student is actively involved being a scientist by conducting water quality tests with water from a local pond, creek and river and making comparisons and hypothesis.  And if you pop into the social studies classrooms, you’ll find the walls decorated with the cartoons that the youngsters created, depicting their growing understanding of bias, prejudice, and perspective.

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Parents of our 6’s: In preparation for the 6th grade Identity Unit, the students visited “In Our Family”, a photography exhibit in Swartly Gallery this past week. The art teachers and the team teachers devised age-appropriate reflection activities about family to accompany the visit and to help focus the work. At home, you may want to continue the discussions by asking about the exhibit and exploring the different meanings of family.

 

Spirit Week: Developing, nurturing, and enriching a sense of community takes many forms. Our Spirit Week is one way, of many, that is designed to help our students connect to something bigger than themselves. Research has shown that when a school community is passionate about their success and their activities, it reinforces a positive tone and sense of pride for the school’s achievements. It helps connect the individuals to the greater school community. Dressing in themes, participating in the Pep Rally, cheering for House colors; these and other activities are a lighthearted way of expressing community. Greeting children in my bathrobe, for example, allows me to “let my hair down and have some fun”. These kinds of changes from the normal routine can take some pressure off students and help them to feel less stressed. There is something about wearing crazy outfits that simply spreads joy throughout the grades and reinforces the sense of belonging. So, Go Bulldogs!!

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30 Oct

A FOCUS ON: Service Learning and 6th Grade.

In middle school, we continually engage our students in the process of Service Learning, with the aim of helping students learn about ways they may meet the last phrase of our School Mission Statement: “…to meet the challenges of a changing world and make it better”. Throughout the year, each grade-level group reaches out in some way to give back to others, and we take this opportunity to think about how we can help our larger community.

IMG_1265In 6th grade everyone works together on one project — becoming aware of the problem of hunger in New Jersey and working to make a difference for families who need some help putting nutritious food (particularly fresh produce) on the table.  The project involves several experiences that both educate the students involved and make a real contribution to others.  They have been working for several years with the non-profit, volunteer-supported America’s Grow-a-Row — an organization that plants and harvests produce for food pantries and free farmer’s markets in the most needy counties of New Jersey.  Last week, our 6th grade took a trip to America’s Grow A Row http://www.americasgrowarow.org/ farm in Pittsfield, NJ. On this trip, the folks at AGAR did a nice job of presenting to our students an issue of which they may not have been aware — just moments before we all pitched in to do something about it.  On our visit, we harvested apples that will later be delivered to local food pantries.

After the AGAR trip, the 6th grade service learning project continues with a middle-school IMG_1267wide reflection on community service and a 6th grade day of workshops lead by folks from AGAR during which our students will learn more about hunger in New Jersey and why fresh produce is particularly important.  In the spring, we will work even closer to home to plant a vegetable garden for the Englewood Center for Food Action so that they may provide fresh produce to their clients during the summer.  We will learn about the steps for planting a garden and train for our various roles — from testing soil to harvesting compost and starting seeds — in our own school vegetable gardens.

At the end of the year, our 6’s return to AGAR’s farm to help plant a crop that will be harvested later in the summer by other volunteers. And Good News: AGAR has selected Dwight Englewood School to receive an award for continually exposing the children to the issues surrounding hunger, poverty, and healthy eating on and off of the fields. Our team will be recognized at AGAR’s annual volunteer barn party later this month. Well done!!

A Special Message from Grade 6 Dean Tasha Urbanowski:

Hello Sixth Grade Parents!

If you are looking for a worthwhile activity for November 6th, when students have no school, America’s Grow-a Row is asking for volunteers to help bring in the final harvest!  AGAR is the organization that, as you may remember, hosted our recent service learning trip.  Your children harvested apples for NJ food pantries and helped to feed needy families.  Now AGAR needs help bringing in additional apples and squash — please click here to learn more

If you have questions you can also contact me at: urbant@d-e.org.

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30 Oct

General News

I’m pleased to share with you that Ms. Diane Cebulski has joined our D-E community as our Middle School Administrative Assistant. Ms. Cebulski has previously held a similar position at River Dell Regional High School in Oradell and at Dumont High School. This is her first experience with middle school youngsters and already she loves the energy, enthusiasm, and sometimes chaotic pace! Please take a few moments to introduce yourself when you stop by or phone in. Her email is: cebuld@d-e.org and her phone number is: 201-227-3230

In early December, Mrs. Quirk will return from her maternity leave and begin working alongside Mrs. Stott in the 8th grade English classes. Transitioning from one teacher to another should be a smooth and transparent process, and we have a plan in place whereby they will work together for several days to ensure this objective. Because Mrs. Stott has worked closely with the 8th grade students, she will be conducting the parent conferences in December. During the latter part of the month, Mrs. Stott will begin to work with Mrs. Macone, the 6th grade English teacher, who will be on maternity leave beginning in January.

30 Oct

News from the D-E School Store:

You will notice additional charges on your November Smart Tuition account that reflect some of the required class materials that are charged through the School Store. They were listed on the grade-specific books lists that were mailed in late July and some as a course message on the Classbook website. The charges may include math subscriptions, such as Aleks and Innovations, science subscriptions, Levenger notebooks, and handbell gloves. There may also be charges for PE clothing and safety goggles for some students. Lisa Schmid at the School Store is happy to answer any questions concerning these charges – 201-227-3130 or schmil@d-e.org.

14 Oct

MS Parent Blog. Oct 14, 2015

Folks,

What a fantastic start to the school year we’ve had! From Orientation activities, classes, field trips, assemblies and all things in-between, your children are engaged and engrossed in Life at D-E.  By this time, most everyone can read their schedules, open their lockers, traverse the campus and find their friends at lunch. And the teachers are having a blast, working with your children, learning their particular strengths and planning for some wonderful opportunities in the upcoming weeks.

A few highlights:

We begin each week valuing the sense of community with a gathering in Schenck Auditorium for our Morning Meetings.  I usually begin with a brainteaser or short video. (Parents, this is a good conversation starter for Monday evenings!) We celebrate the birthdays of our students and faculty and then move on to various subjects.  In the short time we’ve had together, we’ve talked about emergency/safety procedures, our dress code, and the Middle School Honor Code. This past Monday, we even held our traditional pumpkin patch whereby each HomeBase chooses a pumpkin that they’ll decorate.

On Thursday mornings, we meet as an entire Middle School again, with our Assembly Program, which, like the Morning Meeting, aims to create, nurture and sustain a sense of community and cohesiveness.  Through the various presentations and speakers, we affirm our School’s identity and aspirations. Along the way, we have shared experiences, delve into deep topics, and enjoy a good laugh.  In the three assemblies this year, we’ve hosted two local politicians (who are also alums), engaged in our traditional Community of Readers, and explored the meaning of our School Mission, Portrait of a Graduate and Portrait of a Student. This week, we learn about Hispanic Heritage, thanks to the good work of Clinton Carbon, our Director of Multi Cultural Affairs.

Our 6th grade Overnight trip and our 7th grade Overnight trips were wonderfully successful! These trips provide experiences that just can’t be replicated in classrooms. We get to see kids take risks, move out of their comfort zones, and try new things. It’s so very rewarding to see students being drawn in, finding their interests resonating with others, reveling in asking deep questions, or seeing that there are interesting paths to the future. What wonderful gifts to give to children!

The team of 6th grade Teachers took on a massive re-working of the 6th grade Overnight this year. The results were fabulous! We left on Thursday morning and traveled to the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, Connecticut, where we spent the night among the sea animals. On the way up, we stopped at Sono Field House and engaged in some wonderful team building and problem-solving activities which included the popular rock-climbing wall.  On the way home, we explored the ecosystem of Sherwood Island State Park and visited the nature sanctuary.

Here are photos from the 6th grade trip:

The 7th grade students and teachers headed off to Shelter Island for three days where the inclement weather made for some chilly days! Our intrepid explorers didn’t let the weather stop them, though, and the days and nights were filled with various experiences that expanded their understanding, knowledge, and relationships with one another. The rain held off on day one, so team-building and problem-solving activities were conducted. Over the next two days, the students visited—and worked at—the Cornell Research Center. They also helped the local oyster fishermen with their research by measuring and recording data about oysters. On the way home, they stopped at a local pumpkin patch and picked out 30 perfect pumpkins for our HomeBase decorating contest!

Here are photos from the 7th grade trip.

The 8th graders started out the year by working with the theme of Exploration.  Their first field trip of the year was to the Buehler Challenger and Science Center where creative problem-solving and space station simulations filled the day. Back on campus, the theme has played out in all their classes, as they’re exploring mathematical expressions in math, our country’s drive for independence in social studies, the laws of gravity and effects on the planets in science, and exploration of social and cultural norms in English.

Photos of 8th grade trip

Students have each received a copy of our Middle School Student Handbook this week.  Mrs. Garcia did quite a humorous job of introducing the basic values at Morning Meeting, and over the next week or two, each HomeBase advisor will review relevant sections with the children. Please take a few moments to review the handbook with your child; it contains much good information.  The handbook is always available on our web site; click here.

Wow; what a fantastic turnout for our Back to School Event! Thank you for valuing your child’s education by spending the evening with us and learning more about our Middle School curriculum. I hope you left with a better understanding of how our program meets the needs of young adolescents in a variety of ways. And when you have questions or concerns, please reach out to us; strong home-school partnerships help our children succeed.

Hug your child, and Go Bulldogs!

Kathy Christoph