Archive for April, 2010
Any school administrator will tell you that s/he must regularly listen to concerns from parents, teachers, and students and then respond. It is a challenging part of what we do but can also be very rewarding when problems are collectively solved.
In a recent discussion with some colleagues, these are a few steps we agreed would make this process most efficient and should, thus, be communicated within our community:
1. Problem solving works best if we address concerns to the person with whom we have the problem. It can be counterproductive to “go over someone’s head.” Respectful, direct communication is the most efficient path in most cases. Each Middle School teacher is responsive and wants to help. Please give them the opportunity to do so!
2. When concerns are brought forth about global issues, i.e. group behavior, it is often difficult to respond without breaching confidentiality. This pertains mostly to discipline issues and personnel concerns. Once the problems have been addressed, communication back to the source of the concern usually has to be limited to “it has been addressed.” In other words, I cannot tell you if a teacher or student received disciplinary action; that is confidential.
3. If you raise a concern, please expect that I will ask you to be specific in naming the parties involved. It is rarely possible to solve problems with vague information.
4. Live conversations work better than emails – unless it is a very simple matter. It is important that all parties share in the give-and-take which is difficult to do in emails.
5. After you have communicated a concern, we will agree to some action points and a plan to communicate again soon, once those action points have been completed.
Children during the middle school years present all kinds of challenges. As they do what is developmentally normal, they give us opportunities to rejoice in their emerging independence – and to worry about so much that seems out of our control. Let’s rely on and trust one another to help them through this interesting stage of life!
Middle School Director
I remember the first day of ninth grade. I was incredibly scared to attend the school. I was worried that no one would accept me, that there would be a big divide between me and the other students due to my race and economic status. However, the opposite happened through the incredible dedication of the teaching staff and the accepting/tolerant nature of the student body.
I was able to truly grow at the school both academically and in regards to leadership roles. For example, I was incredibly shy. But Ms. Bryan in particular took me under her wing. Her belief in my abilities and the fact that she supported me so much in whatever I did gave me the confidence I needed to seek leadership positions in SGA and Youth and Government.
Attending CFA gave me opportunities I would otherwise not have had. Mrs. Holsten helped me gain a scholarship to travel to Cambridge, UK for free. Mrs. Bowen challenged me in every class I had with her, increasing my interest in government and politics that ultimately led to my decision of earning a degree in Political Science. Mrs. Scuteri was such an excellent Spanish teacher that even today I am able to have basic conversations with my Hispanic clients. I was able to meet people in the community and have access to resources that most people do not know about.
Lastly the academic rigor of the program prepared me well for Wake Forest University (or “Work Forest” as students call it). Although other students struggled with the course load and difficulty of classes, I was able to adequately handle these demands. In graduate school, several students are frustrated by our courses and the work they require. I am prepared because of Wake Forest–and I truly believe I would not have had the academics required for WFU if it had not been for CFA.
I recently saw several upper class students at the North Carolina Youth and Government Conference (which I now attend as an advisor). Their abilities in debate, their knowledge of current affairs, and their maturity was admired by the entire conference. I am truly thankful for the experiences I had at CFA and am proud to call myself a Hurricane!
Renee Walker – CFA Class of 2004
A parent of a two-year old called me recently to ask me my opinion on the best preschool in the area for academic preparation. Having heard this question a few times before, I listened to her tell me how she works with her son on his alphabet and numbers and how she wanted a school that would continue to develop these skills because her family puts great emphasis on education. She was concerned that her present school was “too much about playing and not enough about academics.”
I sensed her worry and understood how important it was to her that her son begin now in the development of his foundation for future academic success. She felt quite certain, I am sure, that not taking action toward a strong academic program, even at this young age, would be an unacceptable lack of proper parenting. Modern parenting is stressful, competitive, and easily perceived to be full of potholes that must be avoided. Parents of young children have every reason to be anxious as the 24-hour news media is full of stories about horrible things that could happen to their children (vaccinations causing autism, epidemic flu, predators/sex offenders/kidnappers, etc.) It makes sense that these parents want to control at least some part of their children’s lives with the hope they will step over as many of the potholes as they can. Providing the best possible education seems to be a reasonable way to give their child the best advantages for a successful life.
Having heard her concern, I began to try to help her see a different view. In over 30 years in early childhood and secondary education, I have had the privilege of watching many children grow up and have children of their own. I have watched children learn and develop in a curriculum that encourages learning through play and have seen the end product – students with broad understandings and higher order thinking skills. The vertical acquisition of skills, moving from one lesson mastered to the next, must be tempered by the horizontal learning that comes from exploring in an unstructured manner.
The experts agree, as noted in the following excerpt from The Association for Childhood Education International (http://www.acei.org/playpaper.htm):
“…findings from the recent explosion of research on the brain and learning also delineate the importance of play (Jensen, 2000, 2001; Shore, 1997). We know that active brains make permanent neurological connections critical to learning; inactive brains do not make the necessary permanent neurological connections. Research on the brain demonstrates that play is a scaffold for development, a vehicle for increasing neural structures, and a means by which all children practice skills they will need in later life. This research raises new questions for those who view play as a trivial, simple, frivolous, unimportant, and purposeless behavior (Christie, 2001; Frost, Wortham, & Reifel, 2001; Shore, 1997) and challenges them to recognize play for what it is–a serious behavior that has a powerful influence on learning.”
Sometimes it is easier to understand with a mental picture. Think of a tree that quickly grows tall (vertically). Had it been able to develop a more defined root structure (horizontally), it would ultimately be stronger. Children are just like this and a variety of experiential growth opportunities is the fertilizer that helps this along.
Susan Mixon Harrell, Director of Admission (Twitter: @CFAsusan)
In the beginning of the school year I joined a student club at Cape Fear Academy called Model United Nations. I wasn’t really sure what was involved or what they did, but after I joined, they announced that this year for the conference we would get to go to Russia! I had no idea it would be one of the best experiences of my life!
Russia is truly beautiful country and I know I will go back there later in my life. I was able to visit the Red Square in Moscow where I saw St. Basil’s Cathedral. I was awed and I still am when looking at my pictures from there, as well as from St. Petersburg. Even though the conference was the main reason we went to Russia, the people I met there were the true magic of it all.
While participating in the conference I ended up learning a lot about world issues and how countries work on solving these crises in the United Nations. It was really fascinating to engage in the debates and try to get your country’s voice heard while also compromising with other nations. Although the conference taught me a lot, it was all the different people there who really opened my eyes. There were people from Russia, Bahrain, Italy, Cameroon, Switzerland, Puerto Rico, the USA, Zambia, Turkey, Portugal, Oman and many other countries. Being able to interact with these kids from all different cultures really gave a new perspective on the life. I realized how even in some of these countries life may be totally different, these kids are still that – kids – and we were all able to get along really quickly. It allowed me to realize how in life you just need to be open to new things and go for them. This experience was one of the best of my sixteen years!