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Academics

Academic Philosophy

The purpose of our work at San Francisco Friends School is to educate children to realize their full potential as citizens and as human beings. Friends students develop not just the academic skills to succeed in high school and beyond, but also the mindset and experience to be creative, collaborative, optimistic and effective problem solvers, primed to use their skills and talents for the greater good.

A Friends education is joyful and challenging in equal parts, a foundation for a meaningful life.

A Friends education is joyful and challenging in equal parts, a foundation for a meaningful life.

We look to progressive and Quaker educational traditions and to current research in psychology and neuroscience to inspire our program, which provides a model education: academically vigorous, intellectually engaging, purposeful and affirming of the spirit in each child.

In the progressive school tradition, a San Francisco Friends School education is built on the constructivist theory of learning. Unlike those who believe teachers transmit information to students who passively receive it and then “know” it, constructivists describe learning as an active process in which we use our experiences as building blocks to construct knowledge and understanding for ourselves.

At Friends School, teachers set the stage for students to learn together by providing content, framing challenges, and explicitly teaching collaborative as well as academic skills. We help children to know their own minds, to articulate their emerging understandings, to listen carefully and respect the ideas of others, and to stretch each other's thinking. The diversity of perspectives, experiences and learning processes is essential to learning in a community. Learning is neither a one-size-fits-all undertaking nor a strictly individual endeavor.

While students at Friends learn together every day, quiet reflection also holds a special place in Quaker education. Students of all ages are taught the language and habit of reflection: What have I learned? What do I still want to know? What’s my next step? How will I move forward? Students also learn to reflect on and assess their own progress, which they document in their learning portfolios. Self-assessment helps students develop an internal sense of the relationship between effort and progress, and to look inward rather than outward for affirmation that they have done good work. 

Learning is hard work. It can be exciting in the breakthrough moments, but it also can be frequently frustrating and difficult. The best learners are those with the grit to hang in there, confident that clarity will come. At Friends we are committed to nurturing children in a learning environment that values the risk taking and mistake making that are key to learning. We emphasize process as well as product, encouraging students to explain the thinking that results in wrong answers as well as right ones. We honor wobbly first tries, near misses, and honest efforts. Revise, recalculate, reexamine, reconsider: in our approach, the opportunity to deepen learning is rarely ever finished.