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Lower School

Lower School Portfolio Day: What You Need to Know

News Type: 
Date: 
Thursday, May 10, 2018

Mark your calendars early this year for the Lower School Portfolio Celebrations on Friday, June 8th, 2018 (schedule below). Lower School parents—no extended family, please—join your children here at school so that they can share selected portfolio work with you in a community of their classroom peers.

Students and teachers have collected work all year long, selecting samples that represent both processes and finished products. Students have reflected on their work over time in each grade and will sit down with you informally, in hallways and in classrooms, walking you through a timeline of their work. They may even take you on a tour of their favorite reading nook, or teach you a game they love to play with their friends. These portfolios will go home with students at the end of the day, and you may find yourself perusing them all summer, and into the future.

Children at different ages and stages will have a range of abilities to sit and share this work with you with focus. Stay present, meet your child where they are, and take what you can from the moment. Come ready to spend quality, focused time with your child—it is always best not to have siblings or grandparents for this event. The lower school portfolio years will culminate, a few years from now, in a middle school student-led conference experience that will bring it all into keen and purposeful focus for students, and for you. We have the long arc in mind; in the lower school years we are laying the foundations for a self-reflective practice that will help all of our students thrive with emerging confidence, demonstrate strong self-knowledge, and lean in to challenge with a ‘growth mindset’ that will last a lifetime.

If you find your time split between two or more children and events and you are not sure what to do, contact your child(ren)’s teachers (if they haven’t already contacted you). They have been proactive in making arrangements to accommodate any complex overlaps, and can help you plan the morning. Some families choose to split the scheduled time in half between two classes; others may be able to send one parent in one direction and focus on one child for the entire time.

Below are a few reminders to guide you when looking at work with your children, in support of their self assessment, celebration and learning.

Sample of reflection prompts used by students:

I chose this piece because...
I used to, but now I...
The hardest part was...
This piece shows improvement because...
I felt proud...
This is a good memory because....


Tips for portfolio viewing for adults—try questions like:

Was this hard for you?
What do you like about this piece?
Did you do this work in a group or on your own?
Did you have to work through frustration on this work?
What about this piece are you proud of?

Make comments that are descriptive/specific rather than judgmental:
This looks like it took a long time.
Tell me about this part.
Looks like you had fun with this.



General Outline of Lower School Portfolio Day

Friday, June 8th 2018

  • 8:30-9:00am: kindergarten and first grade Parent Coffee with Mike/Jennifer in the Meeting Room
  • 9:00am: kindergarten Spanish song share (K parents stay in the Meeting Room)
  • 9:00-9:30am: first grade portfolios
  • 9:15-9:45 am: kindergarten portfolios
  • 10:00-10:45am: second and third grade portfolios
  • 11:00-11:30am: second grade play "Tall Tales" with Hilary/Kent in the Black Box
  • 11:00-11:30am: fourth grade band with Garth in the Meeting Room
  • 11:30am-12:10pm: fourth grade portfolios
  • 12:15-12:45pm: fourth grade parent meeting with Andrew Salverda and fifth grade team in the Meeting Room

 

Mysteries of the Unseen World: Thinking Like an Artist/Scientist

Date: 
Wednesday, May 9, 2018

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. So the unknown, the mysterious is where art and science meet.”
~Albert Einstein
 

In mid-march, we attended the National Art Educators Association (NAEA) conference hosted in Seattle, WA. This is the ninth year that we attended, and the third time that we co-presented at the conference, which has been an amazing opportunity not just to share the unique approach to the arts at SFFS with independent schools from across the country, but to gain inspiration from other visual art instructors as well. While at the conference, we celebrated ten years of collaborative work at SFFS by presenting a hands-on workshop that illuminates how the visual arts and scientific inquiry are intertwined by sharing two interdisciplinary units—one third grade, the other seventh and eighth grade.

Integration is a natural way in which we experience the world. True integration in the classroom serves all of the disciplines involved and makes connections to ‘real life’ experience outside of the walls of our school. As in our classroom/studios, participants in our (sold out) workshop were introduced to a series of artmaking routines to investigate a question that is relevant to both scientists and artists. Those attending the workshop came away with a clearer sense of how this approach builds understanding in both disciplines while providing experiences that invigorate a spirit of inquiry, connecting to the real world of artists and scientists.

Here is a small sample of the brilliant student work that we showcased at the conference:

Three examples from the third grade of a two-minute warm up drawing.
The prompt: Draw yourself as an artist/scientist.

 

Seventh/eighth grade art inspired by the Hubble Telescope images.
Students used embroidery in order to focus on line, shape, and patterns. 

 

More seventh/eighth grade art inspired by the Hubble Telescope.

 

Third grade computer virus drawings. Prompts: What is the story of our computer virus?
What kind of computer virus will we craft? 



 
A closer look at third grade computer virus drawings.

 

A closer look at third grade computer virus sculptures.

 

Staffing News: New Faces at SFFS

Date: 
Tuesday, May 8, 2018

As we begin the season of lifting up the comings and goings of our staff and faculty, we hope you will embrace our spirit of growth and community. We encourage you to help us in welcoming in full force the new teachers and learners who will soon be joining us:

Clarissa Ko, K-8 dance and drama: Clarissa comes to Friends with a depth and breadth of experiences in the dance world. Clarissa has been teaching within Pre K-12 schools in the Bay Area since 2014. She’s a graduate of University of San Francisco where she studied Performing Arts and Social Justice. It was this focus that drew her to SFFS where she’s eager to explore opportunities to promote social change via critical thinking and reflection, and build community through empathy and action. Clarissa is also a MSEd Learning Design and Technology candidate at Purdue University. She currently teaches with ODC’s Youth and Teen Program and HeartBeat Dance Academy. In 2016 Clarissa founded Five Feet Dance, a modern dance company. She is excited to join the Friends School community to build upon the firm foundation laid by Hilary, as well as find innovative ways for curriculum integration, movement exploration, and work collaboratively with colleagues.


Tanya Cotom, LS Spanish: We are happy to report that after an unexpected departure of our beloved Karina (we are losing her to Peru!) we made haste in our search for a new spanish teacher in the lower school. After several applicants were considered, lessons shared and conversations had, we have are thrilled to report that Tanya Cotom will be  staying on in this new role and responsibility. We are all typically very discerning about why or when a new teacher might be considered, but Tanya simple rose to the top among our contenders. We see such potential to grow a gifted young teacher who has proven herself in several realms; over summers teaching with Horizons, three years on our lower school team, as someone who knows our school community deeply, who is familiar with our programs widely, and our spanish program in LS particularly. Tanya is a native speaker, with a self expressed and confident passion to take this next step in her career. She is an incredibly hard working and bright community member, with a masters degree in elementary education. She has been our lead TA lead clerk for two years, showing leadership, and high emotional intelligence as well. She feels drawn to using what she has learned, and teaching the language she loves, as an expression of her true voice as a teacher. We are lucky in so many ways, and are currently planning her on-boarding and summer professional development and transition with Karina; we are quite sure she will enhance the wonderful work the spanish department has been doing, and sustain, enhance and honor the program. I have such faith in this team.

Please welcome her into her new role when you can this week, hopefully in person.


Jenn Cusworth, Middle School Humanities Teacher: Jenn is excited to move to the Bay Area and join the SFFS community! After living most of her life on the East Coast, she's looking forward to more sunshine and less snow. Jenn graduated with a BA in Linguistics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2011, and went on to receive an MS in Education from Bank Street College of Education in NYC. It was here that she developed her passion for teaching project-based, progressive pedagogy. After graduate school, Jenn moved back to Western Massachusetts, where she worked as a 5th and 6th grade teacher at the Greenfield Center School (the birthplace of Responsive Classroom) and grew her skills and appreciation for socially and emotionally responsive learning environments. Surrounded by the valleys and mountains of New England, Jenn loved the opportunities for outdoor education: hiking, rock climbing, and just playing in the woods! For the past year, Jenn has been back in NYC, teaching 6th grade history at Brooklyn Friends School. Here, she was able to grow her passions for social justice-based learning opportunities. Jenn sees education as a form of activism and loves connecting history with our world today. Soon, she will live in the Bay with her partner and two dogs, and she can't wait to continue on in a Quaker school at SFFS. 


Neal Donovan, Middle School TA: Neal was first introduced to Quaker pedagogy at Brooklyn Friends School, where he spent a year as a substitute and after school teacher. Upon returning home to the Bay Area in 2015, he sought out a school with similar values and found SFFS, which he has grown to love for its emphasis on teaching empathy and conflict resolution. He has worked at SFFS as an ED teacher, substitute, and spent a year as a kindergarten TA. He is a graduate of Oberlin College. When he isn’t at school, Neal spends his time playing guitar and making ambient electronic music. He also enjoys hiking and camping in California’s many beautiful landscapes.


Christopher Gonzalez-Crane, Middle School Humanities Teacher: Christopher is a native of San Francisco. After graduating from The Urban School, Christopher moved to Minnesota to attend Carleton College.  He graduated in 2002 with a degree in English and American literature.  After working for a year in New York City in publishing, Christopher began teaching middle and high school English at The Thomas Jefferson School in Concepcion, Chile. After moving back to San Francisco in 2004, Christopher was a middle school teacher at The Children’s Day School where he taught traditional black and white photography, assisted with the high school application process and developed the middle school study hall program.  For the last nine years, Christopher has been teaching and studying in London.  In 2010, he received a Masters of Research from The London Consortium. He is currently in the final stages of his PhD in Humanities and Cultural studies. While in London, he taught BA level humanities and critical studies at The University of London. Christopher has ​specialist​ knowledge in English and American Literature, photography, cultural studies and social history. His own academic work is concerned with the historical origins of self-help culture in the American West. He has a particular interest in the construction of the responsible, ethical self. Christopher is excited to bring digital archives alive in his classroom. Christopher is delighted to be returning to San Francisco and joining the SFFS community. 


Dianne Hurvitz, Lower School Music Specialist: Dianne is thrilled to be joining the SFFS community! She is a New England native; she has lived and taught in the Midwest, the Rockies, and the Northeast, and is now having a wonderful time settling here in California. After earning a BA in music from Oberlin College, where she played any and all musical instruments she could get her hands on, Dianne then spent time in the worlds of musical theater production and filmmaking. A love of working with students, from working as a ski instructor to conducting the local town band, inspired Dianne to return to Oberlin to earn a Masters in Education. She began her classroom teaching experience as a kindergarten teacher in Boston, MA. Dianne was then able to combine her love of teaching and music as the founding music teacher for a K-8 charter school. She was drawn to the Bay Area by friends and family, and the opportunity to help build the Khan Lab School as the music and wellness teacher. Dianne is passionate about coaching students to embrace their curiosity, wonder, and imagination, and to foster a lifelong love of learning. She is so excited to join the music department at SFFS, and eagerly looking forward to meeting students as well as the community!


Alissa Kinney-Moe, Director of Communications: On June 6, we'll welcome Alissa Kinney-Moe as our new Director of Communications. Alissa is no stranger to schools: she started her career as a high school history teacher at Emma Willard School in upstate NY, and later found her true calling in school communications, first at the Nightingale-Bamford School in New York and later at University High School here in San Francisco. After a brief stint in Atlanta, Alissa is looking forward to returning to the Bay Area with her husband and two young sons. 


Andrea Snyder, Second Grade Teacher: We are very excited to be welcoming Andrea Snyder to our SFFS community, and to the Lower School team as our new second grade lead teacher. Andrea will be working alongside Anhvu Buchanan next year as they build on the great work that the team has developed. Andrea is a seasoned educator, having taught many grades from fifth to kindergarten. She has been working at international schools for the past seven years in London and most recently Hanoi, where she further developed ways of bringing peaceful conflict resolution, global perspectives, stewardship, and responsibility to the classroom, which ties in beautifully with Quaker values. Originally from Philadelphia, she has also lived in Nashville and Atlanta, and taught for several years at Packer Collegiate School in NYC. Andrea was really searching for the “right next step” for her career, and a home in San Francisco and at Friends felt right, almost right away. She sees herself as an advocate for children, and we know that her deep pedagogical background will contribute so much to our team. Andrea loves fresh air, hiking and baking, so we are confident she has made the best choice in coming to SF. Moving here from Hanoi this summer is no small feat, so we are already working on helping her land on her feet once she arrives. We know she will be a great addition to our school and community.

Staffing News: Saying Goodbye at SFFS

Date: 
Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Each year, we receive news that we must say goodbye to some of our beloved staff and faculty. Saying goodbye always reminds us that Friends School is a learning community that encourages a growth mindset in its members, including members of the professional community. Cultivating an active, reflective, and evolving professional practice for teachers is especially important to us. 

It is among our greatest strengths as an institution to encourage risk taking, lifelong learning, and growth in both our students and ourselves; to this end, when teachers or staff decide to move on, we celebrate them and their journeys and thank them for their contributions to the SFFS community, even when we will miss them.

As we begin the season of lifting up the comings and goings of our staff and faculty, we hope you will embrace our spirit of growth and community. We also encourage you to help us honor and celebrate those that may be moving on, while welcoming in full force the new teachers and learners who will soon be joining us.

 


From Tracie Mastronicola, Academic Dean: 

Karina Diaz, Lower School Spanish Teacher: On any given day if you were to stroll into Karina Diaz's second floor classroom at around 3:20 you might find her passed out on the floor. Why? You would be too if you just spent the last six hours dancing, singing, and speaking rapid-fire Spanish with kids. No, this is not a Zumba class, this is lower school Spanish—energetic learning filled with joy, movement, and tireless engagement. Karina embodies more energy in her pinky finger than most of us can muster with all of our might. Karina's thoughtful approach to curriculum, her passion for teaching Spanish language and culture to young students, as well as her infectious energy, will be deeply missed by all of us here at Friends. We are grateful for her contributions to our community and for making Spanish a fun, full-body experience for our lower-schoolers. We will be saying adios to Karina Diaz at the end of this school year as she prepares to move back to Peru. Karina is excited to be closer to her family once again, and perhaps start a career as a Zumba instructor (just kidding!). We wish her the best.


From Jennifer Arnest, Lower School Head: 

Jessie Radowitz, Second Grade Teacher: Jessie Radowitz came upon us a few years back, and we all knew immediately that we had to find a way to reel her in to work at Friends. Via Skype from New York, she charmed us with her thoughtful, calm, but clear and authentic approach to thinking about the pedagogy and purpose of education. From her work in the south with Teach for America, and a highly revered career pursuing her Masters degree at Columbia Teachers College, Jessie has brought to us, in spades, more than we could have imagined.

She is kind, connected to children, organized, clear and supportive with parents and colleagues alike. She is a sometimes quiet, but very big thinker; when she has something to say we know it has been considered—she does not waste words. With her eye always leaning towards social justice and Quaker values, she has elevated her work and engaged us all. Jessie has navigated the most difficult passage in losing her mom to cancer so quickly while she has been among us. Now, she has to go back east, with her partner, Jake, to be closer to her father, who lives In D.C. The only single happy news for us with this departure is that Jessie has landed a job at Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia teaching first grade. This means we will be in touch and close in our missions across the country, and when we visit Quaker Schools in Philly, and Germantown (which is often), we can see Jessie and share ideas. We are determined to stay connected, and Jessie will always be part of the SFFS community.


From Tracie Mastronicola, Academic Dean:

Kent Jue, Music Teacher: Kent looks like he is 30 years old himself, yet he’s actually finishing up his 30th year of teaching choral, string and general music classes to independent and public school students! From the traditional SFFS kindergarten song “This Little Light of Mine” to the 7th and 8th grade chorus elective group lending spirit and gravitas to our concerts and graduation, Kent has spent his last seven years at Friends imparting energy, focus, and a deep understanding of the language of music to our students.

Join us in acknowledging Kent’s commitment to music education and in celebrating his next step. Kent will assume the Executive Director role for the Ragazzi Boys Chorus, an internationally recognized group with 30 years of experience offering a complete musical education program that's designed to take boys from their first exposure to the art of choral singing through a full course of vocal instruction. Kent has been engaged with Ragazzi for over 15 years, and he will step into his new role in August 2018. Congratulations, Kent!


From Andrew Salverda, Middle School Head:

Raymond Artis, Middle School Humanities Teacher: We’re sad to be saying goodbye to Raymond Artis, who is moving back east with his partner, Lamercie. Raymond arrived at Friends just prior to the 2013-2014 school year, interested in subbing and learning more about our school. We were immediately struck by his ability to serve in a variety of classes and with students of many different ages. He distinguished himself with his demeanor, tone, and curiosity to learn more about Quaker education. Students appreciated his warmth and supportive presence; he quickly became our “go to” sub in the middle school. The following year, Raymond moved into serving as a humanities teacher to one fifth grade section and an assistant to the other teachers at that grade level. In this capacity, he came to know the fifth graders very well and was the person with the perhaps best knowledge of the grade as a community. We were eager to offer Raymond a full time job teaching two fifth grade humanities sections and serving as an advisor.

In the years since, Raymond has made myriad contributions to Friends, and had an immeasurable impact on the students with whom he’s worked. In addition to helping to bring better alignment and articulation to the fifth grade humanities curriculum, Raymond helped reboot Affinity Groups in the middle school, modeled activism and participation in issues of social justice ,and spoke in sessions of the Equity and Inclusion Committee's "At the Table" events about Black Lives Matter and talking with kids about race. Raymond elevated our faculty’s discourse around race by facilitating a book group for faculty around Ta'Nahisi Coates's book Between the World and Me. Raymond co-clerked the Equity and Inclusion Committee at Friends, which has tackled meaningful work because of his leadership.

Raymond has proven to be a vital voice of Quaker integrity. He often asked the question everyone was thinking in a meeting, and became a trusted sounding board for colleagues, especially adults of color, in our professional community. He traveled to China with Friends students and will forever be the all-time Pirate Waiter champion on the Pinnacles trip.

We are deeply grateful for all Raymond has done and been at Friends. We wish him well and hope he visits often.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Jodi Pickering, Middle School Humanities Teacher: Jodi Pickering is moving on after eleven years at Friends. She was one of the first two teachers in the SFFS middle school and during her time at Friends has devoted herself fully to her work with students, parents and her colleagues. Jodi was a key architect in the creation of the Friends middle school, and has served in a variety of different roles and posts during her tenure: humanities teacher, advisory coordinator, learning specialist, admissions associate, futsal coach, trip leader, double dutch rope turner, lyricist, listener, and Friend.

Jodi has designed curricula for every middle schooler at Friends and co-taught with numerous colleagues as our middle school took off and grew. She has been a trusted voice of pedagogical and Quaker wisdom, consistently keeping students and their growth at the center of her work. Jodi was an early pioneer on the Nicaragua trip, and has accompanied students on the trip for eight consecutive years.

Jodi embodies the values we hold dear at Friends in the way she approaches her work and relationships with students and colleagues, and she models the importance of living one’s ideals.  She created an annual “Let your Life Speak Symposium” in 2013 and was the first recipient of the Cathy Hunter Fund for the Future in 2015, during which time she made pilgrimages to the Pendle Hill Quaker Retreat Center in Pennsylvania and its namesake in England, where George Fox, founder of Quakerism, said he was called by the voice of God. She began writing a young adult novel during this time, which she finished during a mini-sabbatical the following year. Jodi’s energy and flashes of insight encourage us to trust ourselves and to manifest our visions. As a co-developer of the Professional Growth program for teachers at Friends, Jodi took many classes at Stanford during her summers, and developed a fruitful letter exchange for our middle school students with their peers in Oklahoma City in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. Always one to galvanize the group, Jodi helped to start the faculty softball team (named “George” in honor of George Fox) and co-wrote the SF Friends School song (below) with music teacher Garth Applegate.

Jodi has taught us to rally and to reflect, to jump in and to wait at the edge; to listen and to find the courage to speak. For all of her seriousness of purpose and the way that she has undeniably walked the Quaker talk, Jodi is a child at heart. She has demonstrated that humor and a love of laughter can build an understanding beyond words. Her encouragement of her students and colleagues to “choose joy” will be one of her many abiding legacies. Jodi’s impact on Friends has been significant and her absence will felt by the students, parents and colleagues who know her.  We hope that she stays in our orbit.

"Simple Joys"
A small school in the Castro
Into the Mission grew
All along Committed
To the SPICES through and through

We honor one another
And serve all with respect
We may not all be Quakers
But as Friends we do connect
Simple joys and peacefulness
Humility and pride
We speak into the silence
Our voices not denied

When we find ourselves in the place just right
We've found we've done our best
'Tis a gift to be a part of
Good 'ol S-F-F-S


From Guybe Slangen, Director of Community Engagement:

Hilary Palanza, Dance/Drama Teacher: For the past four years Hilary Palanza has led our K-8 dance program. From first graders dancing with our neighbors at the Francis of Assisi Community to seventh graders choreographing their own dance creations, Hilary has taught a broad range of students and styles. She carried on the lovely Friends School tradition of our end-of-the-year buddy dance with Kindergartners and our graduating eighth graders. Hilary has also been one of the few that works with every student in our school! She adopted a program that was still young, and has added her own flare and energy to it, helping it grow and flourish.

We’re deeply grateful for her collaboration in working with multiple teams and teachers, her flexibility with spaces and schedules, and her commitment to bringing out the dancer in all of us.

For the past year she has also been pursuing a Masters in public policy at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, focusing particularly on how to support and advocate for the arts. This passion has evolved into her next project where she’ll be working on her long-held dream to develop and open the first ever interactive dance museum!  Hilary shared, “I cannot help but feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the San Francisco Friends School. The opportunity to articulate and grow the dance program and teach such a wide range of abilities and ages continues to help me grow as an artist, teacher, and friend.”  

This is a bittersweet good bye. We’re sad to see her leave Friends School after this school year ends, but excited to hear about her big plans. We wish her the best in her next chapter, and have launched a search to fill her dancing shoes. 


From Marlene Sloger, Director of Development: 

Amity Bacon, Director of Communications: As many of you know, Amity joined us in the summer of 2016, and has been the primary point of contact for all school communications. In addition to helping families stay up to date on school events and happenings, Amity also played a central role in revamping our school website, streamlining our Circle Back newsletter, and launching the Friends blog. She will be heeding the siren call of Portland, OR later this summer. 

Saying goodbye to Jessie and hello to Andrea in the Second Grade

News Type: 
Date: 
Friday, April 20, 2018
Jessie Radowitz with her class this fall. 

Second grade lead teacher Jessie Radowitz came upon us a few years back, and we all knew immediately that we had to find a way to reel her in to work at Friends. Via Skype from New York, she charmed us with her thoughtful, calm, but clear and authentic approach to thinking about the pedagogy and purpose of education. From her work in the south with Teach for America, and a highly revered career pursuing her Masters degree at Columbia Teachers College, Jessie has brought to us, in spades, more than we could have imagined.

She is kind, connected to children, organized, clear and supportive with parents and colleagues alike. She is a sometimes quiet, but very big thinker; when she has something to say we know it has been considered—she does not waste words. With her eye always leaning towards social justice and Quaker values, she has elevated her work and engaged us all. Jessie has navigated the most difficult passage in losing her mom to cancer so quickly while she has been among us. Now, she has to go back east, with her partner, Jake, to be closer to her father, who lives In D.C. The only single happy news for us with this departure is that Jessie has landed a job at Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia teaching first grade. This means we will be in touch and close in our missions across the country, and when we visit Quaker Schools in Philly, and Germantown (which is often), we can see Jessie and share ideas. We are determined to stay connected, and Jessie will always be part of the SFFS community.

We are very excited to be welcoming (soon!) Andrea Snyder to our SFFS community, and to the Lower School team as our new second grade lead teacher. Andrea will be working alongside Anhvu Buchanan next year as they build on the great work that the team has developed. Andrea is a seasoned educator, having taught many grades from fifth to kindergarten; she has been working abroad for the past seven years in London and, most recently, Hanoi, both in international schools. She hails from Philadelphia but also lived in Nashville and Atlanta, and taught for several years at Packer Collegiate School in NYC. Most recently, Andrea has been teaching at the United Nations International School in Hanoi, where she further developed ways of bringing peaceful conflict resolution, global perspectives, stewardship, and responsibility to the classroom, which ties in beautifully with our Quaker values. Quaker principles and practices have just naturally aligned with her work. Andrea was really searching for the “right next step” for her career, and a home in San Francisco and at Friends felt right, almost right away. She sees herself as an advocate for children, and we know that her deep pedagogical background will contribute so much to our team. Andrea loves fresh air, hiking and baking, so we are confident she has made the best choice to come to SF. Moving here from Hanoi this summer is no small feat, so we are already working on helping her land on her feet once she arrives. We know she will be a great addition to our school and community.

Music teacher Kent Jue to join Ragazzi Boys Chorus

Date: 
Monday, April 23, 2018

Kent looks like he is 30 years old himself, yet he’s actually finishing up his 30th year of teaching choral, string and general music classes to independent and public school students!

From the traditional SFFS kindergarten song “This Little Light of Mine” to the 7th and 8th grade chorus elective group lending spirit and gravitas to our concerts and graduation, Kent has spent his last seven years at Friends imparting energy, focus, and a deep understanding of the language of music to our students.

Join us in acknowledging Kent’s commitment to music education and in celebrating his next step. Kent will assume the Executive Director role for the Ragazzi Boys Chorus, an internationally recognized group with 30 years of experience offering a complete musical education program that's designed to take boys from their first exposure to the art of choral singing through a full course of vocal instruction. Kent has been engaged with Ragazzi for over 15 years, and he will step into his new role in August 2018. Congratulations, Kent!


We are currently looking to fill Kent's role and will announce any staffing changes as soon as possible. Kent's position, and a few others, can be found on our hiring page

 

SFFS Math Faculty Learn about "Lesson Study" from Japanese Expert

Date: 
Thursday, March 22, 2018
The SFFS math team with Dr. Takahashi (fourth from right)

Established in 2016 with generous support from our community, the Cathy Hunter Fund for the Future (CHFF) supports our faculty with transformative professional development experiences at key moments in their careers. Encouraged to think beyond workshops and conferences, teachers submit an application seeking support for a professional development experience that will enrich future programs, our school culture and greater community.
 

After receiving support from the Cathy Hunter Fund for the Future, third grade teacher Amabelle Sze trekked many miles south to Hillsborough to attend the Innovative Learning Conference in the fall of 2017. There, she learned about "Lesson Study," a Japanese method for deepening collaboration, planning and reflection in teaching and learning. The name for Lesson Study in Japanese is “jugyokenkyu.” “Jugyo” meaning “teaching and learning.” “Kenkyu” meaning “study or research.” So, Lesson Study is the study or research of teaching and learning.

When Amabelle gets excited about a new, educative idea, she is unstoppable. Upon her return, Amabelle extolled the value and importance of Lesson Study to anybody who would listen.

Luckily for her, she can typically find a learning partner that is game in fellow third grade teacher Jake Ban. Jake, who had previously engaged in Lesson Study during graduate school, was immediately excited about the opportunity to delve deeper with colleagues in the service of student learning. Jennifer Arnest, who had learned about Lesson Study at Mills College, fanned the fire. Amabelle and Jennifer then presented about Lesson Study at a professional development day this past fall. It was soon clear that Amabelle, Jake, and Jennifer’s enthusiasm about Lesson Study was shared by many colleagues.

A few months later, Jake and Amabelle were sitting in a public library in East Oakland. After Jake’s persistent nagging, a graduate school classmate had arranged for them to attend a public lesson with elementary teachers from Woodland Acorn. For these teachers, this class was the culmination of a months-long Lesson Study process. For Amabelle and Jake, what had felt like a vague, interesting idea now seemed imminently achievable and ever more important. They were impressed by the depth of practice and knowledge the teachers exhibited. The Acorn Woodland staff were reflective and curious while simultaneously deliberate and savvy. Their research proposal, pre- and post-lesson conversations, the lesson itself, and the reflection, demonstrated the deep complexities inherent in teaching and learning.

At Woodland Acorn, it was not only teachers who were deeply engaged. The students were presented with a problem, “Can you write 8/3 as a mixed number?”, and persisted in solving this problem in a variety of ways independently. When asked to explain their thinking, these students, most of whom are English Language Learners, demonstrated a depth of mathematical understanding through conversation, writing, and whole-class presentation. In the teacher reflection of this lesson, Jake and Amabelle heard the letters “TTP” repeated often. They turned to each other and shrugged at this acronym. Afterwards, when one teacher passed by, Amabelle asked, “Excuse me, what is TTP?” The response: “Teaching Through Problem Solving.”

Throughout Japan, this methodology of teaching mathematics is used. Rather than teaching concepts, with a traditional “I do, you do, we do” structure, students engage in a problem for which the solution is not known in advance. Teaching Through Problem Solving is open-ended and thusly often time-consuming, often messy, and often unresolved. A leading Japanese math teacher and strong proponent of Lesson Study, Akihiko Takahashi reflected on this process, “[Math teachers] are too impatient. You expect children to learn a concept by the end of the lesson.”

TTP provides young mathematicians with an opportunity to delve deeply into mathematical practices to develop strong conceptual foundations and problem solving abilities. TPP overlays nicely with the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice, which essentialize the habits of professional mathematicians.

Both Lesson Study and TTP reflect many of our shared Quaker values:

  • Simplicity: teaching math through problem solving encourages narrow and deep mathematical learning
  • Community: working together with colleagues to plan curriculum
  • Reflection: being more mindful of our practice through group reflection
  • Continuous revelation: researching lesson topics, planning and reflecting together provides a greater truth than any one individual teacher could possess

We are very happy to announce that we hosted Dr. Takahashi at San Francisco Friends School on March 19, 2018. He worked closely with a team of our K-8 math teachers on collaborative lesson research and the approach to teaching through problem solving.
 

"Committing to The Air": An update on our scheduling process

Date: 
Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Mike swings by my office a few times a week, busts through the door and yells, “Trace! Coffee?” I used to look at the clock, figure out if I had time to walk to Mission Beach Cafe, look for my wallet—now I just get up and go. The five-minute walk to Mission Beach is not only a fun time to connect about important things like which one of our heroes we will be for the Blue Party, but it’s a time to connect about more challenging things that come up, too. The most important reason to go these days is to connect with our neighborhood community—the crew at Mission Beach. They know that Mike likes a coffee in the morning and a mocha in the afternoon; they know that I require a low-fat tea latte, a drink that I love, but am too embarrassed to order in earshot of others. They offer us high fives and advice that one can only gain from devoting time to human connection.

Recently one of our favorite baristas at Mission Beach, Brian, was telling us that he used to go to circus school. This is where I would normally have tuned out and thought, “I’m way too busy for this.” But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from Mike this year, it’s that moments like this are when you need to tune in, not out. Brian goes on to explain circus school and that his trapeze teacher was this inspiring fellow who would always tell his students, “When you are letting go of one trapeze bar and have not yet caught the next, you need to ‘commit to the air.’” Mike and I looked at each other as if to acknowledge silently the golden nugget of advice Brian just delivered to us.

On our walk back to school, we talked about how we might apply this nugget to our day ahead. I figured I’d try to apply it to my biggest challenge—revising our daily school schedule. We know that our schedule, particularly our middle school schedule, does not reflect the way we want to spend our time; it doesn’t support teacher collaboration and it keeps our students moving, too quickly, throughout their day. I dare any of you to shadow a middle schooler through the school day and not fall flat on your face by 3:15pm. At Friends we’ve known we want a less siloed approach to time, but we’ve been unsure how to create exactly that. How could I commit to the air regarding scheduling? I could reach out to Ross Peters.

Ross is a guy who has a really informative and entertaining blog about education, music and travel. He is the Head of School at St. George’s Independent School in Tennessee and in addition to being a great writer, he has also guided a number of independent schools through a very successful schedule redesign.

I emailed Ross Peters and crossed my fingers he’d agree to a phone call. His blog posts and videos all pointed to someone who really understood leadership, community, school life, and time. Ross called me back and offered nugget after nugget of information and advice—take all administrators off of the committee, small change is just as hard as big change, and once the committee puts forth a schedule, close the door to the old schedule—no going back. He might as well quit his job and join the team at Mission Beach. His words not only made me feel confident that we could build a schedule on our own, but he convinced me that doing the work of building the schedule together, as a community, would be the single thing that made the schedule successful. The work is not just about the final product, but it’s about trusting the process and bringing people along.

Nick, Courtney, Amabelle, Jodi, Jason, Jennifer S., and David are leading us in redesigning time at San Francisco Friends School. They’ve been given just two criteria from the administration team:

  • To deepen student engagement and offer more applied experiences in the interest of enriched understanding, the schedule should offer experiences less hurried and fragmented and more robust in coherence, depth, and application in all aspects of learning.
  • In order to create an optimal culture and learning environment for students, the schedule should further support the development and collaborative engagement of the professional community.

The rest is up to them. They will be interviewing teachers, parents, and students, all while visiting schools and companies to look closely at their uses of time. We will implement a new schedule, designed solely by our own team, for the 2019-2020 school year. You’ll be hearing more from all of us in the coming months. And while we don’t exactly know where this work will lead us or what the 2019-2020 schedule will look like, we do know one thing: at this point, we’ve fully committed to the air.

Listen to this year's third grade radio plays

Date: 
Thursday, March 1, 2018

At the end of last semester, drama teacher Jon Burnett helped a cohort of newly minted third grade voice actors produce their very own radio plays. Each of the 10 total shows, in just under two minutes, contains elements of action, horror, comedy, and the absurd. There’s even a historical drama!

“Discovering our voices” is the theme this year for the third grade drama class, and creating radio plays allowed students to make choices, figure out their theater voice, and create soundscapes. As a fun classroom exercise, students learned how to set the scene or create an environment using only their voices. In groups, students presented scenes like “a forest at midnight” or “downtown San Francisco during the day” and other groups had to guess what the environment was that they were listening to.

Students also worked hard on character voices, utilizing speed, pitch, tempo, volume—no small feat for third graders that just want to make drum sounds with their hands and feet.
For Jon, introducing radio plays in the third grade is a joyous endeavor because it is also something he discovered around that age. Growing up, Jon spent countless hours with his best friend Mark creating their own tape recorded radio shows. They kept it up until junior high.

“So much is visual today, so to focus on sounds is a unique experience,” says Jon. “It’s nice to say ‘cover your eyes or turn away, and just listen.’ But beyond that, many important 20th century playwrights grew up listening to radio and cite that in their development of story. So it is important to think about how words are used first to convey story.”

Jon notes that there was “some really nice creativity this year” with plays like “The Orchard Ghost,” a “cute, but very haunting” tale. “The Sacred Dungeon” is also a good use of voice with its creepy echo effects.

We hope you haven’t missed out on these very special radio plays, some of which lead with “Our story takes place at an office desk” and some with clever commercials like “Taco Burgers: only in New York!”

And you may never know “The Real Reason Why the HMS Titanic Sunk” unless you listen to the story below!
 

The Big Pencil Sharpener - Cooper, Henry, Margaret, Xochi

The Cursed Lollipop - Cassidy, Della, Leithian, Minjae, Theo

The Day the Sheriff Went Missing - Aman, Lea, Lucas, Nora, Selimah

Donkey Death - Kiran, Moses, Nathan, Ruby

The Fire Demon - Ava, Benji, Bram, Eliza

The Orchard Ghost - Francesca, Hazel, Jackson, Lev

The Real Reason Why the HMS Titanic Sunk - Cole, Lela, Marc, Mira, Oliver

The Sacred Dungeon - Bridger, Ryder, Tenley, Xavier

Train of Horror - August, Clay, Lucia, Lucy, Santi

Where Is the Hamster? - Juny, Maddy, Minyoung, Riley

 

At The Table: Talking with our kids about race & the need for diverse books

Date: 
Friday, March 2, 2018

The SFFS Equity and Inclusion Committee (E&I Committee) is a parent led committee comprised of members from various constituencies of the school community. The group meets monthly and provides input and feedback on a variety of initiatives intended to enhance our school's equity and inclusion efforts, with particular focus on parent education.

At the Table (ATT), a sub-committee of E&I, hosts a handful of Thursday morning parent ed events throughout the year. Over coffee, ATT aims to provide opportunities for parents to discuss how we talk to our children about topics that may be challenging to discuss. The hope is to have a chance for parents to connect to both build and sustain a school community that is inclusive, safe, and nurturing for all.  

On February 1st, ATT had a parent gathering facilitated by parents Andrea Hartsough and SFFS Mental Health Specialist Katherine Preston to ponder the question of how we talk to our kids about race. Guest teachers Robelene Novero (fourth grade lead teacher) and Jasmine Redmond (middle school teaching assistant) shared about some of their recent classwork that turned a critical lens towards race and racial bias.

In the fourth grade classroom, Robelene shared the most successful conversations about race. These came about organically, initiated by the students themselves and fueled by their genuine curiosity. At this age, noticing differences between yourself and your peers is natural and developmentally appropriate. These differences are something to be celebrated, Robelene insists.

To steer such young students towards healthy and positive identity development, everyone is encouraged to look within themselves and  consider: “What makes us look at the world through a different lens?” To support this introspection, Robelene stocks a diverse bookshelf that features perspectives from around the world. Particularly popular this year is The Hijab Boutique by Michelle Khan.

Jasmine recently held a guest lesson in eighth grade humanities that asked students a complex, potentially discomforting question: Can African-Americans appropriate African culture? Further, how do we recognize instances of cultural appropriation? What differentiates appropriation from appreciation? Students explored cultural symbolism within the novel This Side of Home, paying particularly close attention to the image of the Sankofa, a Ghanian bird representing the idea of return.

Parents shared many thoughts and strategies for speaking with our kids about race. What follows is some wisdom that was shared:

  • If conversation with your child doesn’t go the way you had hoped, other opportunities will come up. When a parent wants to have a talk with their child, it is often more effective to ask a guiding question, rather than attempting to inform them of something.
  • Engaging a child in what they notice or observe may actually open space for a conversation. With your guidance, students learn that conversations about race do not need to be burdensome or scary - it can be a discovery of who they are and what makes them special.
  • We try not to create a sense of fear; we have fun with conversations about race. Students don’t need to have the same ties to conversations about race that we do, especially the negative connotations.


Our next ATT will be Thursday, March 8th, from 8:30-9:30am in the Meeting Room, facilitated by SFFS parent Andrea Hartsough and SFFS Mental Health Specialist Katherine Preston, LMFT. We will be facilitating a follow up to the February 1st conversation. We welcome newcomers, so please join us!

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