We have had a great first month of school. It was gratifying to have such strong attendance at the Curriculum Nights – Upper School attendance was up 17% over last year and was the highest in ten years. This commitment to partnership makes the fascinating process of challenging and supporting your children so much more positive and productive. As I mentioned at the Lower School evening, I have been referencing Brown’s wonderful history The Boys in the Boat with faculty this fall. As the story of the University of Washington 1936 Olympic crew describes, it is exhilarating to be part of a good boat with a committed crew – and that is what we have at Applewild. It takes “a special kind of endurance that comes from mind, heart, and body; [and] when a crew gets this right the work of propelling the shell [is] a delight.” That is how it feels to work at Applewild, and I know that you could sense this as you heard the enthusiasm and energy of the teachers for their plans for the year, not to mention at the CDCA Ice Cream Social!
I also referenced both at New Family Orientation and at the Lower School Curricular Night an article by David Kirp from The New York Times Sunday Review of August 17: “Teaching Is Not a Business.” Kirk argues that the “Business Model” for reform of education misses the point. The most important reform comes when teachers know their students well. He wrote:
“While these reformers talk a lot about markets and competition, the essence of a good education – bringing together talented teachers, engaged students and a challenging curriculum – goes undiscussed. . . . Every successful educational initiative of which I am aware aims at strengthening personal bonds by building strong systems of support in the schools. . . . the personal touch is crucial . . . The process of teaching and learning is an intimate act that neither computers nor markets can hope to replicate. Small wonder, then, that the business model hasn’t worked in reforming the schools – there is simply no substitute for the personal element.”
At the core of Applewild is the certain knowledge that relationships between great teachers and curious students – the “personal bonds” – matter more than any other single ingredient in student achievement. We use technology to support these relationships, but it will not replace them.
Applewild at Devens Ribbon Cutting
What a beautiful morning over at Devens on Tuesday. It was fun for Sherri Ebner, our staff, parents, and children to celebrate with our Board members, visitors from the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce, Devens Enterprise Commission, and Massachusetts Development (both the Devens office and the Boston office). The playground is such a creative learning space for the children, similar to the Tree Garden, and the classrooms have been created with loving attention and detail. Thanks to Sherri’s husband Tim for all his woodworking contributions both inside and out! Children perfomed a “Sun Salutation” song accompanied by stretching exercises. I noticed that I can follow directions better, but I sure can’t stretch as well! I told them that they and their parents are our pioneers – and they will always be our first Applewild at Devens families. We also have a few families using the Devens bus stop for pick up in the afternoons. I look forward to that stop being even more helpful as we all become more used to it.