It was so inspiring to walk into our elementary classrooms on Friday and see the thoughtful design of each room. I love the creative play centers, the book displays, the art and imagination corners. The classrooms exude a passion for progressive pedagogy as well as the individual style of each teacher. Perhaps most impressive of all was that teachers left the bulletin boards in the halls and classrooms completely empty! Classroom walls and halls feel bare without the typical commercial and teacher-designed displays. This reflects a deep understanding of the value of quality student work that will grace our walls and halls at the right time. I am very proud of you. Keep up the great work!
There are simply no words to describe the heartache we all feel, the depth of injustice, the moral outrage that we all share. This terrible, senseless tragedy is unacceptable. Most of all, my thoughts, prayers, and deepest sympathies to Michael Brown’s family and friends. His mother’s eyes tell a story of lost hopes and dreams.
"Before I participated in lesson study at HVA, I used to think teaching was about clearly delivering information about math procedures to students," said one of our teachers. "Lesson study completely changed the way I teach. Now I set up my lesson starting with a carefully selected math problem, so that the students have to do the work of discovering the formula and understanding the concepts deeply."
Most American teachers still start math lessons by explaining a procedure (“today we’re going to learn about…”) while students listen and take notes, then practice what they have been told. This method is known as “I do, we do, you do” - an approach that we have avoided at HVA because it essentially provides students with the conclusion at the beginning of the lesson.
At HVA, we believe in designing math lessons that begin with every student grappling with a problem and thinking deeply about how to construct a solution with careful guidance from the teacher. In other words, the student should be doing the thinking and working. This problem-based approach to math instruction is at the heart of our lesson study practice.
VIDEO: Over 100 teachers along with mathematics experts from around the country, including Makoto Yoshida, Bill Jackson, and Akihiko Takahashi, observed and analyzed a first grade math lesson at HVA. We look forward to learning with and from our education colleagues this year through our Lesson Study Center at the Progressive Education Institute.
As our fifth graders were learning about plants in science class, they started a garden. The garden was launched with an amazing garden party (see the video!) in which the whole community came together: about 100 people participated including HVA students, families, teachers, custodial staff and community members all offering to lend a hand. Even local shops donated food and ice.
The crops in the garden include a mix of student-grown flowers and vegetables as well as plants from the Urban Garden Center, which is a greenhouse located on 116 Street which had been destroyed by the recent explosion.
Future goals for the space include a school-wide composting program; bench building; outdoor artwork; a nutrition program utilizing garden produce; an outdoor classroom space where students can learn in an environmental space; a small shed to store supplies; gravel to fill in pathways; and a science plants curricular program in our elementary school.
Thank you to the teachers, staff, leaders, families and students. What a beautiful experience for our community.
Three weeks ago, 230 school girls in Nigeria were kidnapped from school by terrorists. Our middle school students organized a campaign to raise awareness, created a #BringBackOurGirls poster for all HVA students to sign, passed out fliers during lunch, and talked with their classmates about the issue. I am proud of our students — and so proud of our teachers and staff for inspiring and guiding them. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the kidnapped girls.
For those who missed it, here is an excerpt from my speech at our annual benefit celebration, earlier this week.
On this special evening, I’d like to pay tribute to our teachers. Our teachers are incredibly smart, talented people who could have done anything, and they often have to defend their decision to well-meaning parents who ask, “Why don’t you become a lawyer?” Well, we’re all glad you didn’t become lawyers. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…!)
You know, even though all of us have had teachers, most of us really don’t know what it’s like to be a teacher. Imagine designing lesson plans that keep 25 students interested and engaged for five hours. And not just any lessons but truly exquisite instruction that gets students thinking at a high level. Then on top of that, assigning and grading homework; reviewing student work and giving meaningful feedback; participating in faculty meetings; selecting books to inspire every student to fall in love with reading; tutoring the students who need extra help; spending time with students who are misbehaving; monitoring the hallway and lunch; covering a class for a colleague who is absent; practicing for lock-down drills; mediating student disagreements; instilling a love of learning while also figuring how to prepare for the state test; investing time each week in your own professional development to continually improve the quality of your work; staying in communication with parents not only to report problems but also to share the good news . . And that’s just Monday!
Clearly, our teachers deserve our deep appreciation.