Lower School Parents’ Visiting Day

We were thrilled to spend the morning with those of you who were able to attend. Parent visiting days provide a window into the wonderful school experience that your child lives each day, and we hope it offered glimpses into the richness of the curriculum, the depth of the relationships your child forms at school, and the expertise with which the teachers guide the learning taking place.

You may have noticed in your visit today and/or in the conversations about school that you have at home that your child has seemed to hit a big leap in their development as a learner. Well, you are not alone. This time of year it is typical for students to have substantial cognitive leaps. Your child may suddenly not only tell you the plot of a book they are enjoying, but also begin speculating on the motivation of a character or picking up on subtle foreshadowing clues that previously would have gone unnoticed. Or your child may go from counting out quantities to grouping items on their own and finding more efficient ways to determine amounts. Your child’s participation in dinnertime conversations about current events may have new vigor and insight—they are making new connections to historical perspectives or ancient civilizations or events in their own lives.

These cognitive leaps also impact social development. You may hear stories of complex problem-solving and notice the teacher’s role in that problem-solving has lessened and students are negotiating with one another more independently. I walked into a classroom the other day and a group of students promptly shared that they had just had a dispute and been angry at each other but had worked through a solution all on their own. They were articulate about their compromises and excited about the fun they were now having. Perspectives widen during these leaps and students find a deeper appreciation for another’s viewpoint. A group of students recently relayed to their teacher that they realized they were only thinking of their own feelings about a conflict and not considering the feelings of others involved. Once they did, the conflict made sense and they could talk through a better plan.

Metacognition is also affected by these leaps. Students are able to understand their own learning in new ways. Your child may note that he made the decision to move to a better learning spot while working and was able to concentrate more fully or notice that she used to get stuck on certain math problems but now can figure out the best strategy to use in order to move forward. Reflection on our own learning is an important part of academic success and students often amaze parents and teachers at this time of year with their insights into where their struggles occur and how they have learned to work through them.

These cognitive leaps are reflected in the curriculum in your child’s classroom. They are undertaking more in-depth projects, managing work over extended periods of time, delving into their own editing processes, managing the challenges of working closely with others, researching material in new and complex ways, working and making decisions more independently, and reflecting upon their work with greater clarity and introspection. These are things that happen in transformative learning. Students don’t merely gain new skills and knowledge, they grow and change in their approach to and utilization of these skills and knowledge. Teachers are able to remove layers of the scaffolding that structures students’ learning, allowing them to create and maintain that structure themselves. The support is still there, but what is most visible to the children is their own role in their learning. It’s an exciting time for both students and teachers. As an educator there are few joys as great as hearing from a student, after completing a major project or assignment, some version of “That was really hard for me; I didn’t think I could do it, but I did great work, and it was really fun!” Be on the lookout for these moments. Your children’s teachers and I are always eager to hear your stories!  

Enjoy your weekend. Go Patriots!

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