Coming Together

March 5, 2018

On Wednesday of last week, our St. Anne’s community witnessed our first ever original musical. To see so many middle school students confidently belting out songs on pitch in front of hundreds of people will be something that neither I, nor anyone who was in attendance, will ever forget.  Less than twelve hours later, we returned to the dining hall on Thursday morning where we had our Middle School Winter Sports Assembly. This provided a forum for us to celebrate two undefeated 8th grade basketball teams, a feat that has never been accomplished in school history. We also celebrated 6th and 7th grade teams. This included our 7th grade boys basketball team who suffered heartbreaking losses all season before putting it all together to win their last game. All of these are noteworthy in my book.  As I’ve reflected back on what I saw on stage Wednesday and in the gym all winter, I found myself marveling at the manner in which groups of kids have come together to accomplish great things, but also considering a few of the factors that it takes for these teams to come together to accomplish what they did.

1) Hard work and effort on the little things: There is no question we have talented students, but without consistent effort, talent is not always realized in full.  So much happens outside of normal class/practice time, from a coach working one-on-one at break to tech crew and cast coming in on weekends and staying after school. What I’ve also noticed is that the effort is not only placed on big things, but also on little things such as where to stand on defense or on stage and reflecting on how to respond when a mistake is made.  The effort and attention to little details often can be the difference between good and great performances!

2) Contagious positive energy:  I am a big believer that energy is contagious, regardless of whether it is positive or negative.  Having members of the group that are relentlessly positive and a coach/teacher who constantly expresses belief in what the group can accomplish is powerful.  It allows them to survive setbacks and move forward. Whenever I see a team huddle or walk by the drama crew’s pre-show pump-up ritual, the positive energy is palpable (and usually loud!). Furthermore, it carries on to the start of the performance.


3) Trust: An environment of trust at any level is so critical, whether it is on the floor or on stage. However, at the middle school level, it’s even more important. It's incumbent on the teacher and coach to get buy-in, and that requires honoring and trusting student voice. It also requires creating a culture where everyone understands that their success is reliant on the success of the others in the group. When someone stumbles on lines or struggles to shoot the ball, sticking with them and continuing to believe in them nurtures a trust that strengthens a group in powerful ways.  I’ve seen so many examples this year of students helping one another with a line or continuing to pass to an open teammate, and it ultimately pays off down the line. Looking back on the musical, clearly there was a safe and trusting environment created by Mr. Lemire in his drama classes to engage in dialogue around bias, stereotypes and differences, which we saw play out on stage so masterfully.


4) The Presence and Overcoming of Obstacles and Conflict, Not the Absence of Them:  All groups go through a series of highs and lows.  It is a natural and inevitable part of the process. This winter we had a rash of injuries and sickness that took its toll on teams and the cast. Differences in opinion also factored in, and at times, the group didn't hit the bar on an individual day. However, the growth continued to happen each day.  Individuals on the teams and cast not only had to take care of themselves and persevere, but they also had to look out for one another.  Often, it is the overcoming of these obstacles that ultimately most helps groups come together faster and more tightly in positive ways.


The impact of the confluence of these factors is unmistakable. It builds enduring connections between students that last beyond the days of St. Anne’s. How else could you explain the number of alumni who come back to watch the play each trimester? Yes, they want to see an awesome show, but it also brings them back to a space where they accomplished something wonderful together. The memories that they form together after putting in time together, trusting one another, and overcoming obstacles are impossible to forget. 

A White Christmas

December 21, 2017

Creak. Thud, thud, thud.

  “Abby, wake up!” Henry said excitedly.

I opened my sleepy eyes just enough to see out of and flinched a little. Henry was so close to my face I could count his eyelashes.

  “What do you want?” I asked him sleepily, still not fully awake.

   “It’s Christmas, come on!” He responded, a hint of desperation in his voice.

I checked my bedside clock. It read in large, red letters, 6:30 a.m.

  “Henry, are you crazy?” I asked, “It’s 6:30!”

Finally, he yanked me out of bed, throwing the warm sheets off of me.

I timidly pushed open my door and looked around.The hallway was quiet, and shadows of furniture fell across the wooden floor in the sitting room. A faint whir could be heard from the heating unit. Outside, I could see snow falling slowly, twisting and twirling like beautiful ballerinas. As we rounded the corner of the hall, I felt my stomach flutter with excitement. Christmas was here!

Finally, we found what we were looking for. Nestled under the tree and piled by the fireplace, on chairs and the coffee table, were presents of all shapes and sizes. Packages with glossy wrapping paper, delicate bows, their silky folds tied into perfect knots, shiny tins promising delicious treats, stiff bags decorated with Christmas trees, fairy lights, and Santa hats, and finally, four knit stockings bulging with tiny treasures.

I looked at Henry. A smile crept across his face, making the edges of his mouth crinkle a little. As I stood, I realized how lucky I was to be there, snow falling outside, a warm house to live in, and presents of all kinds in front of me.

As two players on the St. Anne’s basketball team that played during halftime of the Denver University Basketball game on December 5, we wanted to share a recap of the St. Anne’s Night event.  Before the game started, the Denver University coaches gave us a tour of the locker room. We learned a lot about athletics at the college and got to see the cool facilities. A couple of minutes before the game started, the St Anne’s Middle School Choir came onto the court and sang the national anthem! They sounded  really good and had practiced a lot on that really difficult song! Five minutes before halftime a Denver University staff member came and brought us courtside. When the first half was over, we took the court and began to play five on five on the actual court! We were nervous, but when the game started, it all went away. The team made quite a few baskets for the time we were given. It was really exciting when we made two three point baskets. I think that we put on a good show for everyone in the crowd.  It was tiring running up and down the extra long court tons of times, but it was also lots of fun.

We really enjoyed this experience! It was so cool to be on the same court that Division 1 teams play on. Plus Denver University ended up winning the game against San Jose State. Overall it was very fun, and we hope future grades can do this too!

Written by 6th graders Brendan and Alex P
The MS Chorus singing the National Anthem before tip off!

STAMP, which stands for Students Taking Action and Making Progress, was a conference this year in Denver, at the History of Colorado Center. The leadership conference was run by high school students, and the conference was for middle schoolers. The conference aimed for creating inclusivity in schools and leadership skills. This year, in 2017, STAMP had close to 200 middle school students at their conference, and they had students from private, public, and charter schools. St. Anne’s had 13 7th and 8th grade students attending this year. STAMP also features a different keynote speaker every year, and this year’s was Stephen Brackett, a musician, motivational speaker, and activist. Each student that attended could choose two workshops prior to the conference, and those workshops were all interesting and provided all different types of discussions and advice. Finally, the keynote speaker from last year, hip-hop artist and activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, made a surprise appearance. He’s a teenager and indigenous activist, as well as a director for a climate change organization. At the end, Xiuhtezcatl performed two songs about both current events and political news.

There were a lot of different workshops for us to choose from that focused on a variety of topics. One workshop was on confidence and self esteem around body image. A key takeaway was that you don’t have to be or look like what others expect of you. Just be your own self and take pride in being different. Another workshop was on standing up for yourself and how to get your point across. We need to not get caught up in stereotypes. A third workshop some of our St. Anne’s middle schoolers went to was on understanding how different people have different perspectives on the same situation. Important to honor different perspectives because it helps our society when we take them all into account.

This conference was a really great way to meet new kids from new schools and make new friends.You always felt included! There was always someone to talk to all day. Another wonderful benefit was that you learned how to handle a variety of different situations that happen so often in life. I think that since the conference was run by high schoolers it helped us understand more because we are so close in age. Plus they have been through many of the experiences that we encounter on a day-to-day basis.Overall, we really enjoyed going and are hopeful to go again next year!

By Abby, Bella and Adie-Morgan

For every middle school student, there are myriad experiences ahead for them both in school and out of school that will be new and push them out of their comfort zone. From going downtown to the Soup Kitchen, to working with a group of people at the Memory Care Center, to selling Holiday Greens for their 8th grade DC trip, these new experiences provide different levels of challenge for our students.  The importance of cultivating risk-taking and courage to be successful in these situations seems to be frequently highlighted, but another critical key is the quality of the framing that occurs prior to that experience.


What do I mean by framing? Framing is the scaffolding you provide prior to an experience to set a student up for success.  A good frame provides basic information about where, what, who and why. Though I prefer to have more time, I’ve found that even a few minutes of discussion, highlighting of key information, and listening to questions from them can make a radical difference for my students.


Framing an experience is so important when working with young people because it provides a focus amidst what can be a new environment with a lot of new faces, surroundings, stimuli and feelings.  As adults who are often providing the frame, we can sometimes forget what it was like to NOT know and to go through something for the first time. As a result, things we think will be challenging for our kids might not be, while things we don’t anticipate to be challenging become real sticking points. When we provide a frame and give a space for asking questions that are actually on the mind of our kids, we can help alleviate stress and anxiety that is often unnecessary but that exists nonetheless. We can help prevent them from getting stuck on certain aspects that make truly immersing themselves in the experience more challenging. Prior to going to the soup kitchen for the first time this year, we shared with kids information about what soup kitchens were and the population they serve. We told them what jobs they might hold, how long it would be, and why we give up time in our school day to participate in this program. However, we also shed light on questions that middle schoolers would be worried about like what they would do for their own lunch since they leave during middle school lunch hour. This, coupled with stressing that our time was about focusing on the people we serve and not on one another or who gets to hand out the dessert, really set the table for the experience.


This afternoon, we had a group of ten 8th graders who chose to give up part of their lunch hour and all of their study hall time to spend time with autistic students from the Joshua House as part of a socialization program to help their kids get ready to enter a more traditional school environment. Our kids were patient, enthusiastic, positive and very supportive.  They deserve kudos for stepping out of their comfort zone and showing courage in this new situation. However, I also know that having faculty from the Joshua House come over twice to share insights about autism, help them gain empathy, show pictures of the kids they would be working with, talk about tips and the kinds of activities we would be doing, and answer questions our students had, played a huge role in the success and enjoyment of the experience.


So, the next time you have the opportunity to frame an experience, here are a few additional suggestions:


1) Find the balance between sharing enough info to give them a frame without getting so granular that the focus gets lost.


2) Be sure to ask them what questions they might have after you share some details. Don’t be surprised though if they ask a question that seems less than essential. It doesn’t mean they are not taking it seriously or are committed to it. Honoring what is on their mind and addressing it can ultimately help them better focus on what is important.


3) If you’ve got another child or a friend’s child who has been through a similar experience, have them share out their experience when appropriate. Whether we like it or not, hearing from another peer the exact same thing as what we would say as adults can prove more impactful. We use this model at school at times, bringing an 8th grader in to talk with sixth graders on a topic like responsible use of technology.


4)You don’t need to say, “Don’t be nervous.”  New situations are bound to lead to nerves, and you can help lower them by honoring the feelings they may have. You can mention how you understand how they might be nervous, but that the value of what they are going to do/the difference they will make is worth that initial butterflies.  Sharing a similar experience where you were nervous too but persevered and were grateful for having done so, also can be effective.


5) Follow up the experience with a reflection, feedback, and a pat on the back. Using the initial conversations about the frame as reflection points can really help shape growth and what they take away from the experience. It doesn’t have to be that day as often middle schoolers might not be ready to have processed it and will resist initial prying. Perhaps the next day over dinner!


I’ve found over the years of working with middle schoolers that they are so capable of reaching the bar, even when it is set quite high. We must not underestimate them, but we must also provide the framing so that they are well-positioned to get the most out of their experiences. Simply saying, “Be on your best behavior,” or “Do you best” does not provide the information they often need to be successful. We cannot only place expectations on our kids. We must scaffold their learning as well.

Gaining Perspective

August 27, 2017

Over the course of the final days of summer vacation, l have found myself gaining new perspective at seemingly every turn...
Read Middle School Head, Sumant Bhat's latest blog.

Last week at Founders’ Day, the whole school gathered in the amphitheater for the bell to be rung sixty-six times, one for every year of the school’s existence. Prior to that moment, Mr. Smiley asked that we all take a time to pause and reflect on our year. Like me, many of you likely feel that reflecting is a practice we do not do nearly enough as we should or would like to do.


As an educator, I believe that cultivating a spirit and habit of reflection in our students is critical to both their academic and personal growth, but also to the nurturing of healthy decision-making skills. Through reflection, students can learn causality between choices they make and the outcomes.


In the classroom, at different points of the year (e.g., the mid-trimester or trimester), after projects, and prior to tests, teachers and advisors often engage in reflective conversations with students. Asking students what study habits they will try or have tried, or what they could have done differently in class discussions, is intended to help nurture metacognitive skills. Recognizing actions that led to success or identifying ones that did not lead to success can help shape future behavior.


Outside of the classroom, being reflective is equally as important, particularly around technology. Frequent meetings and discussions in middle school on digital citizenship are focused on building a habit of reflective self-questioning prior to hitting send. Always asking  Is it kind? Is it necessary? or How will this impact others? can lead to better decision-making on devices. Twenty years ago, adolescents had the luxury of time and countless opportunities to reflect on a poor decision because of how long it would have taken to take a picture on a camera, develop the film and then put it in the mail. Having time to consider the feelings of others and alternative actions was enough to deter a poor instinct. For better and worse, today our world provides our raw emotions and thoughts instantaneous access to an infinite audience for all our tweets, photos and posts.


As adults who are eager to support our kids in becoming more reflective, there are several tools we can employ to counter natural walls or reluctance we get from them. Active listening and holding off problem-solving for them allows kids to talk through their challenge, reflect, and often come up with a solution on their own. Teasing out a student’s intention and then helping that person understand the impact on others and oneself is another powerful approach. Another practice I like to use is asking students to use a numerical scale to quantify feelings like frustration, fatigue, or pain that they felt prior to making a decision. Not only does it give the listener some context, but it also helps the individual have comparison points for the future to put things into perspective. Finally, finding time to identify alternative choices and pondering possible outcomes of those actions can help broaden the kids' minds to a multitude of choices they have in the event they find themselves in a similar situation in the future.


As a middle school, we hope that encouraging reflection provides students a pathway to build scholarship and good habits that will serve them well beyond our walls. Being reflective is also necessary for our kids to overcome the pressures of peers egging one another on while gathered around a device, or the perceived expectations of being active and current in social media. However, just as using a stress ball only in times of crisis proves less than effective, we must practice reflection routinely and on a daily basis. Only then will we be equipped to be reflective when we need it.


Middle school respect

Two weeks ago, I was in Baltimore presenting at the National Association of Independent Schools Conference on the topic of “Making Your Core Values Visible.”  It was a great opportunity to share so many of the ways St. Anne’s makes a concerted effort to holistically inculcate many values, including respect, kindness, integrity, perseverance and honesty, through programming, curriculum and teachable moments.

One part of our approach includes proactively promoting values and finding opportunities to practice them consistently through experiences such as outreach, writing appreciations to staff and one another, and working with younger students through our buddy program. Daily practice of values builds muscle memory that fosters St. Anne’s graduates who are empathic and kind citizens that enrich their next communities. For those that have not read it, I would highly recommend the book Unselfie which amongst other things, speaks to the many ways we can help nurture empathic kids through daily practice.


Perhaps the strength of our approach, though, lies in a community of teachers, advisors, staff, trip leaders and coaches who are all committed to talking about core values in every aspect of school life.  Respect isn’t something that should be limited to advisory or a character education class. It is an essential part of the education that happens on trips, such as the 6th grade end of year trip to St. Anne’s in the Hills, where Mr. Bird teaches respect through trail etiquette, not disturbing nature and leaving places better than when you arrived. Watch a basketball game coached by Ms. Jordan or Mr. Amend and you’ll not only hear an emphasis on defensive schemes, but also lessons on playing with sportsmanship and treating the other team with the respect they deserve. Even in the dining hall you’ll see our staff, led by Ms. Jones, reminding students to say “please” and “thank you.”  At school, at home, or over spring break, we always have opportunities to have conversations with our kids about values, helping build their understanding of these lofty terms through practice and discussion.

Regardless of where the conversations happen, as adults I believe we must be mindful of the way in which we have those conversations. A major tenet of my presentation to other educators was that we must not rely solely on a list of “Do not do’s” to guide and grow adolescent behavior. After all, it is impossible to remind and direct kids of every single thing they should not do. And when we tell them to not do something without proper rationalization and context, the reality is we have merely piqued curiosity of the developing adolescent brain. None of us wants to raise kids who are going through life worrying about all the possible missteps they can make. So, we must cultivate an understanding of values so that our kids may use them as a road map to navigate the many new situations that await them in the world.  

There’s no question that it is much easier to teach from successful demonstrations of values. But when you have a school that brings together over 400 children in the same space for eight hours each day (or a home with one or more kids in your family), the reality is there are going to be instances when our kids fall short of embodying those values.  While we must enforce boundaries, we must also view these instances as invitations to discuss our core values. “Inappropriate uses of technology” is listed in our handbook as a violation of our student expectations, but when a student makes that mistake, how do we help them understand why it is written in our handbook? Empathy and our core values provide the key.

There are several tools that our faculty use frequently in our conversations with our students that help shift the focus from a “don’t do that,” to an opportunity to construct meaning and understanding of values. The first is the use of intention versus impact. Asking a child about what their intention was or to share what factors motivated their choice accomplishes several things, the most important of which is the deferring of judgment and opening a channel for dialogue. Second, whether the response is “I was trying to express that I was mad at them,”, “I was trying to raise my grade,” or “I was looking for attention from my friends,” it leads to an opportunity for us to help them make a connection between their choice and the values that the choice might not live up to, whether it was kindness or honesty. It also can sometimes provide us a window into feelings and emotions the child is really experiencing. Finally, it tees up a couple of natural follow-up questions: “What do you think the impact of your choice was on your peer/friend/teacher/you?”  In most cases, there’s also an opportunity to shine light on how others not considered might be impacted. Considering the impact on others nurtures empathy and helps them realize how their choices impact more than themselves. “What is an alternative choice you could have made that might have addressed what you were feeling and would be respectful/kind/honest?” Asking this question helps students understand that there is almost always more than one option. Considering the likely outcomes of those alternative options can also provide good conversation and a chance to correct misconceptions and coach good decision-making.

Embedded in all of this dialogue is the notion of separating the child from the choice. Rather than saying “you’re a bad kid,” saying that they made a bad choice reminds the that they had control over their decision and that you see they make lots of other choices every day that are good ones. This kind of phrasing supports a growth mindset where a student can make progress other than a fixed mindset of being incapable of making good choices because they are a bad kid. Our children need to know that we believe in their capacity to be good.  

All of these tools require patience, empathy and time, precious resources which, I realize, are not always available to us on a given day.  At the same time, our kids are receiving inconsistent messages from media, the internet, and even travel sports teams, amongst other places, which demand that we spend time talking about values.

While there is certainly a space and need to be brief and direct with kids about what is and is not appropriate behavior, finding the balance is necessary, as is keeping perspective. It is important for our own health that we remember that, despite our modeling, efforts and reminders, adolescents will learn from making both good and bad choices at different points in their lives, just as we have done. They will also ask questions, push boundaries and challenge us.  Values, after all, are ideas we wrestle with still today as adults, and there are definitely circumstances when two important values may come up against one another, such as being kind versus being respectful. Expecting our kids to be masters at this right away is unreasonable, but it is worth our time. Being thoughtful about how we have conversations with our kids not only can help build trust and empathy, but it also provides a means to teach the values we hold dear and hope to pass on to them. 

Middle school respect

Demystifying Creativity

December 2, 2016

    If you went back in time and asked the middle school version of myself if he believed he was creative, he would probably have balked at the statement.  No doubt he would respond that creativity was a gene he was not born with and a talent possessed by only those who were artistic. Fortunately, I’ve since learned otherwise and am always seeking ways to pay it forward as an educator, encouraging kids to see creativity as a process which everyone can tap into and access.

    To cultivate creativity in adolescents or people of all ages though, there are often many obstacles. Many share the same perception I held as a kid that a creativity binary exists. People either are or are not creative. When generating ideas, there can be an instinctual desire to fixate on one solution and one right answer, rather than explore a wide ranger of possibilities.  Social pressures and fears can lead to someone filtering their wild and crazy ideas,  undermining a true creative process. A final hurdle is dispelling the notion that creativity is just a spontaneous, unpredictable and individual event, making it unreachable for can be generated through an intentional process.

    Changing our thinking is not easy, but as I wrote last month, I believe fostering a growth mindset is an integral foundational piece for students to understand so they can learn to be creative, rather than requiring a specific gene to be creative.  Flexible thinking can be cultivated in a variety of ways through exercises like the 30 Circles test or simply having to use a variety of everyday materials like buttons and pipecleaners to build prototypes.

    Providing kids tools and an environment for how to brainstorm is also a vital skill in order to ensure that a proliferation of ideas is produced rather than a singular initial solution. Creating ground rules for those brainstorming sessions that defer judgment and encourage unique ideas is critical to overcoming the social fears of looking silly by saying what is on your mind. An important component to that environment is a patience and commitment to providing enough time for multiple ideas to come through as expressed in this fun video. 

    In the middle school innovations program, we do a combination of robotics and design thinking which offer a wide variety of skills that nurture creative and divergent thinking. However, both curricula also teach creativity as a process rather than a spontaneous event. A great example of this came last spring for our sixth graders. The school was in the early stages of exploring the possibility of creating an outdoor classroom for the preschool and kindergarten students. With the Head of School’s blessing, we set forth to dive into a design thinking project to generate some new ideas.

    In the first stage of the design thinking process, our sixth graders spent time observing our youngest students play at recess.Then they had the opportunity to interview and ask questions of them and their teachers which provided empathy and insights about the needs and wants of the primary users of the outdoor classroom space. After a little bit of additional research, they brainstormed ideas to meet the needs and built model prototypes. On the final day of the process, we had our students share their prototypes and explain their ideas to the preschool teachers, maintenance staff, and several administrators.Having participated in this process at every stage including the final presentation, I was impressed with the thoughtfulness and diverse ideas our kids came up with that reflected the ways our youngest students play. There was an empathy and understanding for those needs which is at the heart of the design process. Over the summer, we were able to share some of the ideas that students came up with the actual outdoor classroom designers. While certainly not all of their recommendations were implemented, when the final designs were made, there were elements that you could point to that appeared in some capacity in some of our students’ designs as well.  This fall, when the beautiful outdoor classroom had been built, it was such a treat for those same kids to visit. Now seventh graders, they could see a space that did not exist before and that they had a hand in shaping, a powerful educational experience. Furthermore, they have been involved in changemaking, having a positive impact that would enrich the daily life of other students.

    Though this specific design thinking process happened in innovations, the reality is that many of the design thinking elements occur throughout a kids’ days. It happens everywhere from drama students writing a script and considering the needs and wants of a set of characters, to students designing and executing a lesson plan to teach verbal irony to their classmates in English.  There is no doubt that being content creators and having the opportunity to brainstorm ideas to meet a solution is a powerful experience, but perhaps even more valuable is the opportunity for students to cultivate empathy and thinking about the experience of others. It is the sum of these kinds of experiences that help our students be more comfortable and confident in the creative process in ways that I couldn't imagine when I was there age.


This is my second year of teaching French in a 95%+ immersion classroom with the Organic World Language (O.W.L.) Method.  I credit the success the students and I have experienced thus far in this program to the strong community we have built together, one which encourages risk-taking, making mistakes, and being silly.  Without a strong community, students might fear ridicule or simply not take chances while speaking French.  Each class acts like a "family" with its own distinct personality.  Students are applauded when they try and are consistently reminding one another of the three expectations:  Respect, Participate, and Speak French!

Here are the steps I took to help build these communities:

1.  Remove the furniture.  Before desks and chairs prohibited my students to move freely and pair up with a maximum number of different partners or groups.  By speaking to various people during the class period, students can move outside their comfort zones and use different vocabulary to find out about each other's interests, thoughts, and experiences.  Students write in composition books, on post-its, or on index cards while in the circle which allows for more sharing, and ultimately, growth.

2.  Encourage silly games, touch, and movement.  While silly games encourage students to take risks and see one another in a different light, they also provide an opportunity to take a necessary break from the intensity of an immersion experience while remaining in French.  Touch pushes the students to challenge their comfort level, and movement keeps their minds sharp while encouraging other forms of communication.  Acting out a vocabulary term is one of the three skills taught in the class to stay in the target language, along with drawing and circumlocution.

3.  Present community-building activities and challenges.  Approximately once every two weeks, I will present a community-building activity or challenge.  Examples such as forming a shape with a rope while blindfolded, vocabulary team challenges, passing a hula-hoop around the circle, or lifting a roll of duct tape as a class with only one finger force the students to work together as a team.  They also provide opportunities for learning new vocabulary as students need to negotiate rules or give instructions.  In fact, I don't need to schedule these challenges; the students regularly ask me for these activities or bring new challenges to the class.
4.  Create time for self-reflection.  Providing students with time and opportunities for self-reflection about their language acquisition journeys helps them understand what we are doing as well as inspires new insight into how they learn.  Every two weeks, students write in digital journals responding to prompts about how they contributed to the classroom community, how they overcame a frustration, or what new words they learned and how they remembered them.

Creating a community that applauds mistakes, encourages students to laugh at themselves, and supports a safe risk-taking environment has pushed my students to embrace a growth mindset.  They understand that in order to achieve their language proficiency goals, they have to get messy with the language, ask for help, develop a persistence for understanding, and figure out new strategies to communicate their thoughts and opinions.  The class community is the safety net that supports each student in the process.

Thank you for your continued support.  Merci beaucoup!

Erin Ménard