February 8, 2017
Dear St. Anne’s Families,
We are writing with exciting news! We are proud to announce that our school has been selected as a pioneering Changemaker School by Ashoka, the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurs. Ashoka works with leading social entrepreneurs like Nobel Peace Prize winners Muhammad Yunus and Kailash Satyarthi, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, and Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp -- incredible leaders in all sorts of different fields changing patterns across society with innovative solutions to social problems. Ashoka has recognized our school for the work we do to empower students with the skills they need to be changemakers in our rapidly changing world. Specifically, our school was selected for serving as a model for cultivating empathy, teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving.
As a Changemaker School, we will join a community of educators, parents, and innovators working to make the practice of empathy as essential as reading and math in education. More so now than ever, people are recognizing the vital importance of skills like empathy in the workplace. In fact, a recent New York Times article notes the marked increase since 1980 in occupations requiring strong social skills. To address this reality, together with over 89 Changemaker Schools across the country and nearly 200 around the globe, we are leading a movement to show what education looks like when we prioritize empathy and changemaking. So what do empathy and changemaking look like in your child’s classroom? At St. Anne’s this involves our Character Education programs, outreach and volunteer work, our amazing Changemakers Club and many more opportunities that pop up when our students are inspired.
The ultimate goal of our involvement in the Changemaker Schools Network is to ensure that our children have the skills necessary to succeed in a world that is changing at warp speed. We also seek to send our children to a nurturing, encouraging school environment so that they might grow up to be changemakers. Unfortunately, most K-8 education does not keep up appropriately with our changing world. Too often, schools steer children towards traditional instruction rather than asking them to engage in their communities and practice vital skills like empathy. Ashoka’s Start Empathy Initiative and Changemaker Schools like ours, however, are working to bring future relevance to K-8 education.
We envision a world in which empathy and changemaking skills are prioritized for every child, and we seek to provide our children’s teachers with ideas for how to make instruction more involved in and connected with the world outside the classroom. As our children grow up and move on from Changemaker schools, we will continue to discover the ways they have benefited from building empathy skills in early childhood. We believe that parents across the world deserve that same experience. As your child’s first and most important teachers, parents can contribute to a Changemaker Education in a variety of ways:
Check out Parenting Changemakers.
Take a look at Start Empathy online and sign up for weekly newsletters highlighting Changemaker Schools like ours.
Download the Start Empathy Toolkit to see what promoting empathy in the classroom looks like in action.
Take part in our Outreach volunteer days.
Join the One St. Anne’s Committee.
- Get involved with our St. Anne's Changemakers Club.
As our school continues to promote empathy and changemaking in the classroom and throughout the halls of the school, we look forward to working with you to build a world where everyone is a changemaker.
St. Anne’s Changemakers
January 27, 2017
We hope you enjoy this issue of the St. Anne's Newsletter. For your viewing pleasure, don't forget to click the "full screen" button in the bottom right corner of this issue.
October 31, 2016
August 15, 2016
July 29, 2016
July 20, 2016
July 19, 2016
Students' Create a Screenplay with a Powerful Message
July 11, 2016
May 6, 2016
Roughly every other year, I have shared some thoughts, perspectives, and suggestions regarding technology in the lives of our children. Here again is this newest version of that conversation. As I reflected on the topic one snowy April day, however, I was struck by how rapidly this area and its latest trends evolve from year to year and even month to month. I see it in our classrooms with the tools our teachers use to further instruction. I see it with our students in the work (and mistakes) they make with the devices and software at their disposal. And I see it with my own children in how we communicate and how they spend their time. More than ever before, our children are considerably ahead of the vast majority of adults in their technological knowledge and skill sets. Yet their social-emotional and decision-making development has not evolved at a similarly accelerated rate. Therein lies the danger for them and the responsibility for us as parents and educators.
Though I have sometimes been accused (especially by my own children) of being a Luddite and Chicken Little when it comes to technology, I argue otherwise. Technology has proven to be an undeniably powerful and effective teaching tool in certain domains, and its possibilities for differentiated instruction are exciting and liberating. It certainly has broadened and sped communication, though I still question whether e-mail is a gift or curse. Medicine, business, and virtually every other professional field have been enhanced and made more productive thanks to technological innovations. And like it or not, it is here to stay and will be both a part of the future and a required skill set for our children. We should not and cannot stick our heads in the sand and hope it goes away.
Like a circular saw, however, technology in the hands of a nine- or thirteen-year-old is also a powerful tool that can be harmful, mishandled, and misused without proper supervision, training, and age-appropriate access. Just recently, for example, local and national media were abuzz about the latest anonymous posting application, “After School,” designed specifically for high school students to allow anonymous, uncensored postings of virtually any nature. Though far from the first or only app of this kind, many expressed shock and surprise that it was being misused by adolescents in hurtful, dangerous, and even illegal ways.
Why the shock? It has long been understood that the adolescent (and even early adult) brain lacks the fully developed frontal lobe to properly and completely manage impulse control and complex decision making. What has changed, however, is the size and reach of the circular saw in the hands of the child. Today, a student angry with a classmate can lash out inappropriately and impulsively on social media, hit the send button, and instantaneously involve literally and permanently the entire world in his/her misguided, hurtful moment of poor judgment. Similarly, a naive and insecure child today seeking “likes” can receive unintended feedback from thousands of peers and complete strangers about their looks, dress, and perceived value as a human being.
As I have said many times before, I do not profess to have the answers to these challenges, and I live them daily with my own children in my own home. Add to that the fact that individual family communication needs, values, and philosophies rightfully can differ, and it is obvious that no “one size fits all” answers exist. I do, however, believe some critical questions should be carefully and regularly visited by parents, and the honest answers should then be checked against your values, beliefs, and adult perspectives about what is best for children. Below are a few such questions, and I invite you to discuss them with your child and other parents. Please also note that further advice and resources regarding these topics are available on our website (www.st-annes.org) under Parent Resources, and our technology staff are always available to answer questions and offer suggestions.