The Future of Progressive Education

Last week I was fortunate to attend the biennial PEN Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. PEN stands for Progressive Education Network—a consortium of schools specifically dedicated to the tenets of Progressive education—to which we belong. I last attended a PEN Conference in 2007 in San Francisco, and it’s always an affirming gathering of like-minded educators with a plethora of workshops and keynote speakers all aligned around Progressive education.  This year’s conference theme was Educating for Democracy: Navigating the Current and Channeling the Future of Progressive Education. I attended an opening night panel of experts addressing the education gap students of color face in the Minneapolis public schools and heard other keynote speakers talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion issues in Progressive schools. The provocative conversations forced us to examine ourselves closely. Fortunately, with the efforts we are making at St. Francis to address this topic (including having DEI trainers in the Middle School today), I felt good about the ongoing work St. Francis does with faculty and students to address this area; while recognizing how much work remains for us. I also attended workshops on mentoring new faculty in Progressive schools (and took away some ideas to bolster our program), how to handle difficult conversations in the classroom (which is another focus for us this year across divisions), and how to create a Progressive middle school musical. Couldn’t pass that one up! I was excited to see that much of what we have been doing for years is what they were suggesting.  I also had the privilege of visiting a [...]

2019-10-11T10:34:17-04:00October 11th, 2019|Goshen|

Facilitating Courageous Conversations

While traditionally schools focus on the “Three Rs” with academics as their main point of emphasis, at St. Francis, we are just as concerned with kids’ emotional intelligence. To that point, at our opening faculty meetings this summer, we decided that common language among the adults in the community around many topics was a wonderful strategy to ensure that our students hear the same approach and wording on important issues. A wonderful example of this is on the topic of having challenging conversations. And while we’ve always tried to help students in this area, we decided to research different developmental approaches for the various age groups and choose what makes the most sense for each. At the Lower School level, it’s a continuation of an approach counselor Julie Marks has championed that is known to the kids as “Power Talk.” Students learn to use phrases with “I messages” to frame their exchanges. Such as: “I feel hurt when you won’t share the Legos and end up sad.” It turns the conversation into how each individual feels rather than focusing on “what you did wrong.” Both students in a conflict use this framework, guided by an adult, to hopefully solve their problems. You can view the framework we use here. At the Middle School level, we looked at what the High School had adopted and decided it was entirely appropriate for our students, too. Adapted from resources from Spalding University and the Teaching Tolerance website that Suzanne Gorman looked into, we rebranded our model, “How to Have Courageous Conversations” (because [...]

2019-09-13T08:39:48-04:00September 13th, 2019|Goshen|

Starting the School Year Off Right

What an incredible start to the 2019-20 school year! First, the students (and parents) who were able to attend the Back-to-School Picnic last Saturday were blown away by the the new front entrance, beautiful lobby, and, of course, the sparkling gem that is the new theater. It has truly transformed our school building and energized everyone! Secondly, digital literacy and humanities teacher Anne Holmes started work Wednesday with her due date for her baby’s arrival a little more than two weeks away. Well, surprise, surprise, Anne began feeling “funny” during the day, left school at 2:00 p.m., and drove to the hospital where she delivered her little girl at 4:00 p.m. Wow! We are so pleased for her and baby Mabelle, who rang in at 6.9 pounds and 18.5 inches. Baby and family are doing fantastic, and we wish them the best! We were also fortunate that Goshen and High School alum Tom Skaggs G’04, ’08 was on deck to take on another St. Francis short-term assignment. He arrived at lunchtime yesterday, and will be Anne’s fill-in until she returns later in the fall. What a start to the school year! We also wanted to give you some tips to get the new year off to a great start, so here is some advice gleaned over the years from ourselves and other educational experts: Eat a good breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day and will give your child the energy to power through the morning. Have your child be responsible for their belongings (i.e. packing their [...]

2019-08-16T14:50:36-04:00August 16th, 2019|Goshen|

Inspiring Words on Intentions

Each year at our Graduations, students choose a member of the faculty or staff to speak on their behalf. This year’s 8th grade graduates chose Middle School Language Arts and Social Studies teacher Julie Mushkin. You can read Julie's speech below. Students, family, staff, and loving supporters, I would first like to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak to you today about this class I love so very much. Delivering a graduation address for this talented group of 8th graders is a tremendous privilege, and I am truly honored. Thank you so much for inviting me to speak here. To our graduates, today represents the culmination of years of hard work. You have survived middle school and all the trials, tribulations, and triumphs that come with this time: Capstone, Big South Fork, 7th grade language arts, countless field days, formals, and so much more. Congratulations on making it through the beautiful, messy, priceless middle school years. You deserve to be celebrated today as you are poised and ready to embark on the new adventure of high school. Before we look at the exciting things that lie ahead, if you will indulge me for a minute, please allow me to take you all back to the first week of 7th grade when I gave you three pieces of advice: the first, and very critical for middle schoolers, as you all know, was to wear deodorant every day; the second, and equally important for timid 7th graders, don’t let the stories of the 8th graders scare you, for [...]

2019-05-31T08:57:23-04:00May 31st, 2019|Goshen|

Capstone, Renaissance Faire, and Farewell!

This last full week of school (gulp!) has been a BIG ONE for our 8th graders. Tuesday they culminated a semester of work in language arts by presenting their Capstone Projects to their family members and to the Middle School students and faculty. It is always an intriguing morning listening to as many presentations as you can fit in. They’ve all worked so hard, and you wish you could experience each and every one of them. As I walked around the room I heard or saw projects on such diverse topics as women in music, sleep disorders, forensic science, the history of tattoos, quantum mechanics, the psychology and history of con games, the influence of the Vikings, and many more. More impressive is how easily the kids can converse and present their major findings without referring to notes or pages on their trifolds. It is readily apparent that they have learned a great deal about a topic of interest to them while also completing a research paper. What an experience for an 8th grader to have before moving on to high school. Similarly, our 7th graders completed a mini version of Capstone last week with the annual Renaissance Faire. They chose an area of focus related to this fascinating era in history and presented a project on their findings. There I was regaled about “The Romani” (or gypsy culture back in the day), Renaissance food (with a sample included!), stained glass and mosaics, the black plague, Shakespeare, and much, much more. Congratulations to our 7th and 8th graders and [...]

2019-05-17T13:11:25-04:00May 17th, 2019|Goshen|

Sports Banquet Memories!

This week brought the annual Middle School Sports Banquet to the Goshen Campus, and it was heartwarming as usual! The camaraderie and spirit among teammates and the special relationships that develop between coaches and their players were on full display Tuesday night. The coaches spoke warmly about their teams, seasons, and challenges, and delighted in handing out well-deserved trophies to some of their athletes. I always love how their teammates delight in cheering each other on, and the “all for one” philosophy is clearly evident. It's easy to see that our faculty and parent coaches are teaching our students the proper lessons about athletics; that winning isn’t everything (OK, it is nice!), practice is crucial, and sportsmanship is paramount. The smiles on the students’ faces makes it one of the really rewarding evenings of the school year. And in addition to the Middle School Sports Banquet, many other events keep coming at us on the Goshen Campus. Last week we hosted yet another stunning Kindergarten Derby, and in our version, there were no disqualifications, only ponies willing to help each other out when they took a tumble! The costumes, parade, and pageantry were fabulous and it was a memorable day at “St. Francis Downs” for our preschoolers through 8th graders, as the latter took their final victory lap around the circle out front. Last week was the Middle School Talent Show; this week, it was time for our Lower School students to have their turn! It was a jam-packed affair, as always, emceed by 4th graders Nolan Reif and [...]

2019-05-10T12:45:42-04:00May 10th, 2019|Goshen|

National History Day and Lots of Talent!

Monday’s Middle School Morning Meeting had that end-of-the-year feel: more like a rowdy Friday rendition! First off, we honored our 5th grade students who competed in the Kentucky National History Day Competition at the University of Kentucky over the weekend, a first in the School’s history. 5th grade teacher Billy Spalding led his charges into “battle” and they emerged with impressive results. Here is a summary from Billy: “Congratulations to the 5th graders who represented St. Francis, for the first time ever, at the Kentucky National History Day Competition on Saturday, April 27th at the University of Kentucky. Kennedy Julian, Eleanor Kayrouz, Charlie Rutherford, and Sydney Shoemaker competed against the best historians from all over the state. Sydney and Eleanor won second place for the group exhibit category, and Kennedy and Charlie won first and third place, respectively, for the individual exhibit category. All four participants medaled in their NHD debut! Their performance was the culmination of their efforts of the year. The students researched a historical topic utilizing primary and secondary sources, developed a thesis and defended it with facts, and presented their findings in a way that supported their argument and fit with the annual theme of the contest. They then had to revise, edit, and make necessary changes based on the feedback they received at the regional contest. Finally they had to present their exhibit to a panel of judges made up of history professors and teachers. The skills they learned from National History Day are valuable tools that will serve them throughout their entire academic [...]

2019-05-02T11:53:23-04:00May 2nd, 2019|Goshen|

ERBs and Coming Attractions!

It's been a studious week on the Goshen Campus as our 4th - 7th graders have been toiling away working on their ERB standardized tests. And while it’s certainly not their favorite activity by any means, counselor Julie Marks makes sure the students know why we take these tests and gives the teachers practice tests and information to have the kids properly prepared. By all accounts, it has gone off without a hitch this year. The 8th grade, meanwhile, has enjoyed their standardized testing reprieve, and we are all looking forward to getting back to our normal routine next week. We’ll share your child’s results with you, of course, when the results come in late summer. And our teachers will also look over them which helps with certain placement decisions as well as the valuable information we glean into each and every one of them.  I also wanted to highlight a couple of big coming attractions for next week. Tuesday night brings the always-fun Middle School Talent Show, which will start at 6:30 p.m. With the Main Amp under construction, we’ll be in the Multi-Purpose Room this year and will have the usual singing, dancing, and musicianship, as well as some comedy this year - and one more year of the amazing Jamie Campbell performing magic! All of the proceeds benefit the Class of 2019’s class gift, so it’s a combination of great entertainment for a noble cause. And Wednesday brings the heart-warming Preschool and Kindergarten Derby races to campus. The pomp and fun associated with these events are [...]

2019-04-26T13:35:33-04:00April 26th, 2019|Goshen|

7th Graders “Rough It” in Indiana!

This week, our 7th graders ventured up to Brown County State Park in Indiana for their outdoor education trip. This location was a first for us, so they got to be explorers in seeing whether this park fit the bill as a good location for hiking and class bonding. Overall, we were blessed with great weather - only chilly the first night (mid-40s) before soaring to the upper 70s on Tuesday! And fortunately, no rain, although the high winds literally blew some of our tents out of the ground! Learning to prepare properly for the weather (and what life brings you) is part of the point of these excursions. The area was very beautiful! It was a homecoming of sorts for me as Indiana University is only 15 miles up the road (of course I never made it into the park as an undergrad!). Here are some of the highlights from the trip: Some groups hiked to and climbed a tall fire tower! The view at the top above the trees was impressive, naturally, and the whooshing winds up high were both cooling and calming (even if Angela Ponzio wouldn’t climb up with us). One of our hikes, which all three groups did, led to a gorgeous lake with lots of turtles sunning themselves and one unexpected encounter with a large snake doing the same! We found out later this was a harmless copperbelly water snake, but it still gave many of us the willies. We spent some silent time both hiking and sitting near the lake, which isn’t [...]

2019-04-19T13:33:23-04:00April 19th, 2019|Goshen|

Reflecting on “The Sound of Music”

After a long and restful Spring Break, we returned this week refreshed and looking forward to the homestretch leading to the end of the year. At Morning Meeting on Monday, we talked about the many, many events that occur between now and then, such as track meets, Derby events (especially the Kindergarten Derby!), talent shows, the 8th grade Capstone Projects Showcase, camping trips, dances both “cute” (Parent-Daughter Dance) and “serious” (7th/8th Grade Formal), just to name a few! All ultimately lead to Class Day, Red/Blue Field Day, our Final Assembly and, of course, the Goshen Campus Graduation. Not to mention the hustle and bustle of everyday life and learning at St. Francis, of course! But before we move onto all of the upcoming events, I want to take a quick look back at our spring musical, The Sound of Music. If you didn’t get the chance to see the show, it was staged in the huge auditorium of Old Male High School (seating capacity of 1,538!). This allowed our cast and crew of 56 to perform in a different style of theater than the one to which they are accustomed. As I commented on in curtain speeches, with our theater expansion and front lobby renovation going on all year, we’ve now done four SFS drama productions in four different locations. This includes the summer alumni show, Getting Out, at Baron’s Theater Downtown, The Odd Couple on our Downtown Campus, Seussical KIDS at Gingerwoods, and The Sound of Music at Old Male. And while this has certainly been challenging, it [...]

2019-04-12T13:30:32-04:00April 12th, 2019|Goshen|
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