As I work my last carline as the Head of our Lower School, I wanted everyone to know that your children have made an indelible impression upon my heart. I will be visiting you all next year, as I MUST come get my "kid fix"! If you are looking for me, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org - I will be practicing at New Perspectives as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC).
I am thrilled with how far the TIS Lower School has come in the last few years, and give all the credit to our fabulous Faculty and Staff. Together we created FAN Clubs to enhance our Family Community. We have taught Steven Covey's habits to hundreds of students and watched as they applied them daily to their lives. We have launched PantherCub Athletics, and with the direction of Lauren Speer it has exploded into both intramural and competitive programs for flag football, basketball, baseball/softball, track and field - and next year, tackle football, and volleyball. Our National Geographic program has launched our learners to incredible heights. Even through the pandemic, our Reading scores have been through the roof, not to mention, our Math scores. Below are the latest STAR Data scores of TIS average students compared to average students, Nationally. WOW!
Dr. Alyssa Boyer
Head of Lower School
A note to all my elementary Parents:
I just returned from a weekend visit in Kansas City with my girls who are at KU & Mizzou (I know...I know... that’s crazy, but any of you who have more than one child understand how different siblings can be). Anyway, I was reflecting on their educational journey, and I wanted to share a few insights about these magical years and let you know how blessed we are here at TIS to be part of your children's educational journey.
Children are literally little sponges, soaking up the world around them at a phenomenal rate. Science has shown that a child’s brain during the elementary years is growing, connecting and learning more actively than any other time in their lives. Our challenge, in education, is to maximize this critical time period.
How do we best help our children learn? This is the million dollar question for educators. In today’s world, there appears to be a million possible answers. Here at Independent, we believe in engagement to spark the love of learning. This year our teachers have taken on a new and challenging curriculum in the Lower School. I wish you all could hear our veteran teachers’ conversations about how much they love teaching the National Geographic curriculum. They describe how excited and engaged the students are in the topics. The integration of Social Studies, and Science into the English/Language Arts areas of Reading, Spelling and Writing have students working at a deeper level of critical thinking. In fact, I wanted to share with you some highlights from our Star Reading & Math results. These tests not only help us know exactly where your student is, but also how we are doing as a group as compared on a National level.
Highlights as of the end of October 2019:
#1) Grades 1-5 median percentile is 82% in Star Reading (this means our students are
performing at a rate higher than 82% of the rest of the students who have taken Star Reading nationally).
#2) Grades 1-5 median percentile is 86% in Star Math (this means, as a group, our
students are performing at a rate higher than 86% of the rest of the students who have
taken Star Math Nationally).
#3) Most grades (1-5) are reading at least one full grade equivalent above and some up
to two grades (this means they are reading at a level typical of those at least one to two grades above them).
#4) 3rd grade’s median is 4.5 grade equivalent in Math (this means as a group, our 3rd
grade is performing at a level typical of other mid year 4th graders are performing nationally on this same test).
#5) 4th grade’s median is over a 6.4 grade equivalent in Math (this means as a group, our
4th grade is performing at a median level typical of other mid year 6th graders are performing Nationally on this test).
#6) 5th grade’s median is over an 8.1 grade equivalent in Math (this means as a group our
5th grade is performing at a median level typical of 8th graders on this test).
Obviously, we believe in academic rigor, but also in surrounding students with a safe, loving and nurturing environment. Last week I was visiting a new teacher’s classroom when one of our students who has been diagnosed with Dyslexia and struggles in reading, boldly raised her hand in class and read a paragraph out loud. This small gesture spoke volumes regarding the safe and comfortable classroom environment this teacher has created. Your students are in loving and capable hands. Our teachers humble me daily with their passion, talent, and professionalism.
We also believe in the power of play. Research shows how important play is in our busy society. Screen-time is not equal to play time. Our children must have non-structured times where they dream, role-play, and interact socially with others. It is critical for their development! They learn to get along with others, take turns, deal with disappointment, and how to persevere. Our job as parents and educators is to give them the time and space to let the magic happen. As many of you may know, we only have one scheduled recess for each grade, but every teacher is encouraged to take students outside for extra recess as often as needed. Sometimes, those tricky teachers may carry out a bucket of chalk, manipulatives, or even shaving cream to the playground. The students believe they are just playing, but in reality, they have embarked on a multi-sensory S.T.E.M or S.T.E.A.M self-directed lesson - (pure magic!)
If I had one wish to share with parents of our younger children, it would be the wish for you to play. Lay on the floor with them. Put away the phones, ipads, or television for a while. Engage in their role playing. Create. Play time is never wasted - it is a critical part of their development. When you are visiting them in college in a few short years, those are the times that will be fondly remembered.
Thank you for doing life with us here at Independent. We are honored to be a part of this magical time in your child’s development! If you ever have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to call or stop by the office.
Change. Even mentioning that word opens the floodgate of emotion for many people. Why?
Change can be very uncomfortable. It is an unknown...maybe even scary. How do we know it's the right decision? If we just keep going down the same path, we can expect the same outcome. If that is not a positive outcome, then change is necessary. Life is full of mazes; how do we know which way to turn? Sometimes I wish I had a magic mirror to reveal the future in order to make decisions in the present. Of course, I don't -- so how do we make peace with a decision to change things like employment, relationships, schools, or even just moving to a different neighborhood. These are tough decisions -- no doubt about it -- and for some people may even be paralyzing.
Rogers categorized people's willingness and ability to adopt change in their lives (see below). As you can see, there are about 15% of people who love to jump in with both feet when change comes around -- these are the "Innovators & Early Adopters", the "Early Majority" may have a few questions, but are easily swayed to get on board. The next group, "Late Majority" takes a little more convincing. They are a little harder to budge -- then the final 16% "The Laggards" really struggle with moving toward change. Where do you fit in these categories, typically?
Knowing where you fit is eye opening. Think of big changes that have happened in your life recently. How did you respond? Were you on board and encouraging others, or did you dig your heels in declaring, "If it ain't broke, don't try to fix it!" In my case, I'd have to say it depends on the situation. At home, I typically fall into the late majority group. For example, it took a couple of years for me to be convinced to acquire a puppy. At work, however, I am solidly a member of the Early Adopters. I love innovation and thinking out of the box. However, it's easy to get frustrated when others aren't as willing to change. As a leader, I have to pause and think about the groupings above. Is it the idea certain people are resisting, or are they just struggling with change. Taking the time, answering all the questions, listening to concerns, these all help other to move into a positive change pattern.
Understanding our personal level of comfort with Change is the first step in making peace with it. Being able to step back from an issue and ask ourselves WHY we are feeling resistant, emotional, or overwhelmed. We may have even blasted our emotions out onto others, but we need to stop and search inside to find the source. Once the source of emotion is found -- the steps toward change come a little easier.
The Sea of Change is an entity we all meet in our lives. Making Peace with Change certainly calms the waves of our emotions and makes for a much smoother trip!
-- Photo credit Tobie Andrews (2004)
Honestly, I am not a country music fan, but I happened upon this song the other day. Needless to say, 15 minutes later, I wiped my tears and tried to compose myself. It's just absolutely true!
Last night was our Lower School Carnival. I couldn't help but flashback to when my kids were little, excitedly bouncing from room to room -- fishing for prizes, getting their faces painted, or winning the grand prize "Snot Shot" gun (which actually made my, then, 8 year old son break down into tears of joy!) However, lurking alongside those snapshots as a young mom, are memories of being overwhelmed, exhausted, and even irritated! I remember thinking, is there something wrong with me? Why is this so hard?
Looking back, I can see what a gift those years were. Did I enjoy them? I think so, I remember being very busy SURVIVING them, much of the time. Parenting is difficult. Don't get me wrong -- being a mom is the hardest job I ever loved so much! Looking around at our parents at the carnival, many of them volunteering, after they had already put in a full day's work. The students literally bouncing off the walls. The excitement actually crackling in the air as they dragged their parents all the way from the DJ, to the petting zoo. What a precious night! -- I saw my own babies in every one of their faces. I also saw myself 15 years ago trying to locate & corral all three of my kiddos, only to head home for an hour of reading books, singing songs, and rubbing backs till they all fell asleep. I realize now that it is normal to be overwhelmed, sometimes. Being a mom can be flat out exhausting, but it's worth every single minute!
I remember my own mom telling me not to "wish my life away," as I couldn't wait to get to college and "start" living. I, of course, believed her to be bordering on crazy - so why in the world should I listen to her? However, I find myself saying the same things to my kids, as they yearn to be on their own, fantasize about their weddings, or declare their future babies' names. Striving to remind them gently that their life is happening NOW! Please don't miss it! Enjoy it!
These days, I don't hear "sing just one more song, Mommy." My evenings of trying to skip pages so my head could hit the pillow five minutes earlier, are long behind me. So my wish for you is to cherish every single page (they will catch you anyway). Live in the now! Don't get caught up comparing yourself to the carefully contrived virtual life of others on social media. Forgive yourself when you become overwhelmed and your fuse is a little short. Finally, even though she is not around to enjoy this, I have to end this blog with three words that will always be difficult to say out loud: "MOM WAS RIGHT!"
I woke up in Wichita today to below freezing temperatures. The kind of cold where unfurling yourself from the comforter is actually painful! Even my dogs wouldn't go outside without bribery. However, this afternoon I landed in Dallas for a Franklin Covey "Leader in Me" conference. Even though I am no stranger to rush hour traffic, I took my life in my hands walking to a nearby restaurant -- only a four minute walk, but I truly wondered if I was going to make it in one piece. I don't think pedestrians are "a thing" around here, not to mention this silly notion of them having "the right of way."
I ate at a lovely Mediterranean Grill where I asked to sit outside. Although there were several tables filled with patrons, I was the only one enjoying the patio. Before my food arrived, the waiter offered to move me inside because it was "so cold." Seriously -- I checked the temperature = 76 degrees! No way! I was loving it. But this was my unique experience. Everyone else was looking at me as the crazy one, sitting outside on this somewhat overcast, "chilly" evening. Simultaneously, I was wondering what was wrong with all of them!
It just reminded me that sometimes this is how we go through life. We have our unique views, our history of experiences -- and others have a completely different life background -- their perspective on topics (much more important than the weather) may be polar opposite of our own. Or, may I be so bold to say, "wrong" (according to our view). Nonetheless, who are we to judge when we know nothing of their history? And yet we do -- we all do (me included). It's just natural for our history to be "the default." We have to purposefully work to shift our personal perspective to the side in order to make room for others. However, once we do, it broaden's our world -- not to mention, deepens our relationships as we actively work to understand another person.
We are teaching Habit #5 this month to our little ones at school = Seek first to understand, then to be understood. My mom used to say, "God gave you two ears and only one mouth for a reason. Listen!" All relationships are enhanced by this amazing thing called listening! Someday, when I grow up, I will remember this wisdom BEFORE I judge everyone else for not being just like me!
By the way -- the $10 Uber back to the hotel was totally worth it!