Perspectacles – A Critical Lens for Distance Learning

Earlier this week I went to the grocery store near my home. The isles had shifted to one-way traffic patterns and the floor was marked with red arrows and landing pads indicating where I could and could not stand. At the cashier, the woman standing in front of me was complaining openly about the situation, her inconvenience and general dissatisfaction. As I listened, I realized that I was feeling similar emotions… Why were the Cheerios I wanted not in stock??

Reflecting back at home, I realized I needed “perspectacles.” The Urban Dictionary defines perspectacles as a magical glass that somehow gives you the power of perspective. It is also a movement that has been used in schools and other organizations around the country to talk about empathy, perspective, leadership, and compassion.

A few years ago, I tuned in to the writing of Glennon Doyle and her often viral blogposts. In 2014, Glennon wrote a post about her gratitude for everyday things in her home. With COVID-19 as a reality check, Glennon as my inspiration, and perspectacles on, I share with you some of the things for which I am grateful.

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I have pantry shelves that are stocked with food. It’s like a mini-market – in my house.

I have toilet paper. Think about that… Paper that we – flush – down toilets. Granted, my household supply is limited, and we are rationing squares, but I live in a place where soft, two-ply tissue with ripples for cleaning one’s backside is a norm. It’s a luxury that until recently I allowed to freely flow off my wall-mounted dispenser.

I have CLEAN water that I can drink straight from the tap without fear of getting sick. Not only can I get water from my sinks, but I also have a couple of show and two outdoor spickets. In addition, I have electricity. There are switches all over the inside of my house that I can turn on any time I want – day or night.

This one deserves a moment of silence…

I have a COFFEE POT. I put a little capsule into this magic machine, push a button and, shazam, a hot cup of liquid energy pours out on demand. I can do this as many times as I want – every day.

Thank the lord for coffee.

I have internet and my son’s teachers are delivering his BCD education right to our kitchen table. His middle school teachers, just like your child’s preschool teachers, are pouring their hearts and souls into making sure that he feels supported while also navigating the challenge of teaching children on giant conference calls.

With my perspectacles on, I see that by connecting on Zoom and checking in via phone and email, his teachers are emphasizing the parts of education that I consider most important:

  • He’s learning to be flexible and adapt to new things.
  • He’s learning to show up for people – even when it’s not easy.
  • He’s learning that his teachers care and are there with him – even at our kitchen table.
  • He’s learning how people at school and in communities around the world can work together and support each other in new and innovative ways.

I hope that you will wear your perspectacles as you consider the heartfelt energy our preschool teachers are putting into supporting your child and family. They are working tirelessly to think of creative ways to bring the magic of our classrooms into your homes.

Start the Momentum Early – Why invest in a PS-8 education?

For several years running, usually around the time reenrollment contracts are due, parents have asked me about investing in PS – 8 education. “College is so expensive,” they say, “Shouldn’t we save our resources when our children are younger so that we can afford to send them to the college of their choice?” 
 

My usual answer is that investing in children during their formative, younger years pays dividends down the road. Even still, as the cost of college education continues to rise, I remain firm in my conviction that an investment in the primary years is what best sets students up for success in later life.

When it comes to raising confident and competent children, the importance of investing in a high-quality education when children are young is critical. This makes sense if you think about the rapid pace at which students learn when they are younger. From language development in toddlers to critical thinking in elementary to navigating the social context of middle school, our kids need exceptional school environments to help them navigate what is becoming an increasingly complex world.

Researchers have been looking at this questions for many years now, and there are at least four key reasons to make this investment.

Literacy – Literacy serves as the springboard for education, and students who attend schools that focus on early literacy have an advantage over those who do not. A study run by the American Educational Research Association, investigated the impact of early education by tracking nearly 3,000 students from preschool through their 11th birthday. In short, the research determined that a student who cannot read at grade level by third grade becomes four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than students who are meeting standards.

Brain Development – Human brains grow more during the first five years of life than any other development period, with the first three serving as a mold for the organ’s architecture. Experiences during these formative years determine the brain’s organizational development for the remainder of life. Consequently, these years impact academic abilities, social-emotional skills, and executive functioning.

Young brains are also “plastic” brains. That is, they have the ability to change, or find new neural pathways, much more easily than older brains. The earlier we can nurture and develop those pathways, including an openness to new ones, the more easily brains can adapt to future opportunities.

Natural Explorers – Children in primary school are natural detectives, journalists and mad scientists. They love to explore and take in new material. They are also at the prime season of their life for absorbing information. Schools that use their resources to provide a broad-based, but balanced, curriculum have an advantage over those that do not. For example, early exposure to world languages, the arts, and STEM classes increase intellectual development. Furthermore, a diverse and rich curriculum increases the opportunities our children have to develop the ability to make cross-curricular connections and devise wide-ranging solutions.

Social-Emotional Growth – Academic and social-emotional growth are not mutually exclusive at any point in education, but they are most connected during elementary and middle school. Skills developed through practice, such as self-regulation and social interaction, have positive effects that are evident throughout an entire lifetime. Furthermore, developing a sense of empathy and understanding is critically important at younger ages. This is especially true in today’s world as cooperation and collaboration are rising to the top among skills critical for the workplace.  

BCD invests heavily in all of the above. We use a “flooding” model for literacy instruction, staffing each grade in K – 3 with four specialists from our Learning Center for 30 minutes each day. This intensive model lowers our student-teacher ratio and allows our students to receive more personalized instruction than they would get from their homeroom teacher.

We provide a broad-based and balanced curriculum to engage young brains and to expose them to multiple pathways of learning. Preschoolers start world language classes when they are three years-old, elementary and middle schoolers benefit from diverse curriculum taught by subject areas specialists in the Arts, STEM, technology, world languages, PE, and library. And, middle schoolers engage and participate in our Explore program, a series of electives designed to expose them to a rich array of topics and subjects that more closely resembles a college course catalog than middle school.

Finally, we teach social emotional skills through our Responsive Classroom and DDMS curriculum. As Preschool Head Kath Courter likes to say, “Pushing over a block tower at age five is kind of like annoying a colleague at the copier much later in life.” Teaching these skills and creating an emotionally safe and welcoming environment within which to learn them only adds to the education our children receive.

Simply put, investing “early and often” in a PS – 8th grade education is good policy and better practice.  Students that receive the benefit of that investment outperform their peers, are better prepared for high school and beyond, and have a stronger and more developed sense of self. In addition, they build on the skills and habits they develop at a young age and are more likely to succeed in a college or university environment when the time comes.

Read about BCD’s Preschool program.

Read about BCD’s Elementary program.

Read about BCD’s Middle School program.

Schedule a tour to see what makes BCD so special.