Ann's Summer 2012 Letter to Parents
August 1, 2012
Dear Laurel Families,
I hope this finds as many of you as possible safe from the extraordinary heat and drought so many of us have experienced this summer. Though “fun in the sun” is a great concept, all good things carried to extremes become less fun.
I have had a chopped-up summer between Cleveland and our home in Eagles Mere (in the Allegheny Mountains of PA); ask me anything about the five-hour stretch of Rte. 80 that connects the two. As I write, we are about to embark on a family RV Tour of National Parks out West—five Klotz-Orbachs in one RV for ten days. I suspect I may be very glad to see all of you upon our return, which coincides nicely with the start of school. (Keep reading for more info about the start of school!)
We have had a very busy summer with children in every corner of the Lyman Circle building and the Butler Campus! Much of the summer activity has been under the auspices of Leslie Evans, formerly in the Admissions Office, who is the new Director of Auxiliary Programming and who has made a superb start! Not only was our summer camp enrollment robust, but families in Preschool–Grade 8 soon will receive an After School at Laurel brochure with some wonderful new programs! And, I shamelessly put in a plug for the Summer Concert this Sunday, August 5 at 6 p.m. at the Butler Campus featuring internationally renowned folksinger and songwriter Bill Staines. Tickets are available at www.LaurelSchool.org/SummerConcerts. Pack a picnic and come. Children are free!
The North Star Collaborative (NSC) completed its fourth summer academy, with many Laurel faculty, young alumnae and Upper School students working with the North Stars who have grown so since they first joined us. I was particularly proud of the alumnae and Upper School students who developed their own curriculum for classes ranging from American Sign Language to creative writing to science.
Please join me in welcoming Dan McGee, our new Director of Information Resources— Our Lady of the Elms in Akron’s loss is our gain as Dan brings his experience as a teacher and an administrator to Laurel. To read about all our new colleagues on the faculty and staff click here www.LaurelSchool.org/NewFaculty. In other “new assignments” news, Treva Offut joins the Admissions team, though she will continue to teach drama and dance to Fifth Graders, and Jane Zlataric moves from the Development Office to Admissions, as well. NSC Director Holly Fidler and Middle School teacher and track coach Mya Sullivan will serve as Co-Directors of Equity and Inclusion at Laurel.
We will welcome 126 new students (and counting) to Laurel in a few weeks; we feel so fortunate to have attracted such bright girls (and little boys) and families who believe in our school’s mission to inspire each girl (and small boy) to fulfill her promise and to better the world. Teachers have been busy studying, developing curriculum, and getting ready to welcome the girls.
Over the summer, the endless hours for reading that I imagined did not materialize, but I have been thinking and reading more about critical thinking and design thinking, both of which I think are key in our work going forward as a school.
At my request, David Huston, Upper School history teacher, led a series of meetings last year in which faculty participants considered a number of readings on critical thinking; now, we need to be certain that the efforts of that small group seep down and inform our pedagogy—Preschool–Grade 12—in a way that cultivates critical thinking deliberately in all of our classrooms—and in a way that is consistent across disciplines and among divisions.
Design Thinking is the topic that I researched during my time at Columbia at Teachers’ College last winter. In many ways, my research on design thinking suggested to me that design thinking is, at its best, exactly what great schools must do—a process based on a need with a certain amount of structure in which all voices and perspectives are valued. The individuals in the group generate multiple possibilities to address a need. A single right answer cannot emerge immediately. It feels, for me, like a metaphor for great learning. I believe design thinking also could be an exceptional way of uniting a number of elements of our curricular philosophy, mission and core values of our tremendous school! Stay tuned for more as the year unfolds.
Know that we will be waiting to greet your girls (and little boys) when they return—whether that be very soon for Upper School athletes (August 6) or a bit later this month for Upper School trips (August 19/20) or later this summer for our younger students. The first day of classes for Grades 1–12 is Monday, August 27! Kindergarten begins August 29 and Pre-Primary begins September 4. Printed calendars will be distributed on the first day of classes—the calendar is available at www.LaurelSchool.org under “announcements” and important dates those first few weeks also are on the home page under “upcoming events.”
I wish for all of you in the remaining weeks a few moments of unscheduled time, a moment to reflect on the beauty of a garden-ripened tomato or to enjoy the scent of mint or rosemary or lavender in the garden. I hope, as a family, you might read aloud together or sing or go on a spontaneous adventure or play a game. Shakespeare reminds us that “summer’s lease hath all too short a date,” and I am keenly aware of the swift passage of our remaining summer days.