Latest Head of School Posts

March 02, 2018

Dr. Walker's Reading List

Looking for an interesting read?  Here's a selection of books recommended by our head of school, Dr. Walker:

  • A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger
  • The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
  • Play by Stuart Brown, M.D.
  • Grit by Angela Duckworth
  • Mindset by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.
  • Neuro Teach by Ian Kelleher and Glenn Whitman
  • The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley
  • Brain Rules by John Medina
  • Creating Cultures of Thinking by Ron Ritchart
  • Schools That Learn by Peter Senge
  • How Children Succeed by Paul Tough
  • Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner

» read more
February 07, 2018

How We Support and Advance the Learning of Our Students

In a moment of public vulnerability at the Room Parents meeting last week, I disclosed my newfound infatuation with the accreditation process organized by the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS). 

I confessed that in the previous ten accreditations I have been involved with as a teacher, administrator, accreditation team member, and team chair, I always approached the process professionally and dutifully, but not with the same level of enthusiastic appreciation I now feel for how this highly reflective process can rejuvenate and focus a school. As San Francisco Day School continues to prepare for our own accreditation, I wanted to share with you more detail regarding our own process and progress.

While an accreditation serves to validate the proficiency of a school based on a set of standards, in 2013-14 CAIS revamped their criteria and launched a portal in order to guide schools through a deeply thoughtful process designed to shape and inform strategic directions. Their tool captures the systemic complexity of schools, which I find fascinating, and emphasizes the importance of mission alignment and ongoing improvement of practice, which is the hallmark of a highly effective school.  

... » read more

December 13, 2017

Gateway to the Holiday Season

The joyful music, song, and voices of our students in the holiday assemblies have become the gateway to the season for me. Our spirits are lifted and the tone is set as we prepare gatherings with family and friends. As we head into a well-deserved winter vacation after this Friday, I want to update you on all that has taken place since the Thanksgiving break.

As ready as our faculty and staff were for their Thanksgiving dinners, we spent three days engaged in meaningful and productive professional development before heading out. Time was allocated to continuing the work of aligning the curriculum along a K-8 continuum. The faculty participated in a highly interactive webinar with the Universal Design for Learning consultants. Together, they reviewed and refined their lesson designs to incorporate more variability and choice into our students’ learning experiences. 

Loren Moye and Betsy Brody led deep discussions helping us explore what it means to be a diverse and... » read more

November 17, 2017

With Gratitude

A sign of a vibrant school is when every constituency, from the students to the adults, is vigorously engaged in learning.  That is clearly the case at San Francisco Day School. Every day I see the looks of concentration on the faces of students, along with their animated engagement and joyful participation in all that they experience at SF Day.  This happens when they lean into a complicated math problem, play an instrument in an ensemble, or as they head out the front doors of the school on their way to another outdoor education adventure. 

The adults, in their own way, are similarly engaged. The level of parent eagerness to learn is evident by their strong attendance and participation at Back-to-School Nights, Grade-Level Coffees, Town Halls, Tech Talks, and Community Meetings.

I spent two Saturdays this November with trustees in seminars: one was a California Association of Independent Schools ('CAIS') session on trusteeship; the other helped us outline strategies for how to further advance our aspirations and commitments to become a more diverse and inclusive community. Our trustees see the value of a budget that supports our faculty’s keen interest to learn and continue their professional growth, recognizing that the allocation of these resources directly impacts and enhances the learning of our students. 

As you learned in Back-to-School Nights, Coffees, and Town Halls, SF Day made the commitment two years ago to scale Universal Design for Learning to every grade level.  This is an ambitious endeavor, fueled by the faculty’s recognition that this commitment to our collective professional growth significantly enhances our ability to know, understand, and meet the learning needs of every child.

... » read more

September 20, 2017

Intellects and Imaginations Intertwined

I was standing in the doorway of my office the other morning as students flooded upstairs at the beginning of another new school day.  It gave me great delight to watch a cluster of children slow down to examine the curricular murals along the main hallway.  I loved the way they playfully interacted with the boards, spinning the wheel on one of the murals.  I watched them talk, chatter, inquire, probe, point, and speculate about what they were seeing, reading, and questioning. Their engagement was exactly what we had hoped for when we decided to take the rather novel approach of articulating San Francisco Day School's K-8 curriculum as a visual display.

The idea to do so was an outgrowth of the messaging work we did last year with Mission Minded.  As some of you will recall, we engaged the entire community in a reflective exercise to help us better understand and articulate who we are as a school.  Under the guidance of Mission Minded, an organization that helps non-profit organizations "communicate the importance of their... » read more

August 29, 2017

A Joyful, Vibrant First Day of School

One of life’s pure pleasures is the uplifting energy of children filling a school at the beginning of a new year.  Much like the paths of the sun and the moon aligning during the eclipse, the way our children sought out and found friends, teachers, and classrooms during the first morning of the school was of equal celestial quality.

Preparing for our students’ return is a summer-long endeavor that intensifies the week before school begins with the return of the faculty.  We started the week thinking deeply and creatively about the curriculum, highlighting instructional themes and essential questions which are now expressed visually through “murals” posted in the main hallway.  

 

We reviewed our instructional practices using the lens of Universal Design for Learning, increasingly approaching curriculum as a malleable progression of content and skills responsive to the needs and interests of students. This highly reflective process sets the stage for the California Association of Independent... » read more

May 11, 2017

In Full Bloom

Dear Community, 

Just as the longer days, sunnier skies, and warmer spring air awakens the greenery of San Francisco, these final months also bring the learning that has been germinating throughout the school year to full bloom. 

This is expressed most vividly during the soirees, art shows, and assemblies that are a wonderful part of life at San Francisco Day School.  Our recent 3rd and 4th-grade soiree left me in awe of the beauty and intricacy of our solar system as a result of the remarkably integrated display of science and music.  The soiree exemplified what can happen when teachers from seemingly different disciplines of learning co-create masterpieces of integrated curriculum. Not only did the students make scaled models of the planets, but through dance and song, they showcased the inter-relatedness of the solar system.  I also have a deeper understanding of lunar cycles after watching our students demonstrate the interaction between light and shadow with hand drums, a spotlight, and song.

A similarly magnificent exhibition of light and shadow illuminating student learning was the 8th-grade... » read more

March 09, 2017

Looking In and Looking Out

Design thinkers look both within and outside of their organizations as a source of insight and inspiration.  Similarly, schools can better understand their own practices and culture through gathering information from their own constituencies, while also looking outside of their school for perspective and context.
 
The messaging work we have engaged in with Mission Minded is an example of SFDS looking both “in and outside” of the school.  Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond to the survey sent out by Mission Minded last month. The feedback you provided will help us better understand what we value and how we experience the school.  We also reached out to individuals “outside” of SFDS to help provide perspective.  These two sources of information will shape how we frame and communicate the impact that SFDS is having on the lives of not only the children, but everyone associated with the school.
 
The California Association of Independent School (‘CAIS’) accreditation process, which we are preparing for now, is another internally-focused process designed to help us reflect upon who we are and how we are doing as a school. As a way of familiarizing myself with the new CAIS criteria and instrument, I served on an accreditation team for another Bay Area school last month. This intensive three-day experience was a deep dive into the curriculum, finances, governance structures, and culture of another school. While this is a significant commitment during the course of a busy school year, it is done as a service to other schools. As focused as I was on another school, working on the accreditation team helped me better understand, and appreciate, the dynamics, structures, and culture of SFDS.
 
I thought my days of "red-eyes" were over when I left...
» read more

January 18, 2017

Celebrating Democracy and the Values Upon Which It Is Built

As I sat quietly on the morning of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, my reflections were influenced by the Friday afternoon Buddy Day activities at school.  The children, in mixed age groups (which is, in my opinion, SFDS at its best), spent the afternoon learning about this extraordinary man, his message, and the social movement that transformed a nation. 

 

The students then discussed their own “values,” and turned their ideas into visuals by making signs expressing what is important to them.  Their touching comments about family, honesty, and integrity inspired nothing but confidence in how grounded in goodness they are.  Moved by music, the entire school paraded through the hallways and convened in the gym for more singing and learning about how our country was changed by the courage and conviction of a man who raised up a set of values. 

For the past few months, the faculty has been planning for how MLK Day might frame and inform the inauguration as our country prepares for another period of transition. Typically, inauguration days are used to teach about the democratic process.  The... » read more

December 06, 2016

Ushering in the Holiday Season with Gratitude and Collaboration

The musical expression of children is always such a moving way to usher in the holiday season. Their joyful voices lift our spirits and the look on their faces as they sing and perform warms us to the core of our being.

Inspired by the music teachers’ masterful orchestration, after the Thanksgiving concert, the faculty spent Friday afternoon and the following Monday and Tuesday engaged in a series of equally considered professional development activities.  These invaluable sessions advance the strategic initiatives for the year and their outcomes directly impact our students’ instructional experience.

Moved by the morning music, Loren Moyé and Betsy Brody guided the faculty into candid discussions about what it means to be a diverse and inclusive community.  The activity that framed the discussion centered on an exploration of the “self's” by which we define ourselves. We transitioned from these highly personal reflections into discussions with our core teams about which “self’s” we bring to school, and how that influences and shapes our relationships and interactions. As we wrapped up the day, a pause settled across the room, perhaps an expression of having just explored a deeper part of our connection to each other.

We reconvened Monday morning to work on the K-8 curricular alignment, one of the major strategic initiatives for the year.  Each grade level is framing the curriculum around an instructional theme, essential questions, and enduring understandings.  This inquiry-based and integrated approach will result in an overview that will enable us to better understand and monitor the K-8 progression of the curriculum.  As we complete this K-8 overview, grade levels are outlining the major units of study, enabling us to highlight the progression of content areas and skill... » read more

More recent posts

February 07, 2018

How We Support and Advance the Learning of Our Students

In a moment of public vulnerability at the Room Parents meeting last week, I disclosed my newfound infatuation with the accreditation process organized by the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS).  I confessed that in the previous ten accreditations I have been involved with... » read more
December 13, 2017

Gateway to the Holiday Season

The joyful music, song, and voices of our students in the holiday assemblies have become the gateway to the season for me. Our spirits are lifted and the tone is set as we prepare gatherings with family and friends. As we head into a well-deserved winter vacation after this Friday, I want to... » read more
November 17, 2017

With Gratitude

A sign of a vibrant school is when every constituency, from the students to the adults, is vigorously engaged in learning.  That is clearly the case at San Francisco Day School. Every day I see the looks of concentration on the faces of students, along with their animated engagement and joyful... » read more
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