With Gratitude

November 17, 2017

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.

Over the past three years, twelve faculty members have attended Universal Design for Learning Institutes at Harvard University, and this past summer we sent a team of nine to the P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School at the University of Florida for further training.  For the second year, we have engaged CAST (The Center for Applied Special Technology), an educational research organization that works with schools to advance the principles of Universal Design for Learning, to lead the on-site training that every faculty member has been involved in on a regular basis throughout the school year.

As our faculty has gained experience and knowledge from experts beyond the walls of SF Day, they have also embraced the opportunity to learn from one another internally as well.  Teachers at every grade level have been working closely with Cathy Aragon and Sylvia Douglass, our Instructional Coaches.  To advance our learning and refine our instructional practice, Cathy and Sylvia have been “embedded” in classrooms, facilitating grade level planning meetings, leading webinars, working with teachers individually, and planning our professional development. They have been collecting, highlighting, and sharing examples of teachers using Universal Design for Learning practices in a weekly faculty blog, “Notes from the Field.” This work has elevated our professional discourse and practice and improved the learning of every child in the school. We invite you to take a look at a snapshot of Universal Design for Learning at work through this video.

As the holiday season inches closer, I am ever grateful to be part of this thriving learning community.  We have seen countless examples of our community’s desire to support the learning of our students and teachers - Universal Design for Learning and our professional development program being just one.  However, I see these examples everywhere, all over campus.  I am reminded of our successful campaign to refresh the fourth grade and upper school math classrooms, where our students now benefit from flexible furniture and collaborative learning spaces each day.  In fact, I witness our students’ enthusiastic learning in the library, the design spaces, and in all of their classrooms.  Thank you, to all members of our community, for your deep engagement and heartfelt support of our school and our students. I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.