Intellects and Imaginations Intertwined

September 20, 2017

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 work," we enlisted a team of faculty, parents and guardians, board members, and alumni.  We surveyed all of our current families and faculty and conducted a series of in-depth interviews with individuals with both internal and external associations with the school.

The synthesis of these perspectives helped us distill the essence of SF Day, which is what I saw on display that morning in the hallway. Our students were exploring and anticipating the learning that awaits them not only this year but throughout their entire learning experience at SF Day. Their sharp intellects and limitless imaginations were fully engaged. Just as they were connected by their collective curiosity while exploring the murals, they also saw the connection in everything they will learn and experience at our school. 

As we continue our work with Mission Minded and think more deeply and plan intentionally about how we communicate the philosophical and pedagogical approach of SF Day, the notion of "intellect and imagination intertwined" is the lens through which I am seeing how our students learn and our teachers teach. This year's admission viewbook, Engaging Curious Learners, offers prospective families a peek at what the SF Day experience entails.  I invite you to take a look to understand how we have begun to share the story of our school. 

Last Friday afternoon, a full fifteen minutes before the Fall Festival was set to begin, one of our kindergarteners burst through the front door, tucked a big book under his small arm, and repeatedly asked if he could start reading it right then.  Later, I watched a second-grade student standing still in the midst of all of the movement in the lobby, slowly and gracefully flip the pages of a book and quietly mouth the words she was reading.  I spoke with a mom, who was clearly satisfied sitting on a couch designed for three but occupied by four, and all were fully engrossed in the books spread across their laps. I asked a grandmother on the other couch if she had read the book to the child cuddled next to her, and she replied with animated pleasure, "No, I sang it to her."

These are all examples of intellects and imaginations ignited, something I see all day long.  It is our students holding papers up to the light of a window so they can trace the repetitive pattern of a fractal unfolded before them.  Or students manipulating planks of wood precariously propped on tables at various angles so they can predict and calculate velocity. It is on display in the writing of students as they wrestle their ideas through words onto a blank page.  It is the brilliance of a soiree that expresses the intricacies of the solar system through song and dance. It is the creativity of a P.E. teacher who entices students to stretch and exercise every muscle in their little bodies by calling out different animals for the students to mimic. And, it is in the way our teachers use their intellects to intricately design a learning unit, then unleash their imaginations to determine how to best engage every student in the class.

As I shared during our Back-to-School Nights, I am thoroughly invigorated and moved by the act of a child captivated by learning. The school year has only just begun and yet we are already deep into the development of each student's growth. Our teachers continue to design learning experiences that bridgeintellect and imagination, and in doing so, capture the hearts and minds of every student at SF Day. As I witness these instances and connections every day, I know we are fulfilling our purpose as educators, parents, and as a school.