A private Episcopal school for primary through high school students in Houston, Texas

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Thoughts from the Den

St. Francis shares thoughts and insight on current and timeless topics in education, faith, academic success, and living lives with purpose as our students grow and challenge what's possible.
Community and Connection
Stephen M. Lovejoy, MEd

While we are barely into the summer months, I am already missing the sounds of school—in our hallways, classrooms, fields, studios and playgrounds. I miss seeing the smiles at carpool, hearing the bells, worshiping at chapel, and most of all, I miss our students and parents.

During that first week of summer, I found myself driving to school and thinking about the day ahead. However, my day would start the same way it does during the school year—by seeing our students in action. I would walk into the dining hall on the Main Campus each morning, greet the early bird students and summer staff members, and talk to the campers about their experience. It made me realize that no matter the method of instruction, content of the course, or time of year, the bond with our students remains consistent.

Students are known, cared for, and loved at St. Francis. While we all have different passions and ways we use our imagination, it is the meaningful connections we experience—between students and teachers, parents and staff, school and church, and peer-to-peer—that make our community such a special one.

I wish you all the very best of summers. While you are away, I hope you know that we are thinking about you all and look forward to being back together in August.

Pizza Party
Wonder
Amy Whitley, MA, Head of Primary School

Young children are naturally curious.  One of our goals in the Primary School is to nurture and celebrate that curiosity every day.  We do this by asking lots of questions and resisting the urge to provide all the answers.  We try to ask deep, meaningful, open ended questions that encourage reflection and problem solving.  

The benefits of wonder extend beyond building wisdom.  “Experiencing a sense of awe promotes altruism, loving-kindness, and magnanimous behavior.”  Awe is “that sense of wonder we feel in the presence of something vast that transcends our understanding of the world.”[1] People commonly experience awe in nature, but also in response to religion, art, and music.

One of the installations in the Primary School lobby is focused on wonder.  Everyone has the opportunity to contribute, to reveal their “wonder.” Parents, teachers, visitors, and some children have posted a response to the question, “Do you have a wonder?” This is a small sample of the responses we received.

From students:

“I wonder what makes people love each other?”

“I wonder how long a June bug’s life is?”

“I wonder how slugs and snails make slime?”

From Adults:

“I wonder if there is anything we can wonder about that we can’t look up the answer on the internet?”

“I wonder what our school will look like in 20 years?”

“I wonder about all the amazing ways our students will impact the world: by being kind, by being innovative, by making people smile.”

“I wonder what my dog would say if he could talk?”

Socrates is credited with saying, “Wisdom begins in wonder.”  Children’s natural curiosity makes learning a joyful journey. We hope our students never stop wondering.  

 

[1] “Awe, the Small Self, and Prosocial Behavior,” Paul Piff, PhD, University of California, Irvine, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, May 2015.

Developing an Understanding of Self, Finding One's Voice, and Practicing Agency
Cara Henderson EdD, Head of Upper School

A couple of years ago while in graduate school, I found myself hard pressed to come up with a definition for the word literacy that went beyond the skills of reading and writing.  Since then, through my studies and experience, I’ve developed a deeper understanding of the concept of literacy and how I hope to nurture the teaching and learning of literacy as a leader of learning.

Full literacy means recognizing there are multiple literacies used in different social, cultural, and political contexts. As educators, it is incumbent upon us to create learning environments that allow students to better understand their own identity and practice sharing their narrative with others. How do we accomplish this? 

Within the Spanish classroom, I’ve learned how important it is to build rapport with my students. Speaking another language can be intimidating and it’s essential that the student/teacher relationship is built on trust. The teacher should also recognize the unique gifts and talents of his or her students.

Further, teachers must move away from the need to feel in control of every aspect of the classroom. Ideally, teaching and learning is multidirectional—from teacher to student, from student to teacher, and between and amongst students. This also helps to nurture safe, trusting student-teacher relationships, while active listening helps create honesty, empathy, and mutual respect within the classroom.   

As students develop a sense of self and find their voice, they will begin to recognize acts of injustice, inequity, and unfairness when they see them. When they encounter these scenarios, we must empower them with strategies to push back respectfully—to do so is to care for our children and believe in their potential to serve as agents of positive, equalizing change.

Running with the Pack
T Riley | Director of Athletics

While the smell of autumn is not quite in the air yet here in Houston, the Wolves are off and running! This fall, we are fielding 13 total teams in Middle and Upper School. Our sixth- through eighth-grade athletes are competing in boys’ and girls’ cross country, field hockey, football, and girls’ volleyball. Our coaches and athletes have been working hard to prepare for the season, and we are excited to see each team in action.

Athletics

Meanwhile, our ninth-grade students are making history as they compete for the school for the first time in the high school ranks! Upper School Wolves are competing in boys’ and girls’ cross country and girls’ volleyball this season. Some highlights:

·      Coach Cydryce McMillian and her team won their first high school match in school history on August 28, 2018, when they defeated Briarwood School in three sets, 14-25, 25-19, 17-15.

·      Coach Platt and our cross country team have already competed and have begun to lay the ground work for the future of the program by establishing a boys’ and girls’ school record—Katelyn B. recorded a 17:41.0 in her first race, and John K. ran a 15:36.8 at Burroughs Park in Tomball in the 2-mile race.

We are looking forward to a great year in Middle and Upper School athletics and hope to see you at a game soon. Go Wolves!

 

Making the start of the school year the best ever!
Carol Christ

Parents often ask me, “What is the best way to promote a positive start to the school year?”  With new friends, new teachers, and new classrooms, there is a great deal of adjusting to do! To overcome these adjustments, my advice is to GET CONNECTED.

First, GET CONNECTED with your child’s teacher. Reaching out to him or her by email or phone is a great way to feel like you are part of the journey. Simply mentioning what’s going on in your child’s life or family; introducing yourself, saying hello, and offering your help; asking particular questions about your child; or sharing general information about your child are all great communication starters. However, if there is a real issue or concern, please ask for a face-to-face meeting as we never want to have “conferences” by e-mail. Parents often say that they do not want to bother the teacher, but these types of communications are not bothers at all. We love hearing from parents and learning more about the children we teach!  Being proactive prevents having to be reactive.  

Next, GET CONNECTED to the division. Each week in Wolf Watch, I summarize division happenings and highlight relevant, timely topics. Knowing what’s going on and understanding why we do what we do helps you to understand your child’s experience and know how to be a part of the learning process with us. PLEASE take five minutes to read Wolf Watch, attend chapel services, sign up as guest readers, and stop in the office to say hello. I love meeting with parents, even when there is not an issue! Being connected to your child’s school world tells them how much you care about their happiness and well-being.

Last, GET CONNECTED with the school. Again, Wolf Watch has general school and church information that is pertinent to your child and family. When parents, faculty, and students form meaningful relationships, great things can happen. No matter what grade your child is entering, helping us create the best learning environment and working as a team is always the best approach!