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.
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.

Kids Who Care
Stephen Lovejoy

If you’ve been at St. Francis for any length of time, you’ve certainly come across the phrase, people for others. It’s in our mission statement. It’s at the heart of our intentional focus on service and caring. Even our annual schoolwide service event is called People for Others Day!

People for Others Day 2018

But what does it mean, really? What characteristics do people for others have, and what do they do that other people don’t? In its most essential form, being a person for others involves taking care of our fellow human beings in two different ways.

First, there is the caring that meets physical needs. St. Francis Wolves do this through periodic ingatherings, coat drives, Pajamaramas and, of course, the grade-level service projects that occur during People for Others Day. This year’s People for Others Day saw our students gathering books for literacy, creating “Bags of Smiles” and knitting blankets for hospitalized children, making meals for Houston’s at-risk kids, writing messages of gratitude to our veterans and deployed troops, and spending quality time with some truly special special-needs friends.

Then there is the caring that’s less tangible—the kind that’s designed to meet emotional and spiritual needs, and that we encourage our students to participate in every single moment of every single day. This type of caring occurs when we serve others by sharing from the very best parts of ourselves: kind words, encouraging comments, notes of thanks, or prayers of compassion (which was our November virtue of the month). And while its impact may be less measurable, it’s certainly no less powerful or important. 

People for Others Day 2018 #2

From their youngest years through high school, our Wolves live and learn what it means to walk in the light—and to share with others. Why? Because doing so fosters a sense of connectedness between them and their fellow human beings. That sense of connection, in turn, fosters joy. And that joy fuels our students’ desire and ability to continue to be people for others who care and serve in ways that make our world a much, much better place.

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!