Our Culture of Learning » Stories of Learning (2018)

Stories of Learning (2018)

In 2018, we regularly started our weekly staff meeting by sharing, "stories of learning."  After many teachers quickly pitched different anecdotes from the week, we would select one story.  During the next 15 minutes, teachers dissected the story and re-wrote it for different audiences: students, parents, and peers, in order to highlights different lessons we could learn from that story.
Art in Homeroom Builds Community - September 21, 2018
“I feel calm.”
“I feel good because now I feel comfortable drawing because I know now nobody will judge me.”
“I feel upgraded because I never knew how to draw these but now I do.”

As adults we all know that hard work pays off, but sometimes kids need a little extra incentive. What kids often do not understand is that sometimes learning can be as much of a reward as candy, gym, or games. In one homeroom class, students who completed their homework were rewarded with a “bonus art” lesson on drawing animals. After the lesson students were asked to express how they felt, to which one student remarked, "I'm glad I did all my homework. It was really worth it". It’s always good to remember that rewards come in many forms.

"I Don't Need Help." - March 23, 2018

We expect our students to struggle, to work hard, and to work independently. We also acknowledge that everyone needs help sometimes.


Last week a student could not figure out how to add fractions with unlike denominators. A teacher offered help, but the students replied, "I don't need to be in a corner of the room with a teacher getting help, I don't need that."


The teacher made sure to immediately respond, saying, “There is nothing negative about getting help. We all got help to get to where we are now!"


We work hard to tailor our teaching for the individual need of each of our students. While encouraging children to search for strategies and methods to become more self-assured and self-reliant, we reassure students who need more assistance, that help is always available, and that help is not a point of negativity. It is important to build a community based around struggle and hard work, but also the safety and freedom to ask for help when needed.

I love math because the teachers say, “No.” - March 2, 2018

“I love math because if I don’t know something in the class and I ask Mr. K. or Ms. M. for help, if they know I know how to do it,  they say ‘no.’ So if I do it over and over again then I know how to do it.”

Did you ever have your child come back from school and say they don’t understand something and the teachers won’t help? There are times when we teachers are going to let children struggle on their own. Letting a student struggle helps them develop their own way of thinking as opposed to coming up with what they think the teacher wants to see. It also pushes them to rely on what they already know.

We actually do help our children a lot at Discovery, and we can actually better help the children after they have written a paragraph, after they have tried to solve a problem even if it’s inaccurate, because we can have a better insight on what they comprehend and on their misconceptions.

One of the way we use to push our students to rely more on themselves is to schedule several periods during the week that we call “Study Hall,” during which we encourage our children to work independently.

Yes your children will often hear us say, “I can’t help a blank page.”

Everyone Sing! - February 16, 2018

For the first time, we undertook the production of a musical with many of our 4th and 5th graders.  One 5th grade student was not happy during the first rehearsals for our production of “The Lion King”.

- “Why can’t I be Simba?”,
- “I always get a headache after these rehearsals.”
- “We already sang this song.”  

He was often disruptive during rehearsals and was even asked to sit out of one rehearsal, due to inappropriate behavior.  

Yet, it was this same student, during the performances, who became the de-facto dance captain and all-around anchor for the ensemble.  

What affected this transformation?  As he allowed himself to open up to the process, he was given small doses of responsibility. From making jokes to influence his peers, he channeled his influence to encourage the ensemble to improve their performances.  His comments became,

- “They (other actors) are not lining up in the right order.”

In the end, he asked to speak privately with the teacher who directed the show to make a suggestion to encourage the audience to sing along with the students at the curtain call:

- “When we bow at the end, can I say, ‘everyone sing?’”

It felt like the more he saw that we believed in him, the more he displayed his talents.

Self-confidence, self-determination, the ability to change course and think on your feet - these are some of the things that the arts instill in children.  Some of this cannot be “taught,” but only learned through experience.

A rising Tide Lifts All Boats - February 02, 2018
It is vital that we teach our children the importance of community. The idea that a rising tide lifts all boats, is the essence of what we are trying to bring to our student experience.
Recently a young woman in a math class felt compelled to encourage her classmate:
- Tareek: “I just don’t know how to do any of this. I’m just no good at math!”
- Aisha: “That’s not true. You said a lot in class today and led the discussion. Now turn around and do your work.”
Tareek smiled as he turned around and went back to work.
Without being prompted by a teacher Aisha gave her classmate a dose of tough love and a new level of confidence. These small acts of support go a long way to creating a sense of team and community. These are the qualities that will serve our children here and well into their future.