Monday, May 18, 2015

#BVPSnowDay Saturdays

by Jen LoPiccolo

My husband’s 20th college reunion was this weekend and we met some of his old classmates for lunch yesterday. As they quizzed our two children on what they like to do and how they spent their weekend, my son replied, “We went to school Saturday.  We made up our last snow day for the year.” A gasp echoed from around the table and one friend was quick to respond.  “You had to go to SCHOOL on a SATURDAY??? That’s AWFUL.  

Without missing a beat, both of my children were quick to respond in opposition. “It was fun actually,” one shared. The other one nodded and said, “Yeah, we had college day and got to move up a grade to see what 4th grade would be like.”

With record snowfall this winter, BVP lost five days of learning. With 182 days scheduled on the calendar and 180 days required by state regulation, that meant we had to find three days in our already busy academic calendar to make up the days. Two Saturdays were part of plan--May 2 and May 16. Just like any other school day, transportation was provided as was breakfast and lunch.

My scholars weren’t the only ones defending their weekend day of learning to their friends and loved ones.  The BVP Parents Facebook page had multiple threads full of comments and pictures sharing their children’s excitement for the day.  One parent even shared that her daughter insisted she sign her back in after going to her dance class so she didn’t miss out.  Another parent was so annoyed that some districts sought waivers from the state to reduce the number of instructional days that she posted, “Where is their perseverance?!”  (Perseverance is the first BVP PRIDE Value.)

The middle school captured their Saturday College Day with this #Storify.  Other middle schoolers went out into the community visiting a farm, cleaning up parks and even playing bingo with the residents at Forand Manor.   
BVP High School actually took over much of the CCRI Flanagan campus and took “college classes” ranging from Feminism to Survival skills.  One of the professors was an actual economics professor from Bryant University, and what did Dr. Tebaldi teach? His opening college lecture for his Econ 101 course.

Elementary scholars welcomed families for a science fair May 2nd and enjoyed a special field day May 16th while others got to experience what it will be like next year by moving up a grade for part of the day.

In all, scholars and staff rose to the challenge to actively participate in academically rich activities that also taught life lessons in perseverance, the importance of helping others, and yes, that learning can happen anytime--even on a Saturday.  

Friday, May 8, 2015

Why I Teach at BVP

Today marks the culmination of both Teacher Appreciation Week and National Charter Schools Week, and in celebration of one of our favorite weeks of the year, please enjoy this post by BVP’s own, Dillon Falk.  Mrs. Falk teaches 3rd grade at Elementary School 2 and is also the special education chair there.   Remember, it’s not too late to #thankateacher!  

Why I Teach at BVP
Dillon Falk
In the past few weeks I’ve participated in a couple of panel interviews for prospective teachers. I’ve listened to these candidates explain why they want to teach at BVP, and while I’ve sat there evaluating their responses, I have begun thinking more deeply about why I teach at BVP.

First and foremost, BVP’s mission is deeply aligned to why I started teaching almost seven years ago. As a 2008 Teach For America corps member in Connecticut, I started my career in education believing that ALL scholars deserve an excellent education. At BVP, mission-aligned team members (not just teachers, deans, and heads of schools, but also custodians, nurses, office managers, etc.) work side-by-side to “prepare every scholar for success in college and the world beyond.” Every scholar means ALL scholars, even those who speak another language at home, even those who qualify for special education services, even those whose parents are working multiple jobs or taking evening classes and can’t be home to check their homework folder every night. The BVP team and family works hard each day to ensure that we are meeting the needs of every scholar.

However, a quick google search would probably pull up hundreds of charter schools across the country claiming to have a similar mission. So why do I choose to work at BVP?
More than 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education many of our nation’s schools are still segregated. At BVP we accept scholars from four districts, making our schools racially and socioeconomically diverse. BVP’s intentionally diverse model ensures that we are preparing scholars to live in a multicultural world. This is not to say that we are teaching scholars that we are all the same; but instead, celebrating diversity and ensuring that scholars use their PRIDE values to respect various viewpoints.

BVP’s mission statement and intentional diversity were two of the big ideas that brought me back to Rhode Island. But why will I continue to stay? The people.

I will stay for the scholars. The scholars that push me to be a better teacher every day. The scholars that challenge my patience at times, but reward me with their growth and smiles when they have that “aha” moment. The scholars that make me laugh and give me hugs, handshakes, and high fives each day.

I will stay for the families. The families that call me at 8:57pm to ask a question because mom, dad, or grandma just got home from work and want to make sure they understand the homework. The families that commit to getting their scholars ready for school every day, even on Saturday morning, or during Summer Academy. The families that donate tissues, pencils, crayons, books, and much more. The families that given honest and open feedback when they have questions or concerns about their scholars. The families that say “thank you” when they see the growth their scholars have made at the end of the year.

I will stay for the team. The teachers that give and receive feedback during common planning time. The deans and heads of schools that provide opportunities for growth with internal and external professional development. The network teams that keep our buildings running, provide support on curriculum, and make sure we get paid. The office managers, nurses, and custodians who take midday phone calls with dismissal changes, care for sick scholars, and clean up the messes so that teachers can focus on maximizing instruction. The teachers that share best practices to ensure every class, not just their own, is succeeding. The grade chairs that make sure their teams are smiling, even on the toughest of days.

To all who make this work what it is--rewarding, exhausting, exhilarating, transformative--especially to all the wonderful teachers I get to work alongside each and every day, thank YOU!