Friday, September 4, 2015

Building the Foundation

By Josh Falk, Founding Head of School - Elementary School 3

One Head of School's reflection on the start of the school year. 
For more photos from our first couple days of school click here.

This week marked the first day of a new school year for scholars, teachers and families. For kindergarten scholars and their families it was especially exciting as the first day of their school careers. For the BVP Elementary School 3 community, it was an extremely exciting “first day,” as it marked the first day of the founding year of a brand new school.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be a founding head of school at BVP – to build a new addition to the BVP network with the support of a talented and successful school and network team. Of course, along with excitement, I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility – for each tiny detail of the day-to-day workings, but also for setting direction and communicating the fundamentals of a vision of top quality education. So in this First Week (ever) for ES3, I share my humble vision of what I hope will be the foundations of our school community – the type of community we must be in order to achieve our mission of preparing every scholar for success in college and the world beyond:

Academic Rigor and Top Quality Teaching. Our curriculum must be robust and demanding, pushing scholars’ critical thinking and developing core skills that can be applied to any discipline. We must emphasize the importance of communicating: reading and listening thoughtfully and critically, as well as speaking and writing articulately. We must explore the "why" and "how," not just practice rote memorization and algorithms. And we must challenge scholars to think creatively in applying what they learn to solve real-world problems.
Teachers are integral to this process. The Latin roots of the word “educate” mean “to lead out” or “draw out,” implying that educators do not simply fill scholars with information, but rather draw out the knowledge and understanding that lives within each scholar. It is essential to have dedicated educators--the kind we have at ES3 and throughout our BVP community.

Differentiation and Intentional Diversity. To meet the needs of all scholars, our educational approach must be thoroughly differentiated. Whatever our scholars’ individual needs, whatever their strengths, whatever their background, our program must meet them where they are and build a program that sets high expectations for their personal success.

We must also intentionally acknowledge and celebrate the rich diversity of our community (and our world). As educators, we must be able to respond to the diverse backgrounds of our scholars and to prepare them to interact with a global community that grows more interconnected with each generation. As citizens, we must also commit to understanding different perspectives and addressing our own biases, sharpening our cultural consciousness and competence.

Community Partnership. To be successful, the vision must extend beyond the walls

of the school. We must establish a robust partnership with our families and build a school community in which we are all fully engaged and committed to the mission. This means continually communicating and collaborating with families. It also means building and strengthening ties among our four neighboring and diverse communities, uniting families and communities around a common mission of providing our children with the best possible education.

During this first week, we’ve been sweating the small stuff – the routine yet very important operational details of starting a school year, like making sure scholars get on the right bus, or finding enough trash cans to hold the breakfast trash. But as the first week stretches into the second, and the third, and into next year we must focus our attention on the foundations of the school we’re building. And if we commit to breathing life into these core foundational elements – academic rigor, top quality teaching, differentiation and intentional diversity, and community partnership – I believe we will set our scholars on a path to success for years to come.

About Mr. Josh Falk:

Josh Falk has been an educator in innovative, high-expectations charter schools for eight years and is proud to be a founding head of school at BVP ES3. Mr. Falk previously taught grades 2 through 4 with Achievement First in New York and New Haven, and was a member of the founding 4th Grade team at ES1. A former attorney, Mr. Falk was drawn to the powerful idea of educational equity for all and made a career change. He has been a dedicated educator ever since, committed to the idea that all children can be successful students and are entitled to a high-quality public education.

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