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Weekly Letter 4.4.16

Dear Families:

At BNS, we have a goal of deepening staff understanding of racism in society and of its effect on education.

Last Monday, BAX teaching artist, José Joaquín García, shared with teachers and paraprofessionals, slavery's legacy in America. José spoke about his experience as an Afro-Puerto Rican male growing up in New York City. The presentation began with a short film by Equal Justice Initiative entitled, "Slavery to Mass Incarceration." After Jose’s presentation,the staff discussed ways in which we could codify curriculum around social and racial justice.  It was also pointed out that our school library has introduced our upper grade classes to this legacy with the sharing of stories of slavery in American history.  

Last Tuesday, our Race and Equity Committee, (which includes Malika, Jennifer and Bill as well as Anna, Diane and Amy Sumner) invited other staff members (Sarah, Doris, Tanya, Zahidur, Ita and Antoinette) to join us for a meeting with Dr. Raygine DiAquoi, Harvard PhD. Dr. DiAquoi is an educational equity consultant who, among other topics, has focused on racial socialization, looking at how parents speak with children about racism and how society and history inform these conversations. We set about planning our next two staff development sessions with Dr. DiAquoi, using exchanges currently happening in our classrooms as a jumping off point.

Weekly Letter 3.28.16

Dear Families:


As we move into the months of spring, a time when our school seems to be awash in a whirlwind of activity, we take a moment to recognize the backbone of the school: you, the parents.  Brooklyn New School’s history has always had the word ‘parent’ at the forefront of its story.  The school was founded by active parents who wanted something a little bit different for their children.  And the school has continued to flourish because of the support of active parents.  


When BNS first started, we were technically a ‘program’ and not a school, and therefore instead of having a PTA, we had a Steering Committee.  The Steering Committee functioned much like a PTA and a School Leadership Team.  It was a governing body of teachers and parents.  Attendance at its monthly meetings was strong and parents were involved in many aspects of the school.


Weekly letter 3.21.16

Dear Families:


On March 9th, I received a text message from third grade teacher, Steve.  He wrote, “The experience I had today in both morning and afternoon PBA sessions was euphoric. I was so stirred with positive emotions - pride, happiness, appreciation for the children..., and in the end, gratitude for the creation of this wonderful form of assessment, this chance to interact in such a respectful and meaningful way with the children and adults I work with. I still feel it. What a day! Thank you for all your hard work to lead us to this point in our development at BNS.”


Weekly Letter 3.14.16

Dear Families:


On Wednesday the PTA will decide whether or not to hire Right At School to run the After School Program at BNS next year.  If you have not been following this issue or if you are not a parent who uses the after school, you may not be aware of the strong opinions on both sides of this issue.  

As difficult as this decision is, it is hardly the most contentious one that the BNS community has had to deal with.  I can remember passionate debates in past years including disagreements about important topics such as where BNS should be located, who should work at BNS, how children were admitted to BNS, what should be taught at BNS, and of course, the favorite one: class size at BNS.  


Weekly Letter 3.7.16

Dear Families:


And so we begin our performance based assessment, starting with the third grade children telling us about their project work related to Ancient China.  We are struck by the power of this endeavor and by our community commitment to a big idea.  That commitment comes from the staff, the parents, and the kids.  As we begin the process, we understand that this is a work in progress and we recognize that all that we embark upon is a pilot, one that will continue to change and grown as we continue to learn.  


Weekly Letter 2.29.16

Dear Families:


This week we take the time to educate ourselves about asthma.  We begin with a teacher session in which teachers will review the symptoms of asthma and treatment.  Tomorrow we will conduct two town meetings, hosted by the school wellness committee with the objective of  reassuring our students about this condition that affects so many of us.  And on Friday morning, we will share what we are learning with families.  Do join us at 8:10 in room 304.  


Weekly Letter 2.24.16

Dear Families:


We welcome everyone back to school with the hope that the week was restful and comforting.  


This week I remain away from BNS as I am participating in a conference in New Orleans.  Last week I was also away, at another conference in Oracle, Arizona.  Ashoka sponsored both conferences. Ashoka is an international organization with a vision, which believes that anyone can be a ‘changemaker’ and can be a part of the solving of complex social problems.  Ashoka works with many different communities in the private, philanthropic and citizen sectors of the world.  


Weekly Letter 2.12.16

Dear Families:


So it’s over, the Fifth Grade Maya Museum.  Don’t despair if you missed it.  There will be another one next year, but take a moment to find out a little something.  Ask your child if they went to a museum yesterday or the day before.  See what they tell you.  They may know what a glyph or a stela is or how the Maya made weapons.  They might able to say a thing or two about Mayan Temples  or maybe, they have learned about the big idea of sacrifice.  A few might even be able to talk about the Maya number system or perhaps, they will just want to tell you about warrior face paint.  


Weekly Letter 2.5.16

Dear Families:


“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.“ Martin Luther King


And that, of course, is what the past two weeks have been about: intelligence and character.  And we might add, perseverance and stamina.  


From a day of intense grieving to a fourth grade Native American Museum, complete with real deer hide, scraped and tanned by our fourth graders…

Weekly Letter 1.25.16

Dear Families:


On Friday during recess, we had a competitive kickball game resulting in a win, upsetting for the defeated team.   But  that day, fourth grader, Ayden Mendoza, was feeling the glory of winning. After the emotion died down, the children and adults made their way from the ballfield, down Rapelye Street, and into school.  But not Ayden.  He stopped and called back to me as I gathered the remaining balls, “Anna, can I help you carry the balls?” he yelled.  I said, “Yes,” and in an instant, he was back, gathering the balls, and happily carrying the bag.  “It’s lighter than usual,” he said.  I agreed and as we walked back to school together, we chatted, something we both loved to do.  During these chats, we would talk about so many things.  Sometimes Ayden would talk about his many a weekend football game, sometimes he would share how his older brother, Andre, was doing at MS 88, and oh so often, he bragged about his big sister, Ashley, in her first year at SUNY Plattsburgh, where Ayden would tell me she is studying to be a teacher.   But on Friday, we discussed  the kickball game and the joy of winning and the difficulty of losing.  


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