Celebrating community at the Welcome Barbecue - Mid-Pacific Institute

Elementary School Principal's Blog

Celebrating community at the Welcome Barbecue

Posted on September 26, 2008

by Dr. Edna Hussey on September 26, 2008

The Welcome Barbecue, an annual event in the elementary school dating back to pre-MPI years, is one of the most compelling examples of school community!  Picture this: Happy children romping across the courtyard lawn.  A six-foot pueo waving its wings. Parents clustered in small groups sharing stories about soccer games, children's sports-related injuries, and job-related intrigue.  Fragrance of popcorn.  Blue-tinged lips and teeth from flavored shaved ice.  Tables laden with food.  Relay games involving children and their parents.  All this and two hours of relaxing fun under a spectacular blue sky with just a hint of trade winds.  Many thanks to our Fifth Grade students and their parents, whose combined efforts created a flawless community gathering.  Under the able leadership of Nicole Chung, she led the charge with calm and grace.  We're grateful to the many parents at all grade levels who donated items for the event. If there's a lasting impression I'm left with after the Welcome Barbecue, it's community and the gift of our families!

Every week, the teachers meet either as an entire elementary faculty or in grade levels. So what's on the agenda most days? At the K-5 level, we're focused on the assessment of student learning, specifically on the performance continua for writing, reading, and inquiry.  Our goal is to show a child's developmental growth over time, which is the basis of the continua. We would like to ensure that the language in the continua describe a progression of learning from grade level to grade level. These are "big ideas" in education that defy measurement in the ways that many parents are familiar with, particularly since our program is focused on both the processes and products of learning. 

In the area of writing, the classroom teachers are introducing their students to writing traits, that is, the specifics of what makes writing effective, noteworthy, memorable.  These traits are ideas (the main point), organization (the overall design or structure of the writing), voice (the general sound and tone of the writing), word choice (the combination of words and expressions), sentence fluency (the flow and rhythm of language), conventions (appropriate use of grammar, spelling, and punctuation), and presentation (the visual appearance of a piece of writing). The teaching of writing traits requires looking at examples from published work, analyzing a variety of student work, and applying the assessment criteria or rubric to their own writing.  Again, this is an instructional process experienced over time and taught in developmentally appropriate ways.

We want inquiry to occupy a place of prominence in the continua since inquiry approaches are the basis of our social studies and science curricula.  We also want to honor students' multiple ways of knowing, especially if we posit that learners have multiple intelligences (e.g., linguistic, spatial, logical/mathematical, interpersonal, etc.). 

The preschool teachers are likewise focused on the assessment of learning through a process called documentation.  Aided by video recorders and digital cameras, the teachers capture episodes of intriguing learning, moments during which a child is problem solving in dramatic play, in the sandbox, on the playstructure, at the light table, etc. Specific images are selected that tell a learning story, and the preschool faculty analyze the underlying theories of learning and development in these pieces of documentation. 

In all these meetings from preschool through fifth grade, the conversation is always rich, the questions thought provoking, and the ideas insightful. In case you're wondering when we discuss the day-to-day issues such as changes in schedule or fire drill procedures or where lunch cards should be placed, there's discussion during recess duty, in the lunchroom, transitions between classes, and some time during faculty meetings!  The Intranet also serves as a useful electronic medium where I post weekly memos and the faculty can respond or post ideas. The exchange of email also expedites communication.  Next week's agenda: more discussion on the performance continua.

Our CSAL boys' basketball team did well this week.  A close game on Monday, 26-29, in favor of Maryknoll, then on Thursday against Hawaii Baptist, 37-6, MPI!  In the meantime, practices begin for the girls' basketball team. 

If you are interested in having your child participate in Heart-to-Heart with Kids, an afterschool support group for children who have experienced a loss in their life, please submit the form that was placed in last week's Friday packet.

Welcome, October, just around the corner.  Time to start thinking about that Halloween costume.

For our children,

Edna L. Hussey