About NCRC

WELCOME TO OUR PRESCHOOL


For almost 90 years NCRC has created an inspiring and captivating preschool learning environment. NCRC ignites our children's imaginations and provides them with opportunities to grow and discover themselves and the ever-changing world around them. We realize that a great early childhood education is the solid foundation on which a child builds their future. NCRC’s mission-driven inclusion model and diverse school community make it a truly remarkable place.

NCRC’s highly trained faculty and staff are some of the most talented in the nation. They are dedicated to early childhood and recognize the importance of this magical time in the life of a child. Founded on the premise that current research should inform practice, NCRC’s dynamic preschool learning environment extends to the faculty and staff, who stay abreast of current best practices and compelling areas of early childhood research. This thirst for professional knowledge, coupled with the creativity and dedication of NCRC faculty, makes us a model preschool. Your child is guided each and every day they walk into NCRC by men and women who understand the theory behind the power of play and are passionate about what they do.

NCRC nurtures empathy, kindness, self-awareness, mindfulness, and joy. We believe each child is unique and we meet children where they are, giving them the tools they need to succeed every day and throughout life. Our faculty and staff are only part of our success equation. Our preschool community also includes an active parent body that is always engaged and encouraged to participate fully in experiences that will shape their child for years to come.

Early childhood is all we do and we are very good at it.

I welcome you to NCRC and invite you to experience the wonder of play with us.


Dr. Valaida Wise, Ed.D.

NCRC Head of School

Biography

Dr. Valaida L. Wise (Val) is the Head of School at the National Child Research Center (NCRC) in Washington, D.C. An educator for almost 20 years, Val received a Bachelor’s degree in developmental psychology from Syracuse University, an M.A.T. from Trinity College, Washington D.C., and holds a doctorate in Education from George Washington University.

A recent Brava award winner, Val has lectured nationally and internationally, most recently on the topic of early childhood education at Tanjian University and other provinces in China. She presented at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) 2013 national conference as well as other conferences sponsored by NAIS. Val has written several articles on educational leadership in early childhood as well as Montessori Education. Her most recent article: A Critical Absence in the Field of Educational Administration: Framing the (Missing) Discourse of Leadership in Early Childhood appears in the International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation. Val is an adjunct professor at several area universities where she has presented on the implications of current findings in neuroscience in early childhood education as well as diversity in clinical practice. She is a trustee on several professional and independent school boards. Val is married with 3 children.

Conferences

2015-2016 speaker/presenter
  • Importance of diversity in clinical practice at the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis
  • Engaging all families: Successfully including parents of children with special needs in a preschool community at the Zero to Three conference
  • Foundations of Resilience: Understanding and nurturing resilience in the preschool years at the McLean School
  • The role of father figures in children at The World Organization for Early Childhood Conference
  • The Alumni Panel at the George Washington University's Educational Syposium on Research and Innovation
  • Potomac Valley Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc.'s fall workshop
  • Diamonds in the Rough Conference

Wise Words 2016-17

SEPTEMBER

Community & Belonging


9.7.2016

There are some powerful truths about being human. One of them is the need to belong - to understand that you matter to someone, that there are family and friends who care about you, that there is a place for you. Social psychologist, Greg Walton, has researched this need rather extensively, and has demonstrated that a sense of belonging is tied to good health, motivation, and even happiness. This is especially true for our young ones, whose preschool experience may be the first community outside of their own family.

NCRC teachers take the first few weeks of school to develop this very important "second" community in their classrooms. In fact, they will spend the first few weeks establishing the norms and deepening the relationships and connections that constitute this community.

And it all starts from the opening circle time - the transition songs, the ritual of "sending love" to those who aren't in school that day, and talking about the day's plans. All of this creates a sense of belonging for everyone, adults and children alike, who are part of that classroom community. The circle reflects the fact that we all belong, we are a part of this community, and that you are missed if you are not here.

Today I had an opportunity to be part of two opening circle times. It is always amazing and heartwarming to witness how quickly the children feel a sense of belonging as they begin to know and care about each other.

This sense of belonging is also important for the adults in our community, parents and teachers alike. We all need to be able to feel like we belong and the first step is active engagement. So, please join NCRC Board Chair, Sloane Menkes, and myself in a parent circle time next week (see below for details).

We will always have a place for you in the circle.


17 Days


9.14.16

We are well into our first full week of school. Congratulations! It's been so exciting getting to see familiar faces every morning and getting acquainted with new faces as well. In the midst of all this excitement, we are also mindful that a new school year brings with it a certain amount of adjustment as well. There are new schedules to keep. There are new friendships being made. There are new materials in new classrooms. There are new adults in your child's life. Even as adults, all of this newness takes some time to absorb.

My experience, supplemented by some reading on the subject, suggests to me that for young children, 17 days is about the amount of time that children need to successfully adjust to their new environment. The tears of separation that tear at our heartstrings tend to dissipate after 17 days. The nervousness that manifests itself in a wide variety of ways both at school and at home tends to settle down after 17 days. The reluctance to engage with new children or new adults tends to be overcome after 17 days.
What is a parent to do during these 17 days of adjustment? Here are a few ideas:
  • Allow your child to experience the discomfort of adjustment, but be supportive and encouraging. The feelings your child is experiencing are real and shouldn't be denied. Knowing you are there for them provides them with a foundation of support from which they can grow.
  • To the extent possible, develop patterns and routines that work for you and your child. Perhaps it is picking out clothes the night before as a bedtime ritual so you aren't rushed in the morning. Perhaps it is morning routines that allow you to get out of the door more smoothly. These patterns and routines will help your child adjust to the patterns and routines of school-life.
  • Set up a playdate for your child. Being able to spend some time outside of school with a classmate from school will help nurture friendships in the classroom.
Seventeen days from now, you are likely to see a new child - a child who jumps out of their car seat when you pull up to the school and runs into the school building eager to start a new day.

Foundational Skills

9.21.16

What have Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, and musician Lady Gaga (Stefani Germanotta) all got in common? Aside from their vast popularity and their rise to the top of their fields, they all scored in the top one percent in college entrance exams when they were adolescents. They also passed through Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth, an adjunct to a Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY), the longest running current longitudinal study of intellectually talented children. The study has tracked more than 5,000 individuals over 45 years.


According to an article entitled How to raise a genius: lessons from a 45-year study of super-smart children on nature.com, an international weekly journal of science, there's a correlation between early cognitive ability and adult achievement. No big surprise there, right? (Actually, it did run counter to the long-held belief that practice makes perfect, that anyone could be good at something if they work hard at it.)


The article essentially discusses two trains of thought regarding the best way to educate children to make them successful movers and shakers-nurturing the academically gifted and precocious young students or supporting the 'other 99 percent.' Both arguments have some valid points. But I'd like to take a slightly different bent.


Aside from being academically gifted and in a program that supported those gifts, do you know what else Mark, Sergey, and Lady Gaga had in common?

They were given the space and freedom to follow their bliss. And it came in some very unique and nontraditional forms, ultimately taking them to wondrous places. It would have been so easy to focus on the traditional; instead, each of these individuals were given important foundational skills that allowed them to take risks and use their talents in unique and interesting ways. They were able to hone their abilities with resilience, persistence, and adaptability - all qualities that are anchored in early childhood.


Sergey Bin has been cited on many occasions acknowledging the importance of early childhood, the years where he was allowed to experiment, try, fail - and then try again. These are all aspects of a program not based on getting the right answers but rather on developing the skills that make for successful and fulfilled people.


These are the gifts of a premier early child education and what NCRC provides for every child.

OCTOBER

Parenting in the Presidential Year

10.5.16

I had the opportunity to participate in a panel on "Parenting in This Presidential Year" at an area independent school this week. Parents had expressed concerns about their children being privy to the vitriol of this year's campaign.


Quite frankly, I'm challenged to witness some of the behavior myself, and I'm an adult.


But with that being said, we can't simply shelter our children. Why would we want to? We need to teach them to work out difficult concepts, such as treating each other respectfully, valuing others' opinions - even if they're contrary to your own - and being open and receptive to new ideas. The current political environment actually provides us, as parents and caretakers, real-time, real-life opportunities to teach children how not to behave and to model how to behave. When children hear us, the adults, talk among our peers, and hear us analyze what we could do to change big picture issues, they understand that there can be positive ways to approach difficult and complex issues while still maintaining integrity and character. It speaks volumes.


It also speaks to something I often talk about, metacognition, the simple definition of which is awareness and understanding of one's own thought processes. In other words, being cognizant of the thought process and letting our children hear it to work to solve complex problems, in this instance.


Breaking news: It's OK to show children that we, too, struggle with issues, that we don't know everything.


The key lessons come by really looking at how we figure it out. We look at facts, we take into account our values, we use civility as the guiding principle of everything - and I do mean everything - we strive to be and do. Nothing less is acceptable.


Our children spend a lot of time in school. But many of life's important lessons occur in our day-to-day existence, when we take time out of our busy schedule to spend time with a lonely elderly person or to volunteer at a charitable organization.


Be the person you want your children to become.

Growing up with Children


10.12.16

When my daughter was about five years old, she was diagnosed with a rather rare disease - Kawasaki's Syndrome, a condition that causes inflammation in the walls of certain sized arteries throughout the body, including the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart muscle. The treatments were horrific for this small child of mine.

And as I watched her endure painful procedures and loathsome medications that tormented her tiny body, I wanted to rail against the unfairness of it. I wanted to make promises with anyone listening if they would just let me shoulder her pain.

But during her entire ordeal, my daughter remained pragmatic and brave and compliant. She never once complained. And after it was over and we began to rebuild our lives, I realized that I had changed in some fundamental ways. I found that I was stronger and that I didn't sweat the small stuff. I realized that Talyn had taught me grace and to find the joy in the little things.

Raising children is often like a chemical reaction-neither entity remains the same once connected.

Take this example from a recent Huffington Post blog, Is Watching Your Kid Grow Up Supposed To Hurt This Bad?, where author Emily McCombs details her recent bouts of weepiness and shares insights about her young son growing up.

"The next day, my 5-year-old son and I had an argument about what kind of pants he would be wearing to school. He has very strong positions on pants - short preferred, elastic waistband, NO strings. I've been cutting the strings off his pants for years.

We argued, and I yelled, and on the way to school I apologized for yelling and as I watched his retreating back disappear down the school hallway I felt like weeping again."

She talks about knowing that the mission of parenting, the end goal, is to create well-adjusted, independent, thinking individuals.

"Which is right and good and natural and exactly what you what to happen but ohmygod, is it supposed to hurt this much?" she asks.

In her book, Growing Each Other Up: When Our Children Become Our Teachers, author and Professor of Education at Harvard University, Dr. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, shifts the typical conversation about parenting. Usually viewed as parents teaching children, Dr. Lawrence-Lightfoot show us what parents learn through the act of parenting. It is a delightful read and one in which you will probably find yourself nodding your head in agreement.

Today, Talyn still suffers the effects of her bout with the disease but because of the fantastic doctors she's had at Children's Hospital, you'd never really know it.

Me? I'm stronger. I'm more resilient. I tend to face problems head-on, not falling apart, not angry at the world that they landed on my doorstep. Thanks to Talyn and the lessons she taught me, I've grown too.


Board Meetings and Bounce Houses


This week, Wise Words features a guest writer.



10.19.16

I was honored to represent NCRC last month as a panelist at the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington (AISGW) 2016 Trustee Workshop where I shared our fresh and generative approach to updating and affirming our existing strategic plan. In my smaller post-panel discussion roundtable group, we had a lively burst of creativity as we shared ideas and stories late into the evening. The experience left me humbled and inspired, not only by my fellow panelists and attendees, but also by NCRC's incredible Board of Trustees that took on the complicated task of honoring our past while planning for our future with grace and fortitude.

As I reflected on NCRC's almost 90 years as a model for early childhood education, it occurred to me that, although the world of today would be unrecognizable to our founding members, the principles they stood for remain constant - namely, play-based, research-driven learning in a diverse, inclusive environment that welcomes children of all abilities.

Proof of NCRC's enduring legacy was demonstrated this past weekend, when my own daughter was encouraged by the spontaneous chanting of her fellow NCRC Explorer graduates as she bravely summited an inflatable bounce house ladder and plummeted into the chaos below. A feat her doctors (and parents) were not sure she would ever achieve. At an age where many children are experiencing bullying for the first time, her NCRC buddies literally formed a protective circle around her - a safe place to try the impossible. NCRC is the orchestrator of this symbiotic crossroads, where compassion meets grit and pure magic unfolds in our children's lives, long after their last year at NCRC.

- Gratefully yours, Melaine Privitera, NCRC Trustee

Sing to Me from the Trees, Please

10.26.16

Poetry is uplifting. It elevates us and helps define our humanity by focusing on what’s beautiful in the world. Abbé Joseph Roux, a French Catholic parish priest, poet, and philologist born in the 1800s is attributed as saying, “Poetry is truth in its Sunday clothes.”

Yesterday, NCRC students received an everlasting gift of poetry from two people near and dear to the NCRC community, Robert Lehrman - NCRC father and alumnus - and former NCRC Head of School Liz Barclay. The pair collaborated on compiling some of their favorite poems in the book, Sing to Me from the Trees, Please, beautifully illustrated by Rachel Heisman. This collaboration between two people so integral to our school is a testament to the strength of our special community itself - and its unwavering commitment to serve our children.

Sing to Me From the Trees, Please, has come at a perfect time in the lives of our children. They are beginning a love affair with words that we hope will last their entire lives. You, as parents, grandparents, and caregivers, help cultivate this love by spending quiet, undivided special time reading with them, feeding their imagination, and developing their creative skills. Early childhood is Ground Zero for children to refine their senses. And poetry certainly speaks to the senses.

These words and the senses they awaken will transport our children to faraway places, to help them define the things they see and feel in the world and to learn challenging concepts. And yes, they will ultimately allow them to dress the truth in “Sunday clothes.”

NOVEMBER

2015-16

SEPTEMBER

Imagination & Play

09.25.2015

Today NCRC faculty struggled with some big questions around the nature of imagination and how to fan its embers in the classroom as they engaged in a professional development day at an unlikely venue.

When I announced the adult field trip to the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM), I quoted Albert Einstein to put the concept of imagination and its importance in the context of our work at NCRC:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”

The AVAM emphasizes “intuitive creative invention and grassroots genius” and the museum’s goals closely mirror what NCRC is about, including engendering respect for and delight in the gifts of others, encouraging each individual to build upon his or her own special knowledge and inner strengths, and empowering the individual to choose to do what they do best in their own voice and at any age.

How fitting this trip is on the heels of Back to School Night, where I shared with parents the interesting research conducted by MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Dr. Angela Duckwork, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Duckwork coined the term ‘grit,” or”the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward long-term goals over an extended period of time and to work hard to make it a reality.” She found grit to be a leading factor in successful students. While she is not sure how one acquires grit, she found promise in the work of Stanford University professor Carol Dweck. Dr. Dweck investigated two types of mindsets - growth and fixed. Essentially,individuals with growth mindsets believe that failure is NOT a permanent condition and that we can learn from our mistakes. Mistakes, in fact, are just the test run before we get it right and make the next big step in our development.

So how are these seemingly separate concepts interwoven?

Imagination -and play-keeps students engaged and interested while they’re learning. Interested and passionate learners are more likely to enjoy learning and to stick with it to achieve success despite early failures. This is grit. Well, the same is true with teachers. The faculty and staff at NCRC have grit. They love to learn, particularly about early childhood development and inclusion, the proverbial research fire in their belly. And because of this unquenchable desire to soak up all the research they can on the topic, they’re willing to experiment to find the best way to do things. This experimentation isn’t haphazard, though. It’s based on solid evidence-based research and it entails opening their minds to new ways of thinking. An article by Deborah Farmer Kris, an educator herself, suggests that this is vital for adults - especially teachers - who must remain creatively and intellectually agile in a dynamic learning environment. Finding inspiration in interesting places is the fuel that feeds the imagination and at AVAM inspiration was everywhere.

An Inclusive Education

09.18.2015

Four-year-old girl 1: I see you have an eye patch.

Four-year-old girl 2: Yes, I need it to make my other eye stronger.

Four-year-old girl 1: Oh, that’s good. You know, my sister wears glasses to make her eyes stronger, too.

Four-year-old girl 2: That’s good, too.

Four-year-old girl 1: Oh, and I really like your glasses. They’re so pretty.

This conversation was overheard in an NCRC classroom recently. It’s a poignant moment between preschoolers, of course, but more importantly, it is a beautiful illustration of two children who are not only comfortable with difference but honor it as well. This seemingly innocent conversation underscores the beauty of inclusion. Inclusive education helps all children learn about and appreciate everyone’s unique differences - including their own. In fact, it underscores the points that Arnie Duncan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, recently addressed during his “back to school” bus tour aimed at visiting schools across the country.

“As our country continues to move forward on the critical task of expanding access to high-quality early learning programs for all children, we must do everything we can to ensure that children with disabilities are part of that,” Duncan is quoted as saying. “States, school districts, local organizations, communities, and families must work together so that children with disabilities have access to programs that offer individualized and appropriate help in meeting high expectations.”

Linda K. Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, added, “Meaningful inclusion supports children with disabilities in reaching their full potential… Children without disabilities who are in inclusive settings can also show positive gains in developmental, social, and attitudinal outcomes.”

Research on the topic illustrates that all students can benefit from the inclusion model. At NCRC, however, it’s that and more. We bear witness to it firsthand, every day. We’ve witnessed the development of the kind of compassion, empathy, and appreciation that go along with being comfortable with and accepting of difference.

At NCRC, we know we have the answer to what inclusion in an early childhood environment should look like and we know how well it works. We’ve been doing it for almost 90 years - and very well at that - as is evidenced by the success of our students. Documents that highlight NCRC’s research efforts from 1928 thru 1931 illustrate that while some things have changed (dramatically), a remarkable number have stayed the same. We continue to value our highly inclusive environment. We recognize that every child is unique and adds something significant to the very fabric or our school community. We have an incredible legacy of doing great things for young children and we continue to build on that legacy.

This is the year that we begin to let others know what great work we do here. Over the coming months, we will be sharing more stories about what inclusion means at NCRC.

Start Your Engines!

09.11.2015

A young NCRC student has an allergic reaction. His mother calls the doctor, who asks the young boy how he feels. He remembers what he’s learned in school and tells the doctor that he “can’t slow down his engine.”

A mother is in her car stopped in the carpool line, on the telephone. She’s clearly agitated, gesticulating, raising her voice. Her daughter, another NCRC student, tells her mom her “engine’s running way too fast.”

Sure, the analogy that compares how we feel to the way a mechanical engine runs is very cute and child-friendly. And, in one of the examples mentioned at the outset of this article, provided life saving information to a doctor… but there is more. The language each child used demonstrates their understanding of an extremely important aspect of their development - the ability to monitor and modulate their own internal state. They know how they feel and are beginning to see how it impacts themselves and others. They are learning how to “self-regulate.”

In their book, From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The science of early childhood development, J. Shonkoff and D. Phillips (2000) define self-regulation as a child’s ability to gain control of bodily functions, manage powerful emotions, and maintain focus and attention (http://journal.naeyc.org/btj/200607/Gillespie709BTJ.pdf).

The development of self-regulation is the cornerstone of early childhood development.

NCRC is one of the few preschools in the nation that not only understands how vital self-regulation is to a child, but actively and systematically supports its development. NCRC’s all-school program, How Does Your Engine Run?™ was created to facilitate this process.

Our children will learn how to tune into their own engines(their hearts) and become aware of their own unique sensory needs while giving them the tools to modulate themselves. The importance of this program is obvious but was underscored when NCRC’s occupational therapist, Marian Brice, and Motor Teacher, Cathy Parker (creators of the program), presented it at an early childhood conference. After their presentation a psychologist at Yale Child Development Center approached them stating that it was cutting edge in its scope.

Next week, beginning September 14th, we will celebrate this program by having special activities throughout the school. Programs such as Engine Run are evidence of what makes NCRC so unique. We are a team of early childhood specialists, trained in many different fields, each supporting aspects of a child’s early development in ways that are fun and engaging - nurturing the whole child. All of this was created for one purpose and one purpose only - to help children gain, as stated so eloquently by Cathy Parker: “the insight and confidence they need to handle life experiences.”

To read more about self-regulation in preschool, please visit http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3780775

Back To School

09.04.2015

“This still feels like the bunny room,” said the visitor who stopped by NCRC this week as he walked through the door. His dreamlike gaze underscored his nostalgia, clearly recalling innocent memories from this room and remembering the transition that occurred for him here. “This is where we would get popsicles,” he said as he and his mom stopped at the kitchen door during our tour around the building.

These recollections are evidence that what we do here is important work. The fact that they came from a young man visiting home before heading off to his first year of Harvard Law School is a testament to the longevity of the memories and how they take their rightful place in the successful history-in-the-making of some of our cherished alums.

This week we began making memories for yet another generation of successes. The successes are measured in many ways, including the schools they later attend, the contributions they make in their communities, in the kindness of their deeds, and in the strength of their integrity.

For me, this has been an amazing week. An energy, a feeling that anything is possible, permeates the entire building. I have a very unique perspective while I stand at the front door in the morning. I get to be one of the first to welcome you and your child to NCRC, to grab a quick hug or handshake and to be a voyeur of sorts. I can watch carefully as the children enter the front door to begin their preschool journey. Some are curious, some exuberant, and some have a formidable amount of trepidation. Pictures are clicked, taken with signs that say “First day of preschool.” There are smiles and laughs. In this exciting, bittersweet moment, we can all feel the gravity of it all. We stand on the precipice of something big.

Parents enter the school eager to see old friends and their children, make new friends, and greet teachers. They sometimes leave with slightly moist eyes as they give the final hug, kiss, and a squeeze before they leave what one parent called their “national treasures” for the first time.

I am so fortunate to witness these traditions - the old ones and the ones being formed every day. I see the wonder, the amazement, and the excitement when children finally grasp something for the first time, whether it’s something they master in the classroom or on the playground. For this and countless other reasons, preschool years are the most important, making a lasting impression on the lives of children and their families.

Just ask the mom with the young man who visited me. All three of her sons attended NCRC. Each of them remembers it so fondly.

As the young man had his hand on the door to leave he turned to me and said,

Of all my years of schooling-even college-NCRC was the very best and I will always remember it.

As we begin this new school year, that is my wish for each of your children and for you - that NCRC will be the best school your child has ever attended. We will work hard to make it so.

OCTOBER

Ahead of the Curve

10/28/2015

I had the opportunity last week to attend an event with a group of independent school administrators. Whenever educators get together, it’s an opportunity for collaboration and information gathering. It is also a great time to make or strengthen the informal connections that are vital for outplacement to area schools. These gatherings inform us as to the broader themes on the educational horizon.

The featured speaker at our gathering this time was Dr. David Andrews, Dean of Education at Johns Hopkins University. And, while I’m partial to anything Dean Andrews has to say (full disclosure- I’m an adjunct in the School of Education at JHU) he was extremely insightful in his remarks. He stated that the educational industry is preparing our students for a world that is fundamentally different from the one we all experienced growing up. It is an ever more globalized, networked, informed, and multi-ethnic society. Big data analytics is allowing the seller to match our every want and need perfectly. And since this kind of information is available everywhere, consumers have come to expect this level of personalization, not only in a toothpaste coupon or storefront ad, but in their education as well. Dean Andrews went on to say that the next iteration of education will have to cater to this much more informed generation that will want and deserve a more personalized educational experience.

He ended by asking us all to re-imagine education. But, as I listened to him carefully, I realized that what he was talking about was something we do at NCRC every day. We see each child as an individual, gathering “data” while observing them interacting with adults and each other. We create and change curriculum based on the needs and interest of the child. We personalize education and even change the classroom environment to reflect information we gather about each child’s needs. So I had to ask him what he thought about my musings. As soon as I got the chance I cornered him and asked, “What about early childhood education?” His reply was, “Yes, that’s a good point. The only place we’re getting it right is in doctoral programs and early childhood, you all have a lot to teach us.”

A Resilient Community

10.21.2015

Yesterday, I had the chance to do something I love to do - speak to an enthusiastic and supportive audience about a really interesting topic. It had the perfect ingredients for a mutually-enjoyable time. A group of NCRC grandparents and I gathered to explore the topic of building resiliency in the early years. “When children show healthy development in spite of adversity, it is called resilience,” according to the Encyclopedia of Early Childhood Education. Fostering resilience in young children requires the family, the community, as well as children’s own personal resources. In other words, why is it that some can bounce back from serious stresses and some cannot?

It was a lively discussion (as these things generally are with our smart, savvy grandparents here at NCRC). We covered more than a decade of research on resilience in our conversation. The “take home” message was that while the human spirit can overcome a great deal, there are important environmental conditions that can act as protective factors. And, as is so often the case, the foundation is laid in early childhood.

No matter how we look at it, the recipe for success when it comes to building resilience is a relatively simple one. The necessary ingredients are high-quality, caring relationships in an environment with high expectations and opportunities for the child to contribute. It’s interesting to note that the most important and consistent finding in resilience research is the role and power of the schools (especially preschools) in resilience-building (Werner, 2007).

As a preschool, NCRC is uniquely positioned to offer just this kind of environment. Our faculty’s ability to develop caring relationships with each child and then to dig for and reflect back each child’s strengths while valuing their human uniqueness will guide them through the learning process, picking them up when they stumble, as they will, along the path to mastery. And while the teachers are an extremely important factor because they spend the most time each day with your children, it is the entire NCRC community that acts as a protective factor for our kids. Events like Family Work Day or The Pumpkin Party are evident demonstrations of a vibrant, caring community all working toward one goal-to support and nurture the children we love. And this is the best kind of protective factor there is.

Thank you to everyone at NCRC for creating a community we can be proud of.

Interested in this topic? Read Building Resilience in Children and Teens by Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg

Thank You Goes A Long Way

10.14.2015

A parent came to me recently and said

“I just had to stop by and get a hug from it just makes me feel so good. She is such a wonderful teacher. I know that has an amazing time during the day because of her teachers.”

I hear this sentiment echoed so often here at NCRC.

The research is clear about the important role teachers play in the lives of children. In fact, some suggest that the better the teaching, the better the outcomes for the students - especially in the preschool years when so much of what is learned is built on the relationship between the child and their teachers.

The decision to teach is often considered a calling by many, one accompanied by moderate pay and around the clock hours. It is sustained by a commitment and dedication to both the field and to the future. It is nurtured by the joy that teachers see in the faces of their students every day.

As the children file out of their classrooms each day, most are not turning to their teachers and saying things like“thank you for preparing such a great lesson” or “I really appreciate the extra time that you took to explain that difficult concept to me,” or “those were great materials you put together for that lesson.” It’s more often than not expressed by a big hug, a smile, or a wistful “I love you.”

As parents, we know how much feeling appreciated means. When we work hard or do something special, we don’t always need recognition, but the occasional pat on the back goes a long way toward motivating us to do more.

At this point in my column, I would generally quote Daniel Pink and his writing about motivation, or Sarah Lightfoot Lawrence on the importance of the parent-teacher relationship. Instead, I am just going to say “Thank You!”

Thank you for expressing your appreciation to the faculty here at NCRC. It makes all the difference.

Why I Love My Job

10.07.2015

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: I get to spend my days with children and the talented men and women who work with them, surrounded by laughter and music, regaled with stories, and seeing the school drenched in glitter (have I told you I love glitter?) Can you think of a more joyful way to spend your day?

Now, the part that isn’t so obvious. Within the past two weeks - and truthfully, it happens every week - I have had the opportunity to witness little miracles:

      • Children solving their own relationship issues
      • Children creating their impressions of artistic masterpieces
      • Children discovering they can do something they have never done before
      • Children discovering new ways to solve problems

In addition:

      • Teachers are children with innovation
      • Teachers are engaging children in new and unique ways
      • Teachers are collaborating to foster deeper learning
      • Teachers are helping children see the world around them through different lenses

There is nothing more satisfying than watching the children here at NCRC, with all their uniqueness and all their brilliance, show me things I have never seen before or tell me things that I have never heard before. In the midst of phone calls, e-mails, and conversations, the small (and sometimes, not so small) voices of the children confirm for me that what we are doing is special and important.

Regardless of your chosen profession, I hope that when you have the chance to spend time with your children, you witness the types of miracles that I get to see every day. Celebrate these miracles and experience the joy of early childhood.

Woven of Gold

10.01.2015

Last week I reported on the wonderful professional development opportunity the faculty engaged in at the American Visionary Art Museum. We considered big questions surrounded by incredible works from talented individuals. While this was true there is more to the story, perhaps the most telling part of the story, that I neglected to tell you, and it added to my learning that day.

The story that told me all I need to know about NCRC faculty actually happened after our tour of the museum, as we made plans to return to school. My cell phone rang. The bus driver scheduled to bring us back to school told me she had a flat tire. She said someone was coming and it would only take a few minutes to put a new one on. Not a problem, I thought. We had had a full, stimulating day at the museum and there was plenty more to talk about as we walked to where we were meeting the bus. When we finally arrived at our bus the tire still wasn’t on; another repair person had to be called. Another wait. We were slated to be back at school at 3:00 pm. It was now 3:15 pm. We were definitely going to be late.

At 4:20 pm we were finally on the road. The conversation on the bus was light and people were laughing and joking, seemingly undeterred by the fact that we were going to be later than originally predicted, which would undoubtedly impact everyone’s plans.

Then the bus began to shimmy and wobble a bit. It became obvious rather quickly that something was terribly wrong. Our bus driver began to fret a bit; it was clear she was worried. As she moved over to the far right lane, the tire blew and the bus rocked and swayed, finally landing with a violent shudder on the side of the road. There was total silence in the bus. Everyone seemed to take a collective deep breath. Then, the realization that we were safe and it could have been so much worse. There could have been anger, fear or blaming. It’s what you would have expected. It was now 5:00. The rescue bus was being arranged but it wouldn’t arrive until 6:00pm.

Our five-hour trip had turned into a ten-hour ordeal.

While the trip didn’t end the way I had envisioned (not by a long shot), it revealed in a very deep and meaningful way the true fabric of the faculty at NCRC. They are some of the most patient, compassionate and positive people I have ever met.

Our bus driver was visibly shaken and our kind and generous faculty shared their snacks with her, trying to keep her calm and let her know it would all be alright. They found ways to look at the situation as a “glass half full” - thinking of how to use the experience in unique and interesting ways. They told jokes and helped each other make arrangements to pick up children and otherwise rearrange badly mangled schedules. This was living proof of what I’d always heard - you could tell a lot about a person by the way they handle adversity. If that’s the case, the faculty at NCRC are made of gold. And for that, I am very grateful. I suspect you are, too.

NOVEMBER

The Power of Daydreaming

11.18.2015

I don’t know if you were aware of it (frankly, I wasn’t until one of our NCRC parents told me) but 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s theory of relativity ( I know… break out the funny hats and party favors!) Generally, we all recognize the importance of Einstein’s theory - even if his earth-shaking physics formula, Rµv-½gµvR=(8πG/c4) Tµv, is indecipherable to many of us. The reality is that Einstein’s work is employed by a huge percentage of the human population - including everyone who uses a global positioning system - (GPS) every day.

All of this is important to how our modern world works but it may be the following quote that makes Einstein most relevant to us here at NCRC: “imagination is more important than knowledge.” It was Einstein’s highly developed imagination and creativity that allowed him to “imagine” his theory. I presented at a conference recently where I had a chance to hear Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute. He is a strong proponent of imagination and links it to daydreaming. His research demonstrates a dynamic link between daydreaming, creativity, and imagination. He even goes so far as to suggest that teachers should allow time each day for “mindful daydreaming.” Let’s celebrate this 100th anniversary of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity by giving our children the time and space to daydream… you never know what it may lead to.

The Value of Nature

11.11.2015
“These ecstatic moments of delight or fear, or both, “radioactive jewels buried within us, emitting energy across the years of our lives,” as Chawla eloquently puts it, are most often experienced in nature during formative years.”
- Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
I have an almost completely unobstructed view of the playground from my office window. It’s a perfect vantage point to observe children doing the hard work of growing up through their play on the playground. Sometimes, I get to witness moments that appear to be almost magical, maybe even transformational. Yesterday was a perfect example. The day started out gray and overcast and then a very light rain began to fall. I happened to be looking out the window when one of our classes, prepared for the weather with raincoats and rubber boots, made its way onto the playground. The children immediately set to work, with little shovels and rakes, digging holes in the sand area and chatting to each other. They were having an incredible time. But what was most interesting was what happened next. One little girl stood up, tilted her head back, stretched out her hands - as if to embrace the rain - and smiled. She stood that way for a few moments and then she appeared to sing. I’m not sure if it was really singing (I have no sound from my vantage point) but whatever she was doing, it was obvious that it came from a place of joy.

Outdoor play provides opportunities for children to develop their sensory and observational skills, and supports creative thinking (Torquati, et. al 2011; Wilson 2012). Children’s play in a natural setting tends to be more imaginative and creative (Singer et al 2009). There is even research to suggest that play in the natural world promotes prosocial behavior toward peers and nature. NCRC teachers know this research very well and ascribe to the belief that children not only need, but deserve time to engage in the kind of natural experiences that Richard Louvy calls “a natural investment in children’s health.” So, even on a rainy day, our children experience the incredible benefits that come from being in nature. All because of NCRC faculty’s insightful awareness that a child will learn and grow through their own natural inclinations when given the opportunity.

Why Inclusion in Early Childhood?

11.04.2015

I heard a truly compelling definition for inclusion the other day:

“Inclusion is a philosophy, an attitude that creates a community”

(KIDS INCLUDED TOGETHER 2013)

It resonates with me because, according to this definition, inclusion is more than a thing we do - it’s a state of being. Inclusion means belonging to, participating in, and reaching one’s full potential in a diverse society where everyone is accepted and recognized for having something to contribute. That’s a powerful, transformative statement, and one that would be enough to warrant having all classes be inclusive. But there is more.

Numerous research studies have identified the benefits of a fully inclusive early childhood experience for both children with special needs and their typically developing peers. Children in an inclusive environment learn from each other and contribute as equals. Research suggests that children in inclusive classrooms demonstrate higher levels of the “soft skills,” such as more emotional resiliency and significantly higher levels of empathy, and they possess a better internal loci of control (Kate & Mirenda 2002). One researcher found that parents and teachers made gains in the areas of empathy and tolerance. In fact, when properly supported in a dynamic educational setting, an inclusion model can provide a teacher with an enriched and varied experience.

I’ve heard from parents, teachers, and children that NCRC is a special place - one that’s hard to replicate. I would argue that one of the reasons this is true is because at its core, NCRC is inclusive. It is a place where everyone belongs.

DECEMBER

What I'm Wishing For

12.16.2015

In just 16 days we will be welcoming in a new year. It’s hard to believe. There is just something about this time of year that makes us think about the future and what could be. It’s a magical time of year that makes you believe in dreams and wishes.

Everyone has wishes and I’d like to share my wishes with you:

  • I wish that eating my favorite foods wouldn’t make me fat… Or unhealthy… Or make people stare and shake their heads in disapproval of me for eating them.
  • I wish that I could be on The Voice so people could hear me sing Adele’s “Hello” the way I do when I’m in the car… stuck in DC traffic. Loud. Very, very loud.
  • I wish that we had designated parking at NCRC. And, that every space was at the front of the building. That, in turn, would help grant another wish-to have more stress-free time where I can explore topics and activities I just can’t seem to find the time to do most days.
  • I wish that all children could grow up keeping their sense of wonder at the natural world and could look for and find these miracles every day.
  • I wish that teachers were valued as much as rock stars or top athletes. And that rock stars and top athletes had the integrity, manners, compassion, and knowledge that teachers have (I’m sure a great many of them do but we don’t seem to hear about them as much as the others).
  • I wish that instead of painting people who are different than us with the proverbial broad brush stroke; that we try to instead learn about them as individuals, with families, and ailments, and hidden dreams, and middle-of-the-night worries. We are, after all, members of the same humanity.
  • I wish that every child in the world could attend a school like NCRC where they are safe from the events adults have created and children don’t understand, where they are healthy and well-fed, where they are loved, and nurtured, and cherished. In a similar vein, I wish that people all around the globe could vow to hold the space of early childhood as a sacred space never to be violated.

And finally, as we close out 2015 in the midst of global unrest and political uncertainty, I wish that as we went to sleep at night that we did not think of war, or hunger, or thievery, or greed, or violence. They are the antithesis of a healthy soul, an inquisitive mind, and a productive and enjoyable life. Rather, I wish for a world where the existence of peace, love, gratitude, and joy are considered just another ordinary day.

The Big Take-Away

12.09.2015

We are back from Seattle and it was an amazing trip! Just being in the Pacific Northwest was enough to make the trip lovely but it was the content of the conference itself that made it exquisite. Every speaker seemed to be top notch, including our own NCRC representatives. It was a wonderful combination of current research and practical application.

I had the chance to sit in on the presentation given by our SOS team - Becky Marquez, Marian Brice, and Judith Wides - on self-regulation. I could not have been more proud of them. Not only was the information relevant and important, but it was presented in a fun and engaging way. Attendees asked wonderful questions, demonstrating their understanding of the content. My presentation was also well received. In fact, a representative from the Government of Ontario, Canada asked if I would present my information about engaging parents on a webinar for their early childhood educators.

There was so much information that was useful for our work, but the big take-away was the fact that there has been a revolution in our understanding of children’s minds, brains, and learning capacities. We now recognize that young children know, feel, and learn more than we ever imagined. In laboratories around the world, children’s natural curiosity and drive to learn is being uncovered in research studies. Just as basic research in genetic mechanisms led to the Genome Project, discoveries about the developing mind set the stage for a new science of learning, requiring new policies and programs.

It was amazing to be counted among those who are at the forefront of this work.

On The Road

12.02.2015

You won’t see me at NCRC for the next few days because I’m in Seattle, Washington. In fact, I just got off the plane! I’m here to attend the Zero to Three Conference sponsored by the National Training Institute (NTI). Zero to Three is the nation’s premier early childhood conference. It is a comprehensive and multidisciplinary conference focusing on cutting-edge research, best practices, and policy issues for young children and their families. It’s the place to be in early childhood for researchers, physicians and educators, etc. But I’m not here alone; NCRC’s School Counselor, Judith Wides, Occupational Therapist, Marian Brice, and Speech Pathologist, Becky Marquez (also known collectively as our SOS team) are here as well. We are attendees but we are also presenters. I will be presenting information on work NCRC is doing for our families and our SOS team will be sharing their knowledge in a workshop that highlights the important work they do for every child at NCRC in a presentation titled “Peeking Under the Umbrella of Self-Regulation in the Three-Year-Old Child.”

NCRC is unique in so many ways, but top among them is our SOS team whose expertise (as evidenced by their inclusion in this highly respected conference) and passion help define excellence in early childhood education for every child at our school every day.

It will be a very busy few days with lots of opportunities to learn and share. I look forward to sharing highlights from our experience with you in later issues of The Sandbox. See you all soon.

JANUARY

Thank You!

01.28.2016
We’ve all seen the media coverage of the storm that hit us last week. We’ve had plenty of time to rejuvenate while we were hunkered down, waiting to get shoveled out. The 1 ½ inches that crippled the Nation’s capital before the actual storm hit made national news (pesky detail: it was 1 ½ inches of ice, not snow, that caused the problems). And then when the storm hit, there were lots of photos and comments on news story threads and social media. Some were fun, some critical, and yet others were thankful. As Head of NCRC, I fall into the latter category.

Our house on the hill looked mystically wonderful on Friday night. As beautiful as it was, travelling to get to it and the surrounding area was nearly impossible. Roads were packed with 25 inches of snow and mounding drifts caused by high winds. We knew there would be some time off from school. While we caught up on reading, sleeping, and playing with our loved ones, some people were out there helping put the chaos of our lives back in order. They left their warm houses, probably full of the fantastic smells of cooking, to come out into the cold and miserable conditions to do their jobs to help keep us safe.
I am so grateful to our “snowplow team” of Mr. Troy - and even our Chief Financial Officer, Jan Austin - and others for their hard work and support. But I need to give a special thanks to our Director of Operations, Suzanne Badoux, who was at NCRC every day for long hours making sure to communicate early and effectively, overseeing the entire snow removal process. We couldn’t have done it without these special community members.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t say a special thank you to all of you - our families. Thank you for your patience during this entire ordeal. Each snow event (while never being quite the same) is a great learning opportunity for us and we certainly have learned a great deal. We will take our lessons from this event and apply them to the next snowfall (next year!). Although the snow storm was a bit of a nuisance it was also a very special gift, just watch your children as they play in it.

The SOS Team

01.20.2016
When you take a moment to really think about it, the development that happens during the preschool years is nothing short of miraculous. Preschool children have bursts of growth in every aspect of their lives, from the seemingly mundane task of mastering a zipper to properly holding a pencil, or learning to navigate social relationships outside of their homes. They are learning to regulate themselves, developing the ability to shift from times of great activity to more restful periods conducive to learning. They are perfecting the language skills that will be the building blocks of reading and all of this happens in just three short years. Understanding that development and making sure everything is in place to support it is, arguably, part art and part science.

With all of this important work going on, it would follow that the best possible support system needs to be in place to make sure everything unfolds in the ideal environment. NCRC is uniquely situated to do this great work because not only do we have incredible teachers, but we have a support team of gifted professionals - our SOS Team. The SOS team is comprised of Judith Wides, our School Counselor & Special Needs Coordinator, Marian Brice, our Occupational Therapist, and Becky Márquez, our Speech & Language Pathologist. Together, this team of talented women combines art and science to support this critical period of development.

Today, for instance, was Wacky Wednesday at NCRC. On the face of it, the day is full of fun and frivolity. Behind the scenes, however, Marian Brice and our Movement Teacher, Cathy Parker, are constantly thinking of ways to challenge our children’s physical development - such as crawling through things or jumping over them. These activities help our students reach developmentally appropriate physical milestones. If you had a chance to watch Marian prepare for Finger Fun club today, you would have been amazed at the amount of planning and creativity that goes into each lesson.

In addition to active bodies, preschool children have absorbent minds. They are increasing their vocabulary exponentially and learning to hear and manipulate language, developing the kind of phonemic awareness that is a necessary precursor to reading. Becky Márquez helps children gain these necessary skills in a variety of unique and creative ways. She also helps teachers and parents differentiate between typical language development challenges and possible difficulties in this area. In other words, she can tell the difference between a red herring and red flag as it relates to their language learning.

Judith Wides makes sure that relationships between NCRC students and adults in the NCRC community are positive and supportive of the learning environment. She provides the resources that families need to navigate a number of difficult life circumstances, such as the illness of a family member, the death of a pet, challenges in making schoolyard friends, or having night terrors.

Our SOS team knows every NCRC child and family and works with them and with teachers to make sure every child’s needs and progress toward goals are understood and monitored. Their role is so important here at NCRC that we have created an information sheet just about them; it will be coming home in your child’s backpack tomorrow.

It takes a team of exceptional professionals from a variety of disciplines to serve all the needs of children and families during this crucial stage of their development. We are grateful to have our SOS team - NCRC simply would not be the same without it.

What Makes A School Great

01.13.2016

My job has a lot of “cool factors.” No really, it does. One of my favorite of these is visiting other schools - especially schools I’ve never been to before. I’ve visited almost 100 schools over the years - here, in the US, and abroad. Sometimes I visit to evaluate, sometimes I visit to just observe and learn. Also, I’ve taught in several different schools and headed a few others as well. So, that being said, I definitely consider myself a connoisseur of schools.

Recently, I visited a school that I expected to go against my predilection toward a more progressive education. It appeared very traditional from its materials.

The building was old - ancient, actually - and it appeared tattered and torn from the outside. But once I was inside, things changed dramatically. The teachers were so proud to show me what they had done to this old building in an effort to create a great space for children, to demonstrate to the children that they valued them. They had hand-built lofts and painted clouds that they had created - soft corners - but from every corner you could feel the love and care that went into creating each classroom, and thereby, the school. What it lacked in edifice it made up for in love for the children, dedication to the mission, and really good teaching.

I fell in love with the little school, a school that could not have been farther from what I believe to be the foundation of a good education if it had been placed on Mars. But ultimately, the important things were all there.

Through all of these experiences I have come to learn a few things. Each good school has its own personality and vision, its own joys and weights to carry; each can express those beliefs in a variety of ways. But the most important things that all good schools have in common are the bones on which they are built - gifted teachers that understand and deeply love their students and are dedicated to good pedagogy… Just like at NCRC. And just like at many of the great schools in the DC area. So when the time comes to think about the schools that might come after NCRC - and that may be right now! - please remember to think not only about what makes a school good, but also what makes a school right for your child.

If It Ain't Broke...

01.06.2016
“An understanding heart is everything in a teacher, and cannot be esteemed highly enough. One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feeling. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”

- C.G. JUNG

Welcome back! It’s a new year at NCRC with a renewed focus, but the same commitment and dedication. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday with lots of time to relax and enjoy some time with family and friends.

We have a very erudite community. It’s a fact, and one of my greatest pleasures. So, it didn’t surprise me in the least when, during the holidays, I received lots of emails from parents and faculty with articles to read (or re-read). I almost don’t have to worry about keeping up with the latest information about education or child development because if I wait long enough, someone will send it to me - and I love it.

Many of the articles I’ve been receiving recently, however, seem to follow a similar theme and, taken together, are quite disturbing. You’ve probably seen the headlines: “The new preschool is crushing kids” or “The drive for success is making our children sick” - just to name a few. These articles suggest that maybe, in an effort to be better, faster, and stronger, we have begun to slowly but surely destroy the thing we love most. They suggest that the act of educating our nation’s children - which should be a source of immense joy for them - may actually be taking the “love” out of learning, and doing so with disastrous results.

For almost 90 years NCRC has been protecting what we believe is a sacred space - early childhood. We understand that “play is the work of the child,” that the young child’s brain is not just a smaller version of an adult brain, but something completely different. The child’s brain is unique and has completely different needs, one of these fundamental needs being a childhood spent experiencing and engaging with life rather than merely studying it. So, as the rest of the world vacillates between adding more “academic rigor” or “seat work,” we will continue to do what we do best, helping to develop curious, independent, and compassionate human beings in an environment where they are loved.

For those of you interested in reading on:

“Is the Drive for Success Making Our Children Sick?”

“The New Preschool is Crushing Kids

FEBRUARY

Where There's Goodness, There's Magic!

02.24.2016
What happens when you combine a beautiful venue, great food, and delightful conversation? You get a party. But what happens when that party is populated by a dedicated, mission-focused, compassionate community? The sky's the limit.

The auction was an amazing event, filled with moments I will keep in my heart for a lifetime. It was an evident demonstration of what makes NCRC such a wonderful place - not just for children, but for their families as well. We raised a great deal of money for an excellent cause, and had a wonderful time doing it.

I had the opportunity to speak with many of you on Saturdaynight; I loved hearing about your experiences at NCRC and why it was so special for your child and your entire family. One parent related an experience to me, however, that seemed to say what I have been feeling in my heart about NCRC for a long time. She said that her daughter called NCRC her "Cinderella school." When she asked her daughter what she meant, she replied (borrowing a line from Cinderella):

...because mommy, where there's kindness, there's goodness; and where there's goodness there's magic!
I could not have said it better.

NCRC is full of compassionate, kind, and thoughtful people who recognize that laying a strong foundation in the early years is what creates roots for growth... the kind of growth that has the power to change the world.

Thanks to all of you - our auction chairs, donors, faculty, and all of the attendees. Thank you for believing in us and supporting us the way you do. Most importantly, thank you for making NCRC magical.

Roots To Grow

02.17.2016

Believe it or not, spring is on its way. Yes, we just had almost 3 inches of snow and an ice storm but the signs of spring are in the air. One of the real signs of spring for me is when the new seed catalogues begin to arrive. I've always loved the idea of gardening but, frankly, I'm pretty terrible at it. Looking wistfully at seed catalogues is about as close as I get. I remember planting seeds in my preschool classroom when I was a young teacher. I would have the children plant lima beans in a cotton ball between two sheets of glass. The glass made the entire growing process visible. The seed would send out its roots very quickly and the children would be amazed at the magic that happened, seemingly overnight. The roots were strong with the ability to connect to the soil, stabilizing the plant so that it could grow and produce its fruit.

Roots are a wonderful metaphor for so many things, but this is especially true for this year's auction theme - Roots to Grow: Giving Children a Foundation to Blossom. The theme is an expansion of what prominent newspaper editor W. Hodding Carter II said (he had heard it from another woman): "There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of those is roots, the other wings."

We know that the gift of a high quality preschool education can be foundational; it gives children their roots, their foundation for further learning. The auction this weekend allows children whose families have limited means to attend NCRC. This, in turn, allows us to create the diverse school community that is vital to our mission. Our mission is our lifeblood, coursing through everything we do and every decision we make. It is the rich soil of our garden. The Tuition Assistance Fund has allowed us to fulfill this mission, to welcome a wide variety of children, since 1928.

We value diversity of thought, culture, development needs, perspectives, and backgrounds. As we noted in the letter we recently sent, "These [differences] are exactly what make NCRC so special to us. We are an inclusive community. We welcome people not despite their differences in relation to the 'norm' or the status quo, but rather because of them. We value the thread that each and every person at NCRC brings to the cumulative fabric of our special community."

The auction helps to make all of this possible. So I look forward to seeing you there as we celebrate the community that we are building together.

Intelligence, Creativity And Perception

02.10.2016
Sometimes I make mistakes… it’s true (you may not have noticed since I keep it so well hidden.)

Sometimes I read too quickly or I try to do too many things at a time, and then I mess up. It happens, I’m human. While mistakes can be embarrassing - and many times, extremely inconvenient - most times, a mistake is actually an opportunity for growth. If I take the time to really think about it, a mistake can often highlight a flaw in my reasoning. During these times, the “mistake” helps me re-calibrate my compass, it helps me see when I’m beginning to veer a bit off course.

This happened to me recently while reading an IQ test. I misread the test and that error initially moved me to an incorrect conclusion. Now, it didn’t cause the zombie apocalypse, but the interpretation had the effect of coloring my perception. Here is where “recalibration” comes in. It would have been so easy for me to allow a number to influence my opinion; but if I look at the test for what it is - a simple snap shot (a flawed one at best) of the person’s ability on that very test at that specific period of time - then my perceptions change. All of this caused me to reflect, to think about our entire society’s fixation with IQ scores and tests of “intelligence,” in general. One reversal of a number could heavily impact our beliefs about a person’s social outcome, and even their success in life.

Enter Adam Grant’s recent article in The New York Times, “How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off.” Grant makes a compelling argument for looking at genius and creativity in a slightly different way. IQ fundamentalists would have us believe that intelligence is rare in the universe - that it is fixed, innate, and immutable, that the score defines the person. But, Grant argues that “child prodigies rarely become adult geniuses who change the world.” He goes on to suggest that instead of pressure, and drilling, and overscheduling, that what actually supports creativity is giving children space and time. It would follow that instead of fixating on the score or preparing for the test, that the real work in raising a creative child - a child who might change the world - is to rejoice in who they are and let them grow to be their best selves.

So, what happens when we see intelligence as complex, dynamic, and unique instead of rigidly defined and measurable? How would this new broadened definition affect how we interact with our children, how we measure success, and how we parent?

Interview: Judith Wides on Inclusion at NCRC

02.03.2016

I had an opportunity to sit with Judith Wides, our School Counselor, and talk about the importance of inclusion at NCRC. Here’s a window into our conversation.

WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THIS WORK IN GENERAL - INCLUSION IN PRESCHOOL?
Some of it has to do with the influence of my family. There are many educators in my family who have worked with children with special needs. I have a cousin who ran a magazine for years that was all about working in the field of Special Education. His sister was the Dean of Special Education at the University of Indiana and her whole career was focused on inclusion. They were role models for me. But probably the most important influence has been the work I’ve done over the years in all the varied settings; it’s always been clear to me that children with special needs - children with learning differences, etc. - have a lot to gain from being around typically developing children. And that typically developing children have a lot to gain from them.

WHAT MAKES INCLUSION AT NCRC SPECIAL?
I love the way we do it here at NCRC because the expectation is that everyone is a member of the community. I love that we differentiate, very visibly, and on purpose - here in the classroom. And, because of this, when children leave here they have a sense that their differently-abled peers may be different but they are their friends, their peers. I love this- that one child may need to take the elevator to get outside but she can play and wants to play just as much as the next kid. I love that we differentiate right in front of the children. Someone may need a fidget toy or the “break -bucket.” We talk to kids about what they need for their bodies, what they need for their engines. Our teachers are modeling compassion and patience with all of the students and with each other. They are genuinely interested authentically in the child as an individual and how to support that child in being part of the community.
It’s important that we do it at the preschool age because now is the time that children are developing empathy and compassion. And I think we are doing “citizenship building” here. Preschool is where we learn how to live in community.

HOW CAN PARENTS SUPPORT OUR INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY?
I think having parents be as honest as they can be about what they don’t know and asking questions. We can do more to support parents in broadening their learning about the differences we might see in the children here. I think that having honest conversations is really important about things like: ‘How do you have a play date with a child who is physically or differently-abled?’ ‘How do you accommodate that child and how not to be afraid to say “does she need help in the bathroom?”’ Just being emotionally brave in that way. It takes feeling like you’re in a supportive environment and it takes having the information you need. It also takes increasing awareness of the range of differences. It’s okay to say “I don’t know,” or to ask lots of questions. And we need to give people lots of opportunities to practice that.

WHAT ELSE CAN PARENTS DO TO SUPPORT INCLUSION, BOTH SOCIALLY AND EMOTIONALLY?
The most important thing is to spend time together with our children with special needs and to do it in such a way that all parties involved are comfortable. Start small-individual or small group play dates that are activity focused.

From my experience I also think that people shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions of parents of children who are obviously differently-abled. They shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions because you have to remember that this parent has already been asked a lot of questions and knows a lot about their kid and would love to tell you about their child because, bottom line, they love their kid. And they want their kid to have fun and to have friendships and they get asked questions all the time by medical professionals and service providers, so there probably isn’t a question you could ask that they haven’t already thought about the answer to.

Wise words from a wise woman. Thank you, Judith. Please watch The Sandbox for more information on building an inclusive community.

MARCH

Spring is Here!

03.23.2016

Classroom gardening projects, shed jackets lined up on the playground fence, and plans for spring break... It's definitely spring time at NCRC. I've spoken to many of you (parents, teachers, and children alike) and what you all will be doing during Spring Break runs the gamut - from a trip Florida to visit the Kennedy space center, to trips overseas, to taking a much needed "staycation." Everyone seems to be doing something that will allow for rejuvenation, exploration, and a good bit of fun. I'm thrilled to hear about everything you're doing because many of you are doing it together with your family. Your children will have the opportunity to have you to themselves, to share their world with you. So, enjoy your time away, however you spend this precious moment. Take the time to break from your routine and let go of the schedule, and connect with your child and each other.

One of my favorite reads this month was Yale Professor Erika Christakis's book, The Importance of Being Little: What Preschoolers Really Need from Grownups. It is a fascinating book on so many levels.
Christakis urges parents, teachers-in fact, every one who cares about children-to
"...deepen their connections to the young children in their care."
On the surface, it sounds like such a simple idea. But in our hurried society, where we try to do so much in the little time we have, actually making the kinds of connections that are important to children is becoming increasingly difficult. These types of connections take time, like the time it takes to talk face-to-face about things that interest them. Time to ask questions and provide answers and as Christakis highlights so beautifully. Time to - using the concept attributed to Soviet Psychologist, Lev Vygotski - scaffold learning by
"...offering the right level of learning support to take a child's knowledge to the next level."
Take the opportunity during Spring Break to make the kinds of connections that will help your child stretch their learning. And, if you don't mind, send us pictures of how you're making these connections. With your permission, I'd love to see and share.

I wish you a safe and happy Spring Break, however you spend it.

The Power of Storytelling

03.16.2016
My mother is a wonderful storyteller. She would tell stories of her childhood, about how she met my father, about her days in Alaska. My favorite stories were always about me. Every story was magical and every story would begin with 'Once upon a time..." I had that same tradition with my own children. To this day, they will ask to hear the stories that I know they've memorized. Stories and storytelling are at the core of what makes us human. In fact, noted British Literary Scholar, Barbara Hardy, stated, "We dream in narrative, daydream in narrative, remember, hope...love in narrative." (1978) The narrative or the story can connect straight to our hearts and help connect us to each other.

Children are innately amazing storytellers. Vivian Gussin Paley, qualitative researcher and author, noted,
Amazingly, children are born knowing how to put every thought and feeling into story form. If they worry about being lost they become the parents who search.... Even happiness has its plot and characters."

I was in a classroom today when one of the children sat next to me and began to tell me their story. It was full of alligators and waterfalls and it was beautiful. Stories are a great way for children to unleash their imaginations, to let fairies live in a land with dinosaurs who eat green spaghetti and swim in waters beneath the moat of a castle. There are no grown-up censors when children are creating their imaginary worlds inhabited by the characters that live in their mind's eyes.

Oral storytelling is yet another way to communicate with children. With nothing between the storyteller and the listener, there is direct contact between the two, thereby somewhat removing the structure of reading from a book. Eye-to-eye communication, acting out storylines and dialogues, and other elements such as singing can be incorporated into oral storytelling. It's a great way to pass down important stories about family history and recollections. (For an example of the benefits of Oral storytelling, please see this Young Children article entitled"Oral Storytelling/Building Community through Dialogue, Engagement, and Problem Solving")

In honor of the many ways that storytelling brings a vibrancy and shared love of words and language to our lives, I encourage you to plan activities with your child for World Storytelling Day, scheduled for Sunday, March 20th. Tell your story and listen to theirs. It will bond you together and create moments that will last a lifetime. Just ask my children.

Removing Barriers

03.09.2016

You probably saw the Google Doodle on its homepage yesterday, reminding us that it was International Women's Day (IWD), "a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity."

As a woman, I wish we didn't need such a day.

As an educator, I'm delighted we have it.

I wish we didn't need such a day because our need of it is based on the inequality of women and it calls national attention to this inequality in the hope of resolving it.

As an educator, I know we need to raise awareness of some facts. For instance, according to an article on Fortune.com, the gap between men's and women's pay between 2014 and 2015 actually grew. Progress on wage inequality seems to have lost momentum, with a tiny 0.3% narrowing of the gap between 2006 and 2015. Women's representation in government offices is equally uneven, according to The Center for American Women and Politics. What sort of message does this send to our children? Should one group aspire less, settle for not as much, and not strive because it won't matter? Not to my way of thinking. And it's not just about gender.

I feel a special connection to the topic of women. My dissertation looked at the question of women and leadership in early childhood settings. I was and continue to be interested in gaining a deeper understanding of how women identified as successful early childhood leaders understand what it means to be a leader.

The theme of this year's IWD campaign was parity. The way I see this, it's not an either/or, male/female issue. If men and boys were being slighted, I'd advocate for changing that, too. Or people who are denied opportunities because of their socio-economic status or a host of other things that makes each child unique. Equalizing women's opportunities does not take opportunities away from men. If you look at the history of women's issues, significant progress has been made. To me, it's similar to other areas where we have collectively found something to be misaligned, and we have collectively raised consciousness about the issue to make things right.

By providing opportunities to everyone, you teach children early that hard work pays off and that learning is the key to success, no matter how they measure it. It opens up their worlds. And much like our commitment to inclusion in our school, by raising awareness and promoting parity for women, it's not just girls who will benefit. Boys will see that empowering people is a good thing, that a little competition makes for a better final 'product,' and that collaboration with people different than themselves offers a wider perspective. To me, it's not about being a feminist. It's not about being a woman's advocate. It's about removing barriers so that every child can be successful.

To Test or Not To Test

03.02.2016


...That seems to be the question du jour when talking about the importance of children's social-emotional skills in the context of educational settings. At NCRC, however, we are focusing not on the test, but instead on the value of the whole child and the wide range of cognitive and social-emotional skills we are trying to foster early in their academic experience.

A New York Times article entitled, "Testing for Joy and Grit? Schools Nationwide Push to Measure Students' Emotional Skills," addresses the recent update to federal education law that requires states to not only include academic measures when judging school performance, but to also measure skills such as self-control and conscientiousness. This social-emotional learning, also called "grit," a term and a concept popularized by Dr. Angela L. Duckworth, an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and a MacArthur Fellow, became of interest to schools around 2011, according to the article. At that time, an analysis of 213 school-based programs teaching such skills found they improved academic achievement.

The article notes that schools in eight California districts will test students on their social-emotional skills, "...ones that might be described as everything you should have learned in kindergarten but are still reading self-help books to master in middle age."

There's quite a bit of controversy about efforts to measure these skills. In fact, Dr. Duckworth and Dr. David Scott Yeager, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and a Fellow at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, wrote a paper entitled "Measurement Matters: Assessing Personal Qualities Other Than Cognitive Ability for Educational Purposes." The paper doesn't question the importance of non-cognitive abilities. As a matter of fact, one of its conclusions is:

There is a scientific consensus in the behavioral sciences that success in school and beyond depends critically on many attributes other than cognitive ability."

Rather, it questions how to accurately measure non-cognitive qualities properly.

We know that emotional skills are important-so important, in fact, that some schools are trying to test for it. Here at NCRC we make sure to teach these skills to our students because we know they will help them - rather than get into the debate about measuring these skills. To this end, we have taken the best of the grit research and woven the teaching of it seamlessly throughout our curriculum. We model this behavior every day. Quite simply, we believe that being a good, kind person is at the core of what it means to be truly "educated."

APRIL

The Building Blocks

04. 06.2016

An interesting report was recently released by the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), a think tank based at Stanford University. Using a meta-analysis of nearly a decade of research on the topic of high quality preschools, The Building Blocks of High-Quality Early Childhood Education Programs details a list of the 10 things that should be included for a preschool to be considered high quality. This is important because while the research demonstrates the importance of early childhood education, it is clearly high quality early childhood programs that make the difference.

As a member of the NCRC community, you certainly understand, firsthand, the value of this high quality start in a child's educational journey. The report grounds this knowledge in a number of studies that demonstrate the benefits of high-quality programs, including studies out of Chicago Child-Parent Centers, as well as ongoing studies of the preschool programs in Tulsa and Boston, and New Jersey's Abbott Preschool Program, among others.

The list goes on to name important things like well-trained teachers, meaningful family engagement, small class sizes, etc. which are all integral to this notion of quality. But, what was most interesting to me was something that, while included in the list as something to be measured, should have received more of the focused attention. The research is replete with studies that highlight the importance of a dynamic interaction between a child and their teacher. It is about the nurturing, caring, personal relationships that occur in the classroom; the love that underlies that relationship. When you have a chance to witness it firsthand, it is truly something remarkable to behold but is not so easily measured.

I'm a researcher, so I really get the science of early childhood development and education. In fact, I love the science behind my work. But, as a classroom educator and administrator who has spent my entire career in classrooms, I also understand the things you can't document quite so easily. Those seem to always be the things that make us human, in all the glory that entails.

NCRC Earth Week

04.13.2016

One of our most noble tasks as parents is to help our children become caring, compassionate adults. We want them to understand the importance of taking care of others - other people, other animals, other bugs and critters. As adults, we model what it means to "be nice" and to care about and for others. Children have dolls or action figures that are an early substitute for living beings and practice, through pretend play, these important skills. This is a stepping stone to help children reach out beyond themselves and to recognize the worth of people and things. Early childhood is the perfect place for this to start.

Early childhood is also a perfect place to start the conversation about the environment, its finite nature, and the need to respect and take care of it.

The notion of formally teaching children about the environment and assessing their responsibility to take care of it is a relatively recent concept, believe it or not. In fact, it appears to have begun in the 1970s, when researchers Covey K. Bryant of the Carbondale, Illinois school district and Harold R. Hungerford from the Science Education Center, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, found that that they were unable to identify "empirical studies dealing with environmental education concept formation and values clarification with respect to kindergarten children."(Click here for more.)

The study relates some interesting findings, but most importantly, it concludes,

....children can form concepts concerning issues and citizenship responsibility with respect to those issues."

Next week, during Earth Week April 18 - 22, NCRC will highlight its commitment to sustainability by supporting children's natural sense of wonder in the environment. The Lorax will return to NCRC to remind us all to take care of nature. We believe early childhood is the perfect time to broach the concepts of sustainability and community. Every day our students are learning about the world around them. Now we want to teach them to become responsible stewards of it.

Exploring Parental Roles

04.21.2016

After 20 years as an educator with more than half of that spent in a leadership role, and as a parent myself, I think I can say with no small measure of authority that the role of "parent" has changed dramatically over the years. There are lots of reasons for this; the world has changed and with it, so have expectations. And we simply know so much more.

One area where we've witnessed substantive change is in how we view the relationships between parents and children. We know that spending quality time with children is beneficial to both the adult and the child; everyone grows and shares. Adults can always learn to listen more, to change the nature of the interaction with a child so it is more meaningful, memorable, and everlasting. But, how that looks has changed over the years. Frank Bruni highlights this in an interesting opinion piece in The New York Times, "Building a Better Father."

The article focuses on a book written by 52-year-old political journalist, Ron Fournier, called Love That Boy, which speaks to the nature of fatherhood through a father/son road trip. When Fournier's son, Tyler, was diagnosed with Autism, Fournier came upon the idea of road trips as a means to connect with his son while building upon their shared love of history.

Bruni's piece is so much more than a review of a good book, it's an examination of the changing nature of fatherhood, drawing on his own personal experience.

"In Fournier I saw my two brothers, who don't adore their children any more than our father adored us but who do it with a gentler, tenderer touch, unafraid to broach discussions and display emotions that most men once shrank from."

Allan Shedlin, friend and consultant to NCRC's Dad Team, agrees with the points discussed in the NYT piece:
So much in it reflects many of the points made in our various NCRCDT sessions, including how wonderful it is that NCRC is one of the very few places that has a regular program for dad/granddads and their kids-way beyond the more common once-a-year 'donuts for dads' type programs or merely inviting dads to help construct a new playground," he says, adding NCRC's focus on dads and grandads is unique.
While the role of fathers and grandfathers in a child's life is changing and benefits all involved, the lessons from the enhanced relationship also occur with mothers and grandmothers. In fact, everyone who works with, spends time with, and loves children can take away great lessons from this. This week marks the final Fathers, Grandfathers, and Fatherly Figures Breakfast of the school year. We are so proud of the continued participation and engagement in this special program and we can only imagine the different programs our community will come up with moving forward, all celebrating and exploring the many important figures and relationships in our children's lives.

Parenting - Job vs Vocation

04.27.2016

Earlier this week I attended a program designed to start a dialogue around issues of social justice and inclusion. I was invited to this kick-off event at Beauvoir/The National Cathedral Elementary School because I had facilitated a workshop on the topic at the request of some of our past NCRC parents; that workshop served as a jumping off point for Beauvoir's initiative.

Highly regarded educator, author, and school consultant, Reverend Paula Lawrence-Wehmiller (also the sister of Dr. Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot), was the featured speaker and she began her talk with a host of stories from her childhood, reminding the audience of the importance of story. What I found most powerful, however, were her thoughts about parenting.

For Reverend Lawerence-Wehmiller, there is a distinct difference between viewing parenting as a job one has and viewing parenting as a vocation to which one aspires. When parenting is a job, she went on to explain, we see success as a goal and we look for the right way to say or do something. It becomes a checklist where we can simply check off the box and say, "We're done." Her point was that when we view it as our job to parent, we limit ourselves in ways that we not only don't expect, but also, don't want. But, when parenting becomes a vocation, it becomes something to which we aspire; there are few absolutes, only possibilities.

She paraphrased writer and Presbyterian minister, Frederick Buechner, who, when defining it, suggests that parenting as a vocation is, in fact, a calling where,

...your deepest gladness meets the world's deepest needs."

As I think of my own years of parenting (I have 3 adult children) I am sure that at times, especially in the early years, parenting was a job-and I barely hung onto it at that. I looked for the best way to diaper and discipline but, especially as the children became older and I became more confident, it was my highest calling and greatest joy. It was and remains something for which I am grateful every single day.

I wish you all, with the greatest humility, the opportunity to parent (and grandparent) as a vocation-with deep gladness and joy.

MAY

In Celebration of Teachers

05.04.2016

The National Education Association describes National Teacher's Day as
a day for honoring teachers and recognizing the lasting contributions they make to our lives."
This is Teacher Appreciation Week and everyone from the President of the United States, Barack Obama, to popular talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres, is either writing, blogging or tweeting about their appreciation for teachers. Teachers make an incredible difference in the lives of children in our community. They are the dynamic link between the child and the world, helping to create meaning, ignite curiosity, and inspire the human spirit. But how does this happen?

While there are a lot of pieces to this puzzle, one of the most important is human connection. It is the relationships that teachers develop daily with each child that elevate the 'work' of learning in a classroom to the realm of magic. James P. Comer, professor of child psychiatry at Yale University, says, "No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship."

NCRC faculty members take the time to develop and nurture the relationships with their students that make learning not only meaningful, but joyful, as well. I get a chance to observe these connecting moments daily-the hugs, giggles, and sharing of significant moments that form the very foundation of powerful relationships. It's no wonder that these kinds of relationships last a lifetime. I'm sure that when you remember your favorite teacher you remember how he or she made you feel. And it's also why when children remember their days at NCRC, they remember the teachers who changed their lives.

Every day should be teacher appreciation day. But until then, please join me in telling our fantastic NCRC teachers how much they mean to you during this week that celebrates their contributions.

Conversation about Inclusion with NCRC Speech Language Pathologist, Becky Márquez

05.11.2016

What brought you to NCRC?

NCRC just felt good to me. When I walked into NCRC, it felt warm. But because of my previous experience, it felt somewhat familiar at the same time. I had come from an elementary school model, where the kids had reading and writing issues. I wanted to catch them up to help them be successful. I thought that if they had had more experience with phonemic awareness at the preschool age they would have been in a better place when they finally got to me. At NCRC, I saw in real life what the research has said all along about the importance of early childhood.

Tell me about your experience with inclusion at NCRC?

Well, I live it and I breathe it every day. I know that inclusion happens here on a daily basis on a very deep level. From choosing materials that are appropriate for everybody or ensuring that everyone has access to materials that are appropriate for them, to decision making, we make sure we take into account the needs of all children. Taking that a step further, we include everybody in decisions. When we have our classroom teacher and SOS meetings, we are collaborative and we include each lens from which all the parties view the problem, including educators, counselor, and therapist lenses. When we have all the perspectives we are better able to make a plan for each child.

Does the SOS team work with all children?

Yes, it's one of the real strengths of our program. The SOS team works with everyone; some children need enrichment, some need intervention. Having a speech pathologist, a guidance counselor, and an occupational therapist working together and knowing that we have the best interest of children at the heart helps bring a coordinated, collective lens on each child as an individual and helps us make the best plan possible for his or her development.

Tell me about your particular lens of analysis?

I need to have a variety of lenses when I work with the children. I will have a plan of action for them but I have to look at more than their "speech and language needs." I have to be aware of their social emotional needs-are they accessible to me? Are they emotionally ready and receptive to the educational plan? If they are not emotionally regulated, I have to ask myself, what is it that they need? I have to be present for them. It's being able to read where they are emotionally. I have my plan or the activity that I want to present but that won't take precedence if they are not available emotionally. I will make sure that I support that need first in order to maximize the lesson I want for them. It's so important to establish that you are a safe person and that school is a safe place. Then the child is available to learn.

A Foundation for Success

05.18.2016
When my three children were young, I, like most parents, wanted them to grow up to be happy, healthy, and successful adults. But, I also remember feeling like I just didn't know enough. I read whatever I could, whenever I could and I listened to experts (including my mother, who is definitely an expert). It is one of the underlying reasons why I went into education. I wanted to know how to be the best parent and, ultimately, the best educator I could be. I still do. I know I'm not alone in this desire. As parents and caregivers, we want to know as much about our children as we can. What I've learned after raising three kids and overseeing countless others, is that while there is a lot of information to consider (maybe too much), what matters most can usually be boiled down to a few timeless facts. And, research seems to be bearing this out.

A Tech Insider article called Science Says Parents of Successful Kids Have These 13 Things in Common highlights several studies that, taken together, seem to form the "boiled down list of timeless facts." These are things that can be the foundation for a child's later success in life.

For instance, research suggests that having kids do chores around the house helps them later become employees who work well with others, understand what it means to struggle, and have more empathy for others, and are able to undertake tasks independently. This finding is based on information gleaned from the longest longitudinal study ever conducted, the Harvard Grant Study.
By making them do chores - taking out the garbage, doing their own laundry - they realize I have to do the work of life in order to be part of life,"

according to Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford University and author of How to Raise an Adult. Her comments came during a TED Talks Live event.

Other factors contributing to a child's success include developing social skills, valuing effort over avoiding failure and setting high expectations. It's an important list; it's also a very interesting list to me because many of the things listed are also characteristics of what is considered high quality early childhood education. More importantly, most of the items on this list are the very foundation of what we value at NCRC. We focus on the development of social skills, we help our young students see the value of supporting their classmates and community through classroom jobs. We believe in the development of independence - from having a child learn to put on their coat by themselves to having responsibilities in the classroom. We celebrate successes but help students learn from failure as well.

Having scientific evidence to hone our focus as parents and educators is fundamental, but having an institution and community to bring this all together at NCRC is priceless.

Pajamas on the Playground

05.25.2016

One of our neighbors stopped me as I came in this morning and said,

It looked like your families had a really wonderful time last night".

He was certainly correct-we did have a great time last night. It was the kind of night memories are made of and that is why everyone in the NCRC community looks forward to the Pajama Picnic for weeks. And last night did not disappoint.

For adults, the Picnic is an opportunity, perhaps, to relive quieter times when you were children. Maybe it conjures recollections of being able to sit outside, in pajamas, after your bath and just in time to watch the fireflies light up the yard. Or maybe it meant piling into the back of the station wagon-pillows and pjs and peanut butter sandwiches, too- to head to the drive in movie theater. Being out at night in your pajamas was something just a little bit daring, out of the ordinary, a break from the routine.

For children, it's a chance to have fun with peers and teachers and parents without distractions of daily routines. It's coming back to the playground after the school day in pajamas to play and sing and eat tons of pizza, to welcome the upcoming summer. It's also a little bit of a goodbye to the school year that will soon end.

Last night was the kind of night the Pajama Picnic founders likely had in mind when they envisioned the event. After seemingly endless days of gloomy weather, the weather was perfect. Mr. Lilo was enthusiastically welcomed back to NCRC to lead us in favorite songs and music, all of it timeless, beloved. And, as a result of the Susan Piggott Fellowship every family received Mr. Lilo's latest CD Singing for a Better World. In the years to come, this CD will undoubtedly transport you and your children back to NCRC and these happy, magical years.

If you missed receiving your special CD please check at the front office.

JUNE

Reflections

06.01.2016

As I was walking by a window the other day, I caught a glimpse of my reflection-always a sobering event. It's almost like confronting someone you sort of remember (who stole my younger self and replaced her with this mid-lifer? I wondered). I mentally reflected on the changes to the inner me since I came to NCRC as the brand new Head of School two years ago. I wondered, too, what this more gently-used Val would have said to that newer version when she started here.

This year's Val would tell last year's Val that while this is the hardest job she will ever love, it is by far the most rewarding. Watching children's eyes literally widen and their smiles broaden when they've learned something new is absolutely timeless and priceless. It never-I repeat, NEVER-gets old or tired. And it always, always restores my faith in this life-changing field and the work we do in it. I would tell the not-quite-as-seasoned Val that she will meet so many incredible families who care infinitely for their children and the community of which they are integral and valued members. And I'd be remiss if I didn't talk so fondly about the many thoughtful and inspired teachers who are so curious and creative and who will fill her days with new ideas, and old ideas with new applications.

"New Val," I would say. "You will learn some amazing things from some very talented individuals - teachers, parents and kids. You will laugh frequently and love deeply."

Most of all, I would tell her what I tell all of you - enjoy the ride.

In this last Wise Words of the school year, I want to take the opportunity to wish you all an incredible summer filled with adventure, respite and joy. For those of you who will be moving on this year, I wish that the peace and sense of community you've found here at NCRC continues with you to your next destination. You will always be a part of NCRC, and NCRC will always be a part of you. For those who will be joining us again next year-glad you're coming along for the ride. It will be amazing.

My wish for each of your children and for you [is] that NCRC will be the best school your child has ever attended. We will continue to do what we do best, helping to develop curious, independent and compassionate human beings in an environment where they are loved."

Dr. Val Wise

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