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Celebrate Differences

If you have emailed me, you may have noticed my email signature line quote that reads, “When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower” (Alexander den Heijer). This one phrase perfectly sums up my educational philosophy. As an educator, I believe that children are beautiful, whole, and perfect beings. They are messy, they are works in progress, and they represent the wonder of possibility. I believe that it is not the child that needs to be somehow “fixed,” rather, that when our children are given the right opportunities, support, kindness, and genuine care, they begin to blossom, they begin to move more fully into their potential.

As an educator, I find myself immersed in the “how” and the “what” of the education of young minds. For example, how do we increase academic engagement for students with learning disabilities, and what instructional practices will best suit the students’ unique learning needs? Sometimes the “why” is more nebulous. Why do we do what we do? I believe that in order to truly be successful, we must more fully understand our “why.” This is true for me as an educator and is just as important for The Craig School community to understand.

A school’s mission statement and core values drive the “why” of the community. These form the basis for our decisions. I would argue that the most successful schools are, at their core, mission-driven, and purpose-focused. Just like the beacon atop a lighthouse illuminates a path in the midst of the unknown, our mission and values guide decisions both great and small. As I begin a new chapter as the Head of School at The Craig School it is of utmost importance that together, we are reminded of our shared “why.”

At The Craig School we acknowledge learning differences, we understand them, and we provide the instructional strategies and supports that allow the student to grow and learn. We believe in a firm foundation of academic knowledge and higher-order thinking skills; we believe in whole child development and that social, emotional, and moral growth are integral to a student’s education; we believe that with the right environment and opportunities that all students can and will thrive. Our mission is focused on a strategy-based, comprehensive, and challenging education that is designed for the unique academic needs of students with learning disabilities while also celebrating and bringing out each students’ aptitudes and strengths. To this end, fostering a child’s self-esteem and self-awareness is paramount.

I encourage you to take a moment to read through the Statement of Core Values of The Craig School and the Mission Statement of The Craig School. These are our collective “whys.” May they provide for you a light and a path forward as we work hand in hand to nurture the true potential and abilities of all of our students.

Learning Ally. Kahoot. Kami. IXL. Read & Write. Mindomo. You may have heard your child talking about, searching for, or even using one of these learning tools, some of which are instructional software (Kahoot, IXL, Mindomo) and others are known as Assistive Technology (Learning Ally, Kami, Read & Write). Assistive technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment, system, or device that increases, maintains, or improves a student’s ability to learn, whereas instructional software does not remove barriers to learning, but rather is used as a teaching tool for academic skills or content. COVID-19 has brought with it change to the field of education. One of the positive outcomes educators are experiencing is a renewed focus on innovative and collaborative pedagogies and the opportunity to take a closer look at the efficacy of the interventions, curriculum, and programs within a school. In our current hybrid model, where learning takes place synchronously in a physical school environment and through a virtual platform, our use of technology to enhance learning and reduce barriers continues to be a powerful tool in our teacher’s tool belt. I have had a few parents ask about the use of technology in the classroom. Here is a snapshot of the most commonly used assistive technology and educational software your child may experience at The Craig School: 

Assistive Technology 

Kami: Kami is an app that converts documents to PDF files. While this seems simple on the surface, its real strength is its use as a support for critical reading by allowing teachers to guide and comment on students’ annotations and by providing a platform for students to interact with text and to make meaningful connections among multiple texts. 

Learning Ally: Learning Ally is a digital library of human-read audiobooks, which include everything from classic literature to standard textbooks. Features include highlighted text synced with audio narration, speed control, bookmarking, highlighting, and note-taking. 

Read & Write: Read & Write is a literacy tool featuring text-to-speech options that support listening comprehension through engaging both auditory and visual senses, talk & type feature where students can take notes and record observations orally, highlighter option to support note-taking, and a word prediction tool to help develop writing skills, among other features.

Educational Software 

IXL: At The Craig School, IXL math and IXL language arts is used. Students are given questions on a specific standard in a core subject. When students successfully answer questions, they advance through the standard and the problems presented adapt in real-time to where they are in mastering the concept. It is a flexible tool used for mastery-based learning. 

Kahoot!: Gamification of learning is a trend in education and Kahoot is a useful tool toward that end. This app provides a platform for students or teachers to create, share, and play learning games or trivia quizzes. 

Mindomo: Mindomo is an app used for mind mapping. Mind mapping is a learning tool that   helps students master concepts through generating new ideas, synthesizing and structuring information, problem-solving, decision making, using evidence to support claims, and accurate planning.

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