At Turning Point School, we know the best way to optimize meaningful learning involves considering and attending to all facets of our students’ well-being – intellectual, social, physical, ethical, and emotional. By inspiring and challenging each student to find their unique equation within these five areas, we help them discover the core elements that fuel motivation and success.
Throughout their “career” at Turning Point, students have myriad opportunities to take on new challenges, adapt and overcome, and dig into what inspires them. By the time they graduate in Grade 8, they have developed their unique “positive equation” for success, which they take confidently into high school and beyond. While every equation is distinctive, what every Turning Point graduate shares is the proclivity to associate learning with positive experiences; for the rest of their lives, their brains will find reward in seeking out similar experiences.
When visitors come to our campus, I often hear a variation of, “Your students seem so happy!” Of course, we want a positive campus environment and love to see smiling faces. But moments of elation or excitement are only a small part of what we mean by “happiness.” When we foster students’ happiness, we are creating environments and giving them tools to navigate their worlds more resiliently and flexibly. Happiness does not mean the absence of stress or negative emotions, but the ability to experience them less frequently and to rebound more robustly when they arise.
Scientific research shows that empathy and resilience inoculate us against anxiety and depression. We feel most alive when we have positive emotional experiences combined with feelings of purpose and meaning. Too many children cite “money” and “fame” as their goals, unaware that when these goals are disconnected from a larger purpose, they will not lead to long-term fulfillment. It is not enough to have more stuff and more status; we have to have meaningful pursuits and challenges to be truly happy.
At school these past two weeks, I have seen many examples of how our teachers have begun to provide opportunities for students to develop habits and dispositions that make learning meaningful and direct students’ attention outside themselves. And, for older students, I see this happening beyond the ubiquitous technology that can isolate rather than connect.
I have enjoyed spending time with each division’s faculty and marvel at the thoughtfulness they bring to teaching and learning. I peeked in on the three Division Meetings last week, where teachers and administrators met after dismissal to discuss pedagogy and to share ideas and experiences.
- Middle School faculty discussed specific ways to engage students by connecting learning with emotionally resonant issues.
- Elementary faculty shared activities, some prompted by their summer Responsive Classroom training, to enhance Back-to-School Night with experiential learning experiences for parents.
- Primary faculty discussed key principles of early childhood development and learning, and shared examples of students’ growth and ways to support a child as they move from one skill to the next.
The through-line in all three meetings centered on the various ways we make learning relevant by honoring the emotional connections students make with teachers, and with lessons and content that truly matter to them.
Faculty have also spent time staying informed about current research and best teaching practices. Professional development has included training on the rollout of our new reading program; our social-emotional approach, Responsive Classroom; the implementation of our second year of Writer’s Workshop; the development of a curricular scope and sequence regarding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; the institution of Developmentally Appropriate Milestones in our Primary Division, and our ongoing alignment of overall scope and sequence from Preschool through Grade 8.
All this preparation is paying off in myriad ways. Over the past two weeks, I have dropped in to several classes and enjoyed every minute: asking students to justify their answers on a math assessment, learning about the different ways you can “read” a book, listening to students reflect on their accomplishments and challenges over the past week, sitting with them on the red line, and even playing (and winning with my teammate, Nico!) a game of Sorry during free choice on Friday before dismissal.
I have observed the institution of habits and routines that will enhance students’ mastery of material and develop life-long skills. Thanks to our faculty’s willingness to continuously hone their craft and create positive environments for learning, our students are already experiencing resonant, engaging opportunities to reach new heights this year.
I look forward to sharing more of these experiences and observations with you as we continue our shared journey through this next year of your children’s growth and development. While the path will undoubtedly be paved with unknown victories and challenges alike, I can promise you that nine months from now, your children will be even better versions of their already uniquely-wonderful selves. Thank you for inviting us to be part of that journey.
Head of School