A Letter from Lisa (our Principal)
Dear members of the community,
I have been asked to articulate the ways in which P.S. 3 is “experimental.” This has turned out to be quite challenging because while, based on visitors’ observations, the school is atypical, it is our normal.
Our structures and attitudes grow organically out of several core underlying principles and practices.
- A school is essentially a collaborative venture. The vast majority of decisions are made collaboratively rather than top down. Depending upon the domain, they involve families, teachers, staff and students, or some combination of these groups.
- Individuals are valued. Each student and staff member is seen as having unique strengths and needs. The corollary is that no one should be disqualified for what s/he cannot yet do.
- Learning should be both joyful and productive. Children experience and interact with the world differently from adults. The unique experience of childhood is part of elementary school. So is learning to work hard, to be persistent, and to acquire the skills that will prepare students for their lives beyond elementary school. It is a balance that must be recalibrated on an ongoing basis.
- A school community is constantly changing. The members of the community come and go, the ones who remain learn and change. We must consider these changes and adapt to best meet the needs of our students on an ongoing basis.
- An attitude of mutual respect and problem solving is the norm. Staff work to model this and to facilitate its development among students. Families participate in solving community problems through participation in PTA committees and the ever-vibrant SLT.
- We bring an attitude of flexibility to an educational system that is increasingly rigid. Insofar as is practically and legally possible, we try to follow student need in our programming and instruction, rather than relying exclusively on pre-existing structures.
This applies to grade structure, which is reconsidered each year. Currently, we have five straight Ks (including an ICT), four straight 1st grades (including two ICTs), and one mixed grade K/1 classes. All eight of our 2nd and 3rd grade classes are mixed grades (half second graders, half third graders). We annually have a conversation with the K/1 and 2/3 teachers about the current social and instructional pros and cons of straight and mixed grade classes in order to determine our structure for next school year.
Flexibility applies to programming. We actually were using flexible programming prior to the Special Education “reform.” We attempt to make the best possible use of our staff talents to meet our student needs.
We have spent considerable time and effort constructing curriculum that integrates arts education. This is not the same as including arts education, but rather working both within disciplines and in interdisciplinary projects. This occurs in cluster rooms, classrooms, between the two, and using community resources. The arts provide an ideal access point to learning for many students, including those who may struggle in academic areas. They bring together disciplined study and practice with creativity. Our programming includes:
- Visual Art (DoE funded, PTA supplemented)
- Ceramics/Small group art (half classes, PTA funded)
- Dance: one full-time teacher (DoE funded) one 4.5 day/week teacher (grant funded)
- Music: taught by working musicians; one four-day/week teacher – mixed vocal/percussion ensembles, improvisation, composition, some music history and theory; one two/day week teacher – “troubadour” (PTA funded)
- Scientist and Artist in Residence program (SAIR) – mini-grants available to all classroom teachers to integrate specific scientific or artistic work into an aspect of their curriculum, program co-developed with parents (funded by PTA). Some examples include working with the American Institute of Architecture, playwrights, working with the Battery Conversancy Farm, a range of visual artists.
- Culinary Arts – The Cooking Room was developed in partnership with parents to take advantage of our inherited middle school science room. Classes work with chefs and parent volunteers using a formal curriculum to learn about the art and science of preparing healthy food.
We provide extra support to students with social differences. Based on observation of our classes several years ago, the Department of Education has provided us with the funding to support students in inclusive settings who are either on the Autistic Spectrum or exhibit similar behaviors. This support has helped build our staff’s knowledge and expertise.
Our approach to discipline is informed by both the practical necessities of daily life in a school community and the understandings gained from mindfulness education. Whenever possible, we work to develop structures that support students in learning to manage and control their school behavior (a social setting), rather than relying on a punitive approach.
I could continue, but I believe this gives you a picture of how we function. If you would like to visit, or to ask any questions, please do!
Principal, P.S. 3