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Welcome to Oak Knoll School! As you walk onto our campus, you will notice the focus is on the whole child. Learning is not limited to our classrooms, but is accessible everywhere on campus. You will see children of various ages working together and learning from each other. You will see students who love to read, as evidenced by the large number of students who stroll around book in hand. In the halls, you will hear children as young as five playing violin, or classes of kids engaged in a debate, or small groups of students discussing their reading. If you glance into the open doors of our classrooms, you will observe students using technology as a learning tool, students engaged in dynamic lessons, and individual students sitting with their teachers receiving targeted instruction. In the Science Lab you will see students working hands-on with experiments and asking and answering scientific questions. You will notice students taking the initiative in tending our school garden, planting seeds, and caring for the chickens. You will see students running the broadcast studio that produces the KNOL morning news and will watch the student tech crew doing sound checks behind the scenes at school-wide assemblies and performances. At recess, you will find children self-directed and participating in various games, sports and other activities, such as visiting our bustling school library. During this time, you might also notice groups of kids in the Gaga (Israeli dodge ball) pit, which students advocated for, designed according to geometric principles, and then built during math classes. Oak Knoll is a big school of over 700 students that feels small, personal and focused on its mission: every child an exemplary scholar, a valued friend, and a courageous citizen.
Smart is not something you are; smart is something you get through hard work. This slogan epitomizes the school’s Mindset philosophy. We teach Dr. Carol Dweck’s “Mindset” research to our students and parents. They understand that intelligence is not an asset determined at birth, and that the brain is pliable and capable of amazing accomplishments with practice and perseverance.
Oak Knoll believes in the power of relationships. We have implemented specific strategies for building long-term student/teacher relationships. Teachers tutor every student in the classroom who has not yet reached proficiency. Tutoring is designed around academic goals and is also used as a critical time to deepen relationships.
Developing exemplary scholars may be impossible without focusing on the whole child. We also emphasize students becoming valued friends and courageous citizens as part of our school mission. We keep rules to a minimum, emphasize self-directedness and creativity, and dig deeply into yearly school themes designed to build citizenship. We believe in restorative discipline (there has not been a school suspension in 4 years). Our fervent belief in inclusion for students with disabilities has helped create an appreciation and celebration of unique differences. As we take our students on this educational journey, we emphasize strategies that develop a deep sense of compassion and confidence. As one student put it, “I love how you can try new things here and nobody makes fun of you.”
As part of the Oak Knoll staff and part of the Oak Knoll parent community, Oak Knoll is obviously up close and personal to me. Like all parents, I am interested in what goes on at school, and because I work here I have the luxury of knowing. My goal with this ongoing column is to provide that knowledge to you. I plan to share some of the exciting behind-the-scenes information that goes into making Oak Knoll the wonderful school that it is. I hope you will find this update to be a quick-to-read, thought-provoking resource that equips you with enough information to strike up conversations with your kids about what goes on at Oak Knoll. Every column will be focused on part of our mission statement, hence the name...Mission Accomplished! We have a number of school initiatives going on at all times and each article will give you the inside scoop on something that you might not have otherwise known about Oak Knoll.
The banner above now hangs in the office. This is our visual representation of our school mission statement: Every child an exemplary scholar, a valued friend, and a courageous citizen. This year the Oak Knoll Staff and Site Council worked to bring our mission to life. The first step in this process included defining each part of the statement. For example, what three words would you use to describe an exemplary scholar? For our staff, an exemplary scholar is a person who is resourceful, curious, and has a growth mindset. You will find these attributes written above the "Exemplary Scholar" circle on our banner. With the help of the School Site Council, goals were then developed around our mission. Having the goals aligned to our mission helps us monitor the progress we are making in accomplishing our mission for each student. If you are interested in reading our 2013-14 Site Plan, including our school goals, click here.
One of our goals under Exemplary Scholar is that our 5th grade students will have a clear understanding of the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. Part of our action plan under this goal is to provide students the instruction and opportunities to understand, define and most importantly, develop a growth mindset. This goal is based on Carol Dweck's research in her book Mindset. In 2006, Dr. Carol Dweck published Mindset, asserting that intelligence and other human attributes are not determined at birth. Achievement and ability are flexible and can be influenced by effective hard work. Learners are identified as those who have either a "fixed" or a "growth" mindset. Students with a growth mindset embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, see effort as the path to mastery, and learn from coaching, criticism and mistakes. Those with a fixed mindset avoid challenge and seek out easy tasks that confirm their view of themselves as superior, and collapse when confronted with failure. A central tenet of Dweck's research is that beliefs about the self and one's abilities influence behavior and subsequent educational outcomes, and beliefs can be changed. She demonstrated through decades of research that people could be influenced in the direction of a growth mindset. Once mindset changed, behavior changed accordingly. In some studies, encouraging a growth mindset greatly improved academic outcomes.
As part of this work, our School Counselor, Nicole Scott, and our School Psychologist, Jenny Ryan, have started a Friday KNOL segment called Brain Time. Currently they are teaching the kids about various parts of the brain. This will lead us into improving our students' growth mindset. "Mistakes are great, have a positive attitude, believe in yourself, learn new things, stretch your brain and challenge yourself," are all messages Brain Timedelivers every Friday morning to all of our students. Along these same lines, we recently purchased Carol Dweck's book as well as the children's book Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak for every classroom. At Oak Knoll we believe smart is NOT something you are, but rather something you get through hard work and dedication. Teachers embed this philosophy in their lessons and students are encouraged to try new things and take risks with their learning.
- Ask your kids if they have seen Brain Time or read the book The Fantastic Elastic Brian in their classroom. Can they explain the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset?
- Next time your child says they can't do something, make sure you remind them of my favorite word...YET! "You can't do it YET, but with practice you will do it."
- As parents we have to model when things are hard for us. Set a good example when taking on a challenge. Sometimes our kids think everything should come easy to them because they think it is that way for us.
- It's never too late to develop a growth mindset!
I want to take this opportunity to open my door to you. Please use me as a resource on your Oak Knoll journey. Feel free to get in touch with me at any point with any questions, concerns, or better yet new ideas!