A new year is upon us which often calls for reflection, both personally and professionally. It is a time to take inventory of our accomplishments and set goals for the future. FMS is no different in this respect, as we encapsulate the journey of 300 students, 250 families and 40 staff members. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight our most significant achievements during 2013 and share with you our vision for 2014.
Continuing education and professional development are key components in creating and maintaining a school driven by the knowledge, passion and observation of our teachers. It is important to inspire our teachers, who in turn inspire our students. Recent professional development initiatives have included:
Montessori Peace Rose
- Primary Peace curriculum training centering around Sonnie McFarland’s book Honoring the Light of the Child
- “Classroom Strategies and Teaching Techniques to Keep Children Engaged” presented by Betsy Hoke from Montessori Mentoring & More
- Sensorial training focusing on variations, extensions and constructive triangles
- “Essential Principles of the Montessori Classroom” emphasizing lower elementary students presented by Betsy Hoke from Montessori Mentoring & More
- Implementing the Writers Workshop model within the Montessori classroom (1st – 8th grade) presented by Kenna Armstrong, former head of lower elementary at the Barrie School
- ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) Conference; a global leader in developing and delivering innovative programs, products and services that empower educators to support the success of each learner
Future seminars for our staff will include the AMS (American Montessori Society) conference and a workshop sponsored by The Reading Writing Project featuring Lucy Calkins and Amanda Hartman.
The safety and security of our students is of the utmost importance and an area that has been targeted for improvement. Therefore, all employees participated in a workshop in August conducted by Minnix Training Services concentrating on potential “active threats” and simulating emergency drills. We have also contracted a national consultant, Secure Ed, to do an onsite analysis of our facility and emergency policies and procedures during 2014 which will move us closer to reaching our security goals. In addition, a keypad entry system has been installed at the main office door. The front door will be locked during operating hours (7AM-6PM), but the keypad overrides the magnetic lock thereby allowing families access to the campus. Gates will remain closed and locked at all times, filtering traffic through the office for better control and monitoring.
Technology is by far the biggest mountain we continue to climb, but we feel we have made great strides over the last twelve months. This year we improved the capability and speed of our bandwidth and expanded our network to handle the ever growing number of computers (10 laptops and 10 Chromebooks added in 2013) and student wireless devices brought onto the FMS campus. However, all this hardware is useless without the training to implement it. Therefore, we hosted a Chromebook workshop for our staff in August and the FMS technology committee conducts a monthly training workshop focusing on more efficient and effective communication; both internally among staff and externally with families. We have also assigned our teachers a “techie” partner as a resource to help them incorporate technology into the classroom, refine their WordPress blog, master Google Apps, learn tech-related skills and introduce them to applications that will serve their students and streamline record keeping. In 2014, we will be implementing software that will manage enrollment, student data, allergies, immunizations, payments and more. This upgrade will allow parents to extend their payments to 10 months for easier budgeting purposes, consolidate information by family rather than by student and make online payments from our website.
Nutrition, botany and gardening have been hot topics this year! In August, Dr. Maria Cavalle came to discuss the importance of nutrition with our staff along with ways to help students foster healthy habits. Our teachers quickly hopped on board, reinforcing good choices for classroom snacks and birthday circles campus-wide. Ms. April and Ms. Rosie also formed a committee comprised of parent volunteers to increase the children’s awareness of the benefits of gardening, resulting in the beautiful planter boxes in the courtyard for all grade levels. It was truly a team effort! Our intent is to expand on our foundation by creating more educational gardens behind the lower elementary classrooms and to develop a more functional learning environment in the primary outdoor classroom. In addition, refining our cultural curriculum (history and science) was accomplished in June 2013 in order for the teachers to do their summer planning and hit the ground running in August. The monthly units of study stayed consistent at the primary level; however, we streamlined our cycles between the elementary and middle school levels. This will facilitate rich, deep instruction targeting mastery learning while facilitating continuity between grade levels. Similarly, we are going through the same process with our writing program for 2014. We have established a writing committee that is evaluating all practices and curriculum used campus-wide. Our goal is to align our current practices with established writing curriculum guidelines that flow from primary through middle school in a more comprehensive and fluid fashion.
In closing, I would like to express my gratitude to the teachers for their dedication and hard work; the commitment they make goes far beyond the norm into the level of extraordinary. To quote Dr. Maria Montessori, I believe our teachers can say of their students that “I have helped this life to fulfill tasks set for it by creation.” Finally, we are truly grateful to all of our families for allowing us the privilege and opportunity of teaching your children and being a part of their academic journey.