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Prioritizing Student Wellness

Social-Emotional Learning & Support

Rowland Hall is committed to teaching the whole child. We recognize that to be successful academically, your student must also have the skills necessary for social and emotional well-being.

We offer a robust social-emotional learning (SEL) program that builds skills around empathy, identifying and managing strong emotions, peacefully problem-solving, and respectfully disagreeing. We encourage students to use these skills to show compassion, kindness, perseverance, and cooperation. Plus, students are proactively supported by teachers who have received SEL training, and by our own in-house experts: we have social-emotional support counselors in each division, because when adults meet regularly to discuss each one of their students, every child is well-known and no one slips through the cracks.

Related Programs

Middle schoolers read books and analyze characters as one means of social-emotional learning.

Social-Emotional Learning & Support: Why it Matters

Social-emotional skills empower students to make friends, resolve conflicts, and step confidently into new experiences. As students mature and enter our middle and upper schools, these skills help them decrease their anxiety, so that they can increase their academic performance.

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Social-Emotional Learning & Support at All Ages

Social-Emotional Learning & Support Stories from Fine Print Magazine

First-grade teacher Susanna Mellor leading morning meeting.

On a Thursday in November, Susanna Mellor’s first-grade class was seated in a circle, ready to begin their morning meeting. That day, they started with a pinky greeting: everyone hooked fingers, forming a chain, and then Susanna turned to one of the students next to her. “Good morning, Thomas,” she began. The salutation passed around the circle, ending with a hearty, full-group welcome: “Good morning!”


Morning meeting is one of several practices recommended by Responsive Classroom, a student-centered approach to social and emotional learning (SEL) and effective classroom management. Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus explained that the division started utilizing Responsive Classroom in 2016 as a way to support Rowland Hall’s long-standing commitment to SEL, which is associated with higher academic achievement, improved teacher-student interactions, and higher-quality instruction.

Responsive Classroom gives teachers the tools to create truly joyful, safe, and inclusive classrooms. More importantly, it gives students more responsibility and ownership in the process of building a community of kindness, respect, and learning.—Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus

“Responsive Classroom gives teachers the tools to create truly joyful, safe, and inclusive classrooms that help our students thrive,” he said. “More importantly, it gives students more responsibility and ownership in the process of building a community of kindness, respect, and learning with their classmates.”

Morning meeting achieves this by engaging young learners in a welcoming atmosphere at the start of each school day. In addition to an inclusive greeting, the meeting includes a moment of sharing, a group activity, and a daily message. Whatever the day’s focus, teachers use the meeting to make sure each child is recognized and participating in the class.

“Responsive Classroom practices help build confidence and ease anxiety by fostering a sense of belonging and significance,” Susanna said. And, she added, as the school year progresses, its rewards multiply. “When they listen to each other, students feel that they matter. I see new friendships begin to bud, classmates work comfortably and easily together, and students take risks as they share ideas in class discussions.”

The Responsive Classroom Approach

Responsive Classroom, first developed by the Center for Responsive Schools in 1981, creates safe, nurturing learning environments through four key domains: engaging academics, positive community, effective management, and developmentally responsive teaching. Because Rowland Hall is focused on integrating SEL into our academic and co-curricular programs (we formally added it to goal 1 of our Strategic Plan in November 2018), incorporating Responsive Classroom into the Lower School curriculum was a logical choice. And it has made a difference.

“It's given our teachers more clarity and alignment when they consider how best to support students, structure learning activities, and promote positive behavior expectations,” Jij said. “Students, in turn, experience more consistency and are clear on why their actions matter for their own learning and for the learning of others.”

Rowland Hall is focused on integrating social and emotional learning into our academic and co-curricular programs; we even formally added it to goal 1 of our Strategic Plan in November 2018.

To drive student success, Responsive Classroom also emphasizes interactive modeling to teach the skills, strategies, and procedures that help kids thrive at school.

“Interactive modeling has made my classroom a more calm, efficient, and productive learning environment,” Susanna said. “When students watch and comment on what I do as I role-play a procedure, they actively deduce the steps by verbalizing them and listening to peers do the same. As a result, they have a firm and clear understanding when it comes time for them to begin the task at hand.”

Integrating Responsive Classroom into Established Practices

Responsive Classroom has helped Rowland Hall refocus many classroom practices toward the school’s overarching SEL goals. One example occurs at the beginning of each school year: developing classroom agreements. Unlike traditional lists of rules, classroom agreements are created in partnership, giving teachers and students buy-in on how their classrooms will run. While the agreements have been a part of the Lower School for many years, Responsive Classroom added another layer to the process.

“Using the Responsive Classroom approach has allowed my students to delve deeper into the process of exploring their own hopes and dreams, and how we can work as a group to help each other achieve our goals,” Susanna said. She explained that students become engaged, thoughtful, and passionate as they determine what will help them do things like learn how to read, try harder math problems, or even score soccer goals. “I notice students putting much more thought and reflection into this process, making it more meaningful and effective,” she said.

Collaborating on classroom agreements also makes it more likely that children will follow, and reference, those agreements during the school year.

“Students refer back to these agreements when obstacles arise and really demonstrate ownership of them,” said Susanna. “For example, when having a class discussion about erasers being damaged intentionally, several children commented, ‘That’s not following our agreement. We said we’d take care of our materials this year so that we could become better writers.’”

Susanna Mellor's class reads the morning message.

Morning meeting gives students an opportunity to revisit class agreements and reflect on how they can work together in support of classroom goals.

Classroom agreements are referenced regularly by instructors too. In Susanna’s morning meeting, for instance, students are asked which agreements they want to focus on and what actions they can take to make sure those agreements are honored. One student reminded classmates that they can meet their goal to keep calm in the classroom by walking; another observed that they can fulfill the agreement to try harder math problems by listening respectfully during instruction.

Using Responsive Classroom in New Ways

Responsive Classroom also inspires new methods to empower students. This fall, the Lower School used the foundation of classroom agreements in a new way: to create school-wide Winged Lion Agreements.

On September 6, 17 student delegates from grades one through five—one from each class—gathered in the McCarthey Campus parlor for the first-ever student constitutional convention. Delegates shared their classes’ newly developed classroom agreements with the group before beginning a discussion on agreements that could be applied to the whole school.

Student delegates created Winged Lion Agreements

Responsive Classroom helps educators look for ways to engage students in their school community. Above, the student delegates who helped craft the Lower School's first Winged Lion Agreements in September.

When students help make decisions about how the school runs, they understand their voices are valued and that they play a role in making school enjoyable for everyone.—Lower School Specialty Principal Linda Tatomer

Lower School Specialty Principal Linda Tatomer—who has completed all Responsive Classroom courses, including the Responsive Classroom for Leadership conference—led the discussion and was impressed by how the process unfolded. “When students help make decisions about how the school runs, they understand their voices are valued and that they play a role in making school enjoyable for everyone,” she said. “And because each student was a stakeholder in the convention’s outcome, they were serious about identifying meaningful goals.” She was also thrilled by the inclusion she saw in the room, especially by the way fifth graders mentored the first graders. “They really made connections and made them feel valued,” Linda said.

After thoughtful discussion, the group decided on five agreements for the year: 
    •    Be kind

    •    Respect

    •    Work hard and never give up

    •    Be safe

    •    Have fun


Each item was purposefully selected, down to exact words—for instance, the delegates chose the word “respect” because of its ability to encompass a wide range of areas, from personal behavior to how students should treat their surroundings.

Designing Better School Days with Responsive Classroom

Responsive Classroom further helps the Lower School team continuously reevaluate how to best meet students’ needs. One recent change to the school day occurred as a result of a February 2019 meeting with a Responsive Classroom consultant, who was sent to observe a full day at the school after Linda completed her training in the approach.

“One thing the consultant noticed was that our dining hall is very noisy,” Linda remembered. The consultant recommended a proven solution she thought would benefit the division: moving recess before lunch, an idea that the Lower School student support team had been considering for two years prior to the visit.

Lower School students on the playground.

In 2019, the Lower School moved recess from after to before lunch, resulting in school-wide behavior improvements.

“The change would have numerous benefits,” said Linda. “Children could focus on eating, noise would go down, and no one would be racing to get outside.” After presenting the idea to an enthusiastic Lower School faculty in the spring, Jij and Linda began working on making the change for the fall. When it was time to introduce the schedule adjustment to students during the second chapel of the year, Jij, Linda, and Chuck White, the McCarthey Campus emotional support counselor, were thoughtful in their approach, using a similar style students had already experienced in the classroom.

“We asked, ‘What should lunch feel and sound like?’” Linda said. The team also emphasized the why behind the discussion so students would understand both the reason for change and its related benefits. “We talked about how we can all follow agreements to make school more enjoyable for everyone,” Linda said.

Using a dining table that had been brought into the chapel, Jij, Linda, and Chuck then modeled for students proper lunch behavior: entering the dining hall respectfully, staying seated facing the table, and talking at an appropriate volume. Each child was also given the chance to practice at the table.

Children have adjusted well to the change, Linda said. It was, she explained, an extension of the discussions students have become accustomed to—and, importantly, it reminded them that they each play a part in creating a respectful, safe, and joyful school for all.

“I’m really proud of them,” she said.

Responsive Classroom Resources for Parents and Caregivers

Responsive Classroom has been an influential tool in helping Rowland Hall meet SEL goals in the Lower School. Because we are committed to partnering with parents and caregivers in their children’s education, we have made many Responsive Classroom materials available in the parent section of the McCarthey Campus’ Steiner Library for those who are interested in more information about the approach.

Academics

Teacher Katie Williams watches a student construct a home out of blocks.

In late October, Katie Williams’ and Vicki Smith's kindergarten class buzzed with the noise of pint-sized architects and construction workers busy assembling miniature versions of their family homes. With printed photos as their guides and wooden and foam blocks as their materials, the children were hard at work building walls, adding stories, and brainstorming methods for constructing tricky architectural features.

This activity is one of many that makes up the unit of study on community that takes place every October and November. Katie explained that the unit—which begins after the first month of school, when students meet one another, and concludes before the family-centered Thanksgiving holiday break—is a fantastic way to help children discover more about themselves, their classmates, and their families, as well as how everyone fits into the communities around them.

By helping students see the bigger picture of how lives intertwine, they begin to learn how to balance the needs of themselves and others.

The class began the unit by reading Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day?, which explores the animal inhabitants of Busytown and how they work together to provide food, housing, and clothing for their families. The story started a kid-friendly discussion on the interconnectedness of communities, and because it also identifies children as helper workers, it opened the students’ eyes to their own place within their communities. “They’re still identifying who they are,” Katie said. By helping them see the bigger picture of how lives intertwine, she continued, “they begin to learn how to balance the needs of themselves and others.”

The class built on their discoveries. After identifying what makes them special individually, they expanded the discussion outward: from a person to a classroom community; from the classroom to the school community; from the school community to the surrounding neighborhood; and so on, up to the global community. The class took a walking field trip to 9th and 9th, where students identified what the Salt Lake City neighborhood and Busytown have in common (a bakery, a salon, and a fire station, among other things). The trip ended at Rowland Hall’s Lincoln Street Campus, where the children enjoyed exploring the middle and upper schools they may one day attend.

Each person is one of many and responsible for helping their community.—Kindergarten teacher Katie Williams

While the unit’s activities are definitely fun, they also stretch young learners developmentally. For example, collaborating with peers on community maps sharpened the children’s social-emotional skills, while solving problems—like how to replicate the particularly difficult slope of a roof—built cognitive skills.

The unit also guided them toward the goal of balancing their needs with those of others. On that October morning, the students who first completed their homes began helping those who needed assistance, and after construction was complete, they connected their creations with roads, turning the classroom into a mini-neighborhood. It was a reminder that every student contributes to making kindergarten an enjoyable place. After all, as Katie said, each person is one of many and responsible for helping their community.

Academics

Lori and Chuck reviewing work.

When Rowland Hall’s youngest students face academic or social-emotional challenges, Chuck White and Lori Miller are there to lift them up.

What strategies will help a third-grade student stay focused during class? How can a group of children on the playground resolve a conflict? How do you support the emotional needs of a first grader who has just lost a pet? What are the best ways to challenge a nine-year-old reading at a middle school level?

In Rowland Hall’s beginning and lower schools, we encourage a growth mindset with an intentionally crafted student-support program to evaluate and nurture each child’s development.

If you’re a parent, there’s a good chance you’ve grappled with questions like these. As children develop throughout their preschool and elementary years, unexpected challenges often arise—and those challenges can turn into learning opportunities and positive outcomes for students. In Rowland Hall’s beginning and lower schools, we encourage a growth mindset with an intentionally crafted student-support program to evaluate and nurture each child’s development. If you haven’t already, you should get to know the powerhouse duo leading this effort: Chuck White and Lori Miller.

Meet Lori

Lori Miller has always loved reading. She grew up in a small town without a public library, so when the bookmobile came by every two weeks, Lori and her sister would check out seven books apiece—the maximum allowed—and each read one book per day until the bookmobile came again. During a visit to her college’s career center, Lori watched a short film of a teacher helping children learn to read and knew immediately: that’s what she wanted to do. Lori recalled thinking, “I love to read so much, and if I can give that gift to other kids, that’s exactly what I want to do.” And for the next 15 years, she taught first grade—the age at which most children learn to read.
 
Throughout her career, Lori has worn a variety of educational hats: elementary school principal, literacy-intervention specialist, and director of curriculum and instruction. She earned a master’s degree in gifted education from Utah State University and an administrative certificate from the University of Utah. When the position of academic support counselor at Rowland Hall opened up in 2007, Lori jumped at the chance to join a community she’d always admired. “I knew it was an amazing place,” Lori said, “and I really felt I could make a difference here.”

Lori spends her days on the McCarthey Campus serving three core constituencies: students, teachers, and parents. She oversees reading assessments and helps teachers ensure that all students are meeting benchmarks in reading, writing, and math. If there are any red flags for learning differences, she can observe the student, offer strategies to differentiate instruction, and develop a support plan, which may include tutoring. “I feel like a shepherd, with my little flock,” Lori said. “I’m just making sure they are all heading in the right direction.”

I feel like a shepherd, with my little flock. I’m just making sure they are all heading in the right direction. —Lori Miller

The joy Lori derives from her job is most evident when she speaks about visiting the kindergarten writer’s workshop. “It’s like a watching a miracle, to see how they’re figuring it out,” she said. “They have something they are excited about, and they want to put their ideas into words, and they have to think: How do I do that?” It’s a vital step in literacy development, Lori explained, since writing and reading work as opposite processes in a young brain: the former involves encoding one’s own thoughts into sounds and symbols, and the latter is a decoding process that starts with symbols on the page. “It’s really awesome,” she said.

Meet Chuck

In Chuck White’s office, one bookshelf is full of small figurines, dolls, and gadgets that, he explains, are part of an engagement strategy. Students can bring in a small toy from home and exchange it for something off his shelves. “It’s about making them feel welcome and comfortable in the counselor’s office,” he said.

Chuck joined the Rowland Hall community in 2008, one year after Lori arrived. School counseling is a second act for him, having spent 25 years working for Information and Referral Center—now 211 Utah—a private nonprofit that connects people who need help with the appropriate programs and agencies. Seeking more face-to-face interaction, and citing his love of education, Chuck earned his master’s degree in school counseling from Utah State University, then spent a few years working in the Salt Lake City School District before landing at Rowland Hall.

A significant portion of Chuck’s time is spent in the Lower School classrooms, teaching social-emotional learning (SEL) through the Second Step curriculum. “We teach skills,” Chuck explained, “such as how to look at and understand another person’s feelings, or how to control strong emotions, or how to be an effective problem-solver.” These lessons begin in 4PreK—where they are delivered by assistant teachers, under Chuck’s tutelage—and continue all the way through fifth grade. The language and approach evolve as children age, but the concepts remain the same.

Chuck reaches every Lower School student through chapel service as well, where he introduces a virtue of the month such as kindness, service, and respect—all to reinforce core values and encourage good behavior. Those virtues can be individualized, too: “We try and find various ways of helping kids own that virtue, understanding that it may mean something different for one student than another,” Chuck said. He and Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund also recently created the Kindness Club, a voluntary opportunity for Lower School students to practice kind acts, often anonymously.

Like Lori, Chuck is always a resource anytime a student needs individual support. “I can provide a listening ear, help set goals or strategize, or just check in on them,” he said. He loves being able to witness the growth of students during their Lower School years. “It’s a real privilege, and an honor.”

The Whole Child

As the two faculty members devoted full time to student support in the beginning and lower schools, Chuck and Lori think often about a core component of Rowland Hall’s mission: educating the whole child. For Lori, that means considering the social, emotional, and academic components of being part of a learning community, and how they must effectively combine in order for a student to succeed. Chuck agrees: “A child cannot do well academically if they are not doing well emotionally or socially.”

Chuck and Lori often work as a team—along with division principals, teachers, and parents—to support a student in need. Chuck’s SEL curriculum teaches resilience and strategies to deal with academic challenges, too. He gave an example of how he might approach a struggling student: “If you’re at your desk feeling super frustrated because you’re not understanding the math piece in front of you, what do you with that frustration? You can give up, which is one strategy, which is not good learning. Or you can flip the script and say, ‘Yeah, I am feeling frustrated. Maybe I need to get some help.’ That’s controlling your strong emotions. That’s you being in control.”

Chuck and Lori focus on the whole child, for each individual child—which means everything from identifying early signs of dyslexia to running a support group for children of divorced parents to helping classroom teachers recommend books to foster a love of reading.

Beginning School Principal Emma Wellman joined the Rowland Hall community last summer, and she already marvels at the work Chuck and Lori do for students and faculty—particularly how they problem solve. “There’s love and respect for children at the foundation, always,” she said. “It’s really about figuring out what does this individual person need to be his or her best learning self, and how can we match what we're doing with what that learner needs.”

Chuck and Lori focus on the whole child, for each individual child—which means everything from identifying early signs of dyslexia to running a support group for children of divorced parents to helping classroom teachers recommend books to foster a love of reading. Working with a diverse group of children with different academic, social, and emotional needs is part of what makes the job so rewarding, though. “Kids with all kinds of learning differences thrive at our school,” Lori said.

The Big Picture

Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund is passionate about SEL, citing the many benefits to student performance and long-term success, including a significant economic impact that extends far beyond the field of education. Furthermore, research has shown that every minute spent on the social-emotional development of children translates to increased instructional time.

We’re in an environment where you have these two amazing individuals who get kids off the sidelines and back in the game. —Ryan Hoglund

Rowland Hall recently solidified its long-term commitment to SEL, adding a bullet point to the strategic plan about integrating social-emotional learning in support of Goal 1, enhancing the student learning experience. For Ryan, having the resources to keep children on track when they face inevitable challenges—at any point in their education—is part of what differentiates independent schools. "We’re in an environment where you have these two amazing individuals who get kids off the sidelines and back in the game,” he said.

Chuck said he’s grateful to be in a place where it’s part of the culture to talk about supporting the whole child, and where there’s a robust professional-development program to keep staff and teachers at the top of their game. When it comes down to it, the daily motivation is simple for Chuck, Lori, and most educators: they hope to impact children’s lives for the better.

“We want each of our kids to maximize their potential and their skills,” Lori said, “because that will unlock a lot of doors for them.”

People

Taking the Pulse of Our Community: Rowland Hall Identifies Concerns, Means of Improving Student Well-Being through Stanford's Challenge Success

High school students are stressed. A 2013 survey conducted on behalf of the American Psychological Association reported that teens' stress levels exceed those reported by average adults.

Research published by Frontiers in Psychology in 2015 looked specifically at the stress levels and coping mechanisms of eleventh-grade students at independent schools. The study found that students perceived their primary purpose in high school was to earn admission to a selective college or university, and the accompanying stress put them at higher risk for substance abuse and other mental health problems.

Educational leaders have long been aware of the pressure students feel to achieve in high school, and in 2007, Stanford University held a gathering of experts to brainstorm ways to improve child and adolescent well-being. The result was Challenge Success, a program that partners with schools to encourage healthier behaviors and learning environments for students. According to their website, "Challenge Success recognizes that our current fast-paced, high-pressure culture works against much of what we know about healthy child development and effective education. Our work helps to foster learners who are healthy, motivated, and prepared for the wide variety of tasks they will face as adults."

Rowland Hall has already taken measures to improve the health of our community, including implementing late starts once a month, introducing First-Year Experience for ninth graders, and evaluating homework practices. So when the opportunity arose to participate in Challenge Success, Upper School Principal Ingrid Gustavson didn't hesitate. Along with Dave Samson, Upper School assistant principal, she created a team to represent our school community—Ingrid especially appreciates how Challenge Success includes perspectives from students, teachers, and parents, not just administrators—and last September they attended a conference at Stanford with other partner schools. In addition to attending panel presentations from schools who have already used the program's feedback to make changes, the Rowland Hall team had valuable time together to discuss the school's most pressing areas of concern, according to student participant Sidney Hare.

Shortly after the conference, Rowland Hall surveyed all Upper School students, collecting data about sleep patterns, engagement in extracurricular activities, social media use, program perceptions, and other factors that contribute to student health. While the survey was not mandatory, approximately 90% of students participated. When the results came back this winter, Ingrid said they mostly confirmed what school administrators suspected to be true. The representatives from Challenge Success helped Rowland Hall interpret the data and gave it meaningful context, especially in areas where we are performing over or under the national curve among independent schools.

Key takeaways from the survey include:

  • Rowland Hall ranks off the charts for teacher support. Our students consistently report that their teachers care about them and want them to succeed.

  • Students consistently reported that they see their academic courses and assignments as worthwhile.
  • The time Rowland Hall students spend on homework is consistent with the national average.
  • 97% of students reported participating in extracurricular activities.
  • There is a subset of high-achieving students who take more Advanced Placement or Advanced Topics courses, spend more time on homework, and participate in more extracurricular activities than their Rowland Hall peers. However, they do not necessarily report feeling more stress.

Ingrid indicated two areas for particular focus among the survey data: the stress level among Rowland Hall girls is higher than boys, and we are above the national average for students reporting physical manifestations of stress such as headaches, eating disorders, and illnesses that result in missing classes.

Some ways Rowland Hall is already responding: a student-driven lunchtime program called Courageous Conversations offers the opportunity for dialogue and relationship-building in the community, along with recently formed support groups for teens who might be struggling with schoolwork or personal issues. Upper School Student Support Counselor Donna Booher said the groups focus on developing positive behaviors and practices in students, such as self-compassion, problem-solving, and empathy for their peers.

The efforts to analyze survey data and discuss possible improvements will continue for several months—if not years—but Ingrid has identified two potential changes that, in addition to increasing student support, could benefit our community as early as next fall. The first is altering the structure of morning break in the Upper School, which takes place every day from 9:15 to 10:05 am. While activities like morning meeting and chapel would still regularly occur, there could be two days a week reserved for student-teacher consultation time, make-up work, and similar student needs. This shift would alleviate the demands on after-school time, and increase flexibility for students and teachers alike.

The second possible change pertains to graduation requirements, which are sometimes difficult for students to meet, particularly if they are heavily involved in the performing arts, athletics, or debate. Additionally, senior Sidney Hare believes Rowland Hall can more clearly communicate graduation requirements, and help students schedule such classes starting freshman year. "I still do not fully know every requirement," Sidney said, adding that she and her friends have had to find ways to meet certain requirements in their last two trimesters of high school because they weren't previously aware of them.

Ingrid acknowledged the scheduling challenges associated with Rowland Hall's current requirements, and said, "We need to look at things differently, and make sure what we're asking of kids is meaningful." She and Dave plan to involve students like Sidney and fellow Challenge Success participant David Chortkoff, a junior, in the ongoing conversations about course requirements and possible changes to program offerings. Ingrid explained the need for overall balance, adding, "We're looking at what's best for our students from a wellness perspective and a learning perspective."

For parents and guardians interested in learning more about Challenge Success and what steps Rowland Hall is taking to improve the health of our school community, Dave and Ingrid will be presenting at different forums this spring, including grade-level College Counseling meetings, a coffee chat, and parent-teacher conferences.

Academics

Embracing Curiosity and Discomfort on the Path to Cultural Competence

In 2011, Rowland Hall's Board of Trustees approved a diversity mission that affirmed the school's commitment to building cultural awareness, cultivating an inclusive environment, and appreciating how our differences create a stronger community.

The school's Inclusion and Equity Committee—first created in 2008, and strengthened with the board mandate in 2011—has been hard at work implementing an action plan to bring the values of this diversity mission to the forefront. According to Upper School English teacher Kate Taylor, who co-chairs the committee with Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus, a significant long-term goal is "to provide more consistent and across-the-board training opportunities in inclusion and equity topics for our faculty and staff."

Enter Rosetta Lee, a Seattle-based educator, diversity consultant, and nationally recognized speaker on issues of inclusion and equity in schools. Rosetta visited Rowland Hall August 16–17 as the Julie Ashton Barrett Teaching and Learning Fellow, an endowed award which funds an annual visit from a master teacher or learning consultant. For two days, Rosetta led workshops for faculty and staff on issues of cultural competence, identity development, and inclusive classroom practices. With a mixture of humor, compassion, and conviction, she brought home the message that developing cultural competence is an educational imperative for the 21st century.

What does it mean to have cultural competence? Rosetta shared the definition written by subject expert and long-time researcher Terry Cross: "Cultural competence is a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, institution, or individual, and enable that system, institution, or individual to work effectively in cross-cultural situations." Rosetta advocated that teachers demonstrate cultural competence by embracing anti-bias frameworks in their curriculum and ensuring that physical learning spaces reflect the needs and identities of all students. She stressed the difference between equality and equity: equitable treatment eliminates "barriers that prevent the full participation of all peoples," she said. While giving every adult in the room a shirt to wear might demonstrate equality, giving everyone a shirt that fits is an example of equity.

Rosetta advocated that teachers demonstrate cultural competence by embracing anti-bias frameworks in their curriculum and ensuring that physical learning spaces reflect the needs and identities of all students.

All faculty and staff attended a Wednesday session on cultural competence, and on Thursday, faculty separated into morning and afternoon groups in order for Rosetta to provide age-appropriate material to teachers in specific divisions. Lower School and Beginning School teachers learned about supporting positive identity development in our youngest students. This includes allowing curiosity-based questions, and answering those questions in a way that offers gentle guidance while expanding a child's definition of what is possible in the world. Rosetta spoke to Middle School and Upper School educators about the distinctions between feeling safe and comfortable: while the former is critical for everyone in a school environment, there is room for discomfort when dealing with sensitive topics related to identity and culture.

During one workshop, Rosetta told teachers "we need to create a loving, accepting—safe and wonderful and welcoming—environment for children, and also prepare them to engage with folks who are not as intentional about creating this type of environment." She spoke of teaching and practicing curiosity, something Ryan Hoglund, director of ethical education, affirmed. "I want students to develop a cross-cultural sense of curiosity and empathy, a disposition where judgment is not their first response to each other," he said.

Along with offering strategies for inclusive classroom practices and recommending online resources, Rosetta answered an array of faculty and staff questions, including how best to represent student diversity in school publications, and how to partner with parents on their children's identity-development journeys.

We need to create a loving, accepting—safe and wonderful and welcoming—environment for children, and also prepare them to engage with folks who are not as intentional about creating this type of environment. —Rosetta Lee

Rosetta's advice resonated with teachers and administrators, and in the weeks that followed her visit, many spoke of heightened awareness regarding the language they use and how it impacts students. Lower School physical education (PE) teacher Anna Ernst and her colleagues implemented Rosetta's "Bug and a Wish" framework for conflict resolution in their classes. Anna refreshed a peace corner where students air out their feelings: now, instead of simply complaining in the corner, students use props and phrase their discussions as, "It bugs me when you..." and, "I wish you would..." Anna believes this seemingly minor adjustment requires students to be more thoughtful and open. She also encourages them to extend their palms while speaking to each other, a body language that invites collaboration and empathy.

Rowland Hall's work to increase cultural competence is right in line—if not slightly ahead of—national trends. A recent Independent School magazine article on the importance of hiring for cultural competence echoes Rosetta and similarly describes the subject as an imperative for our modern, multicultural society.

Ryan and Kate see Rosetta Lee's teachings as part of an ongoing goal that we might never fully achieve, but can continuously strive for. Ryan added that he hopes increasing cultural competence in adults will create an environment where, for students, a "good day" at school doesn't just mean nothing bad happened. Rather, it means students "saw themselves positively represented in the curriculum and in the community."

Ethical Education

Ingrid Gustavson Reflects on First Year as Upper School Principal

As the 2016–2017 academic year wraps up, Rowland Hall's Fine Print magazine asked Ingrid Gustavson to reflect on her first year as Upper School principal. Her candor, ease, and excitement about the community she's been embraced by is as infectious as her enthusiasm for the future.


There is always something interesting happening at Rowland Hall. Every week that goes by, I experience a new aspect of the community that blows me away and gets me excited as a learner myself.

One example is the eleventh-grade advertising unit, a collaboration between the English and history departments. In the final part of the unit, students receive guidance from the school marketing department and work in groups to create an ad promoting Rowland Hall. Then, they pitch their ads to Rowland Hall administrators and a panel of advertising professionals from the community. The students practice real-world skills in the research, design, iteration, collaboration, and presentation of their ads. The best part is how the students articulate what they think is great about a Rowland Hall education through words and images—and I couldn't agree more. Here are some of the slogans they came up with:

  • "Focus on the individual."
  • "Find your rhythm. Find your muse. Find yourself."
  • "Learning is a relationship, not a lecture."
  • "Go beyond ordinary learning."
  • "Our well-rounded education fosters boundless opportunities."

I love how the ads reflect some of the key aspects of a Rowland Hall education like student choice; connections with supportive teachers; a strong academic curriculum; a diverse, immersive arts program; and a healthy, productive, collaborative culture.

The advertising unit led me to reflect on Rowland Hall's many strengths, such as the high level of student and parent satisfaction with teachers and the program. The faculty, administration, and staff are highly responsive, empathetic, and experienced. From the beginning, I have felt inspired by a Strategic Plan that puts learning first—both student and faculty growth are valued. Rowland Hall's leadership models these values and expectations, and the mission feels real and relevant.

Other visible strengths include the impressive signature programs ranging from yearlong immersive experiences—Rowmark, debate, internships, Project 11, athletics—to short-term adventures, often with an emphasis on ethical and experiential learning: Camp Roger, Project 10, Interim, Half Day/Whole Heart, chapel, and more. The high-touch admissions and college counseling programs stand out among high schools throughout the state.

This year for me has of course been about getting to know the community and the culture. I've done a lot of listening, and tried to be visible, present, and observant. I've spent time building relationships with faculty in large and small groups and with individuals in and out of the classroom. I've used the mission and the Strategic Plan as guides for areas to focus on in this first year.

I believe Goal 1 of the Strategic Plan—enhance the student learning experience—is already well established, and it is one of the strengths that drew me to Rowland Hall in the first place. I have looked to encourage and support collaboration and professional growth with the goal of empowering teachers to follow their own passions while serving students well.

Goal 2 of the Strategic Plan—provide the Intermountain West's most outstanding math and science program—is also taking shape in the Upper School. Under the leadership of Department Chair and chemistry and AP Biology teacher Alisa Poppen, significant work is underway to grow our science lab program and align departmental practices across courses. The math department, guided by Department Chair and personal finance and AP Statistics teacher Brian Birchler, is developing a strong placement process and course progression in conjunction with the other divisions. A new course, Advanced Topics in Mathematics, has been designed for next year for students wishing to extend beyond Calculus BC.

Prioritizing community wellness in the Upper School is also a goal of mine. We already have outstanding academic and social-emotional support counselors, coaches, and health and fitness teachers, as well as a growing First-Year Experience program to support and coach ninth graders in their transition to high school. Next year, we are partnering with Challenge Success at Stanford's Graduate School of Education, a program for secondary schools looking to create mission- and culture-focused opportunities to improve community wellness.

I am thrilled to be part of a four-division, PreK–12 school. It is a bonus to have my kids as students in school with me. It also means I have several talented peers in shoes similar to mine providing a high level of support, collegiality, and learning. I thrive on the challenge of how to best align, collaborate, and work across the needs of four schools in one.

For the first time in my career, I feel truly surrounded by a group of leaders who are both colleagues and mentors. There is a great balance of veteran and new leadership at Rowland Hall, and I am learning each day from Head of School Alan Sparrow and Associate Head of School Jennifer Blake, from division principals and assistant principals, and other members of the administrative team.

I am also thoroughly impressed by my colleagues on the faculty, not to mention our students. I will never claim that having a leadership role means I know it all. I relish every classroom visit, serendipitous conversation in the hallways and faculty room, and inspiring example of student work.

People

Positive Self-Identity and Cultural Curiosity Curriculum Start in the Beginning School

Students Learn About One Another's Diverse Roots: Who Am I? Who Are You?

Helping young children know who they are and how they fit in is essential to their personal and social development. Positive self-identity and cultural curiosity contribute to a secure sense of community. The Beginning School curriculum has two community-building goals for its classrooms: "I belong to a community" and "I contribute to my community." Students learn to identify the diverse communities to which they belong and practice being contributing members of those communities.

Self-awareness and positive self-identity emerge as teachers display family photos in the classroom, help students draw pictures of themselves, and ask family members to visit classrooms to talk about their work and home life. When beginning schoolers see representations of themselves and their families in a positive light, it helps them feel safe and develop a strong sense of personal identity. These simple actions make a big impact in the lives of students who are learning what it means to be part of a community that affirms them wholeheartedly.

In addition to classroom lessons, Beginning School staff and faculty organize activities to further ensure children and families have a sense of belonging and experience affirmation of their identities and cultures. Since January, Beginning School families have joined forces to literally map out their diversity. Drop by the foyer to find a world map scattered with pins marking our students' roots. On February 8, the division held a community potluck dinner to celebrate the diverse roots of our youngest students. The community shared coxinhas from Brazil, Waldorf salad, pizza, spicy New Mexico hatch green chile soup, pierogies, baking-powder biscuits, idli with chutney sambar from India, and noodle kugel for dessert. "Families had the chance to talk to each other and to meet in a casual and relaxed atmosphere while sharing a meal," Beginning School Principal Carol Blackwell said of the successful potluck.

Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund asks students to consider "Who am I?" and "Who are you?" not only to stimulate thinking about what makes an individual unique in a community, but also to spark curiosity about the differences that make others unique.

In 4PreK, teachers explore the concept of difference and similarity with students and explain how their individual preferences make them unique. Difference is also celebrated in Second Step lessons presented in 4PreK and kindergarten. Students learn they each have their unique skin color, how families' compositions vary, and that we each have distinctive talents and skills to support one another. Finding ways to use these skills to support the greater community contributes to students' social-emotional learning.

Beginning School teachers encourage conversations about difference as a way to foster students' curiosity about others, and more importantly, to show that respectful discussion of differences among individuals is not impolite. Research shows that when young people do not openly speak about difference with the adults in their lives, or with peers, they misinterpret that talking about such topics draws unnecessary attention or is considered rude. Rowland Hall nurtures respectful curiosity and encourages students to discuss differences among people and cultures.

This community values its diversity and sense of inclusion. Developing a positive sense of one's personal identity and the identity of others starts in the Beginning School, and continues throughout all grade levels.

Ethical Education

Teens and Science in the Tetons

By Garrett Stern, Middle School math teacher

We asked seventh grade math teacher Garrett Stern to write an article about the annual seventh grade trip to The Teton Science School in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, from the perspective of a student. In addition to learning important lessons about nature and outdoor exploration, the middle schoolers learned about friendship, resilience, and what it means to trust the process.


“G-d, when will this end?" I asked as the bus rolled into our new campsite. As you can see, I was not thrilled to be stuck out here. I’d grown up living in a place where free Wi-Fi was always within six feet … We stood outside in the pouring rain, silently cursing our bad luck. But the next day was worse. Rain beat down even harder, and we were forced to hang our tarp up on trees, using shoelaces to hold it together."

This year, the seventh grade annual pilgrimage to Grand Tetons National Park was met with inclement weather. Our sixty-four seventh grade souls, including the author of the snippet above, were tested by windy and frigid conditions. Some students feared the weather while others were daunted by teenage social challenges.

Our goals for the trip included leadership, camaraderie, and connection to nature. With names changed to protect the innocent, here are some anecdotes from the trip that met each of our goals.

Eli confided in Peyton, “Maria has been nice to me,” as he fished for information. Peyton cautioned, “You got to watch out for these girls. They will lead you on and you never know where you will end up.” Peyton, a 12-year-old boy who is wise beyond his years, took on a leadership role with Eli as he helped him navigate the dizzying world of seventh grade dating.

Believe it or not, some students choose to wake up a half hour early to play Uno. Boys willingly set their alarm clocks for 6:30 a.m., to play cards before 7:30 am breakfast. This tenacity demonstrates that seventh graders can get out of bed when sufficiently inspired. It also represents a wonderful example of camaraderie, as many students who do not ordinarily hang out together gathered each morning for a game.

At one of our meal times, a girl named Sophie was sitting alone. Then another seventh grade girl walked over to her to invite her to sit at her table. This act of kindness demonstrated laudable leadership. Furthermore, Sophie had a place to sit during lunchtime for the rest of the year. Lunch used to be her most feared time slot of the day; now, it is something to which she looks forward.

We spent as much time in nature as possible, uninhibited by harsh conditions. The teachers wondered if having the students spend time outside in the cold and rain would dampen their connection to nature.

Here is what one girl had to say:

“I’ve never been this close to nature ever in my life. Learning about the science of nature helped me understand why parts of the world are how they are today. Being out in the Tetons opened my eyes to the world around me, and I understand it better now. Also, I don’t just see the world now; I notice things about it. It’s as if I never realized the true beauty of the world; I only looked from the outside. I will never forget this trip and the memories I've made. I won't forget the sound of laughter, the wind’s breath, or the giant mountains."

EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING

You Belong at Rowland Hall