Public Blogs Blog

Hearts and the red, white, and blue too!

Embedded in the month of hearts, flowers, and chocolate is a lesser celebrated national holiday recognizing our United States Presidents. While just the mention of the presidency can spark discussion, discourse, and debate, it should also remind us that we live in a country where we can do just that- at the top of our lungs if desired! While the original day was a recognition of our Founding Father, George Washington and the Emancipator himself, Abraham Lincoln- both with February birthdays-it has become more about the acknowledgement of the importance of leadership in all we do. Leadership is the bellwether in the success of everything from team sports victories to détente on the highest international level. Indulge me a few moments as you reflect on aspects of leadership by past presidents. Let us take time this month to honor democracy and how best we can help “perpetuate democracy by educating an informed citizenry” T. Jefferson

Here’s to hearts and the Red White & Blue, too!

George Washington: “99% of failures come from people who make excuses.” John Adams: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”

Thomas Jefferson: “Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.”

John Quincy Adams: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

Andrew Jackson: “Any man worth his salt will stick up for what he believes right, but it takes a slightly better man to acknowledge instantly and without reservation that he is in error.”

Martin Van Buren: “It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn’t.”

Abraham Lincoln: “Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today.” Theodore Roosevelt: “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt: “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today”

Harry S. Truman: “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower: “By leadership we mean the art of getting someone else to do something that you want done because he wants to do it, not because your position of power can compel him to do it.”

John F. Kennedy: “Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”

Gerald R. Ford: “Never be satisfied with less than your very best effort. If you strive for the top and miss, you’ll still ‘beat the pack.'”

William J. Clinton: “If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit.”

Barack Obama: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time.”

Donald Trump: “Leaders, true leaders, take responsibility for the success of the team, and understand that they must also take responsibility for the failure.”

Pure Magic

My eldest son Josh loved Calvin and Hobbes cartoons and he shared that love of their sincere kind humor with me.  This cartoon in particular is a favorite and the newspaper version of it was on my file cabinet so long it yellowed!  It speaks to the season and the freshness of each new year and so I happily share it with you!

There is magic in exploring possibilities, large and small, especially with children.  Children encourage us to look at the world from their vantage points if we just “get on their level” and look and listen.  Lay flat on the floor and look around and up.  Sit on that same floor and look around again.  Then on your knees and upright.  The views change and we have the magical opportunity to see the world anew through their eyes. 

It is just as relevant with our children as they become older, “wiser”, and more independent. The magic of exploring possibilities becomes more focused and can change daily, even moment by moment.  They see and hear more with not quite understanding it all, but still delve into the “whys” of their lives.  Sit in their desk at home and at school, plop into their favorite chair or pillow.  See what they see and also attempt to feel what they feel.  Active listening is key.

Then all too soon the new years fly by and you are sending these amazing young men and women off to their own magical possibilities in college, service, careers, and life.  Make sure they take the magic with them and remind them of it often, even if they say, “Oh, Mom!”  “Dad. Come on.  I am not a kid anymore.”  We fervently hope we all remain a kid deep inside. 

Here’s to 2019, a year of wonderful magical possibilities for Wood Acres School as we celebrate our 50th anniversary- a golden time for sure!  Here’s to your new year.  May it be filled with wonder, magic, possibilities, and the vision to see it every day in some way. 

Be Peter Pan.  Crow about your children and never grow up.  That is pure magic!                                                                                 

One of the many unique qualities about Wood Acres is our approach of looking what our eldest students should know, see, say, and do and then backward map it to our youngest students. It is a strong belief of our Head of School, Judy Thigpen, and one that has resonated with me throughout my tenure at WA.

Before I fully transitioned into a leadership role, I knew there was something I needed to accomplish first. I needed to teach in our Upper School. All of my prior teaching experience was with children in grades K-5, and my daughter at the time was in our Early School. I felt confident about what Early and Grammar School students should know, say, and do, but that understanding wasn’t there for me when thinking about an older student. How could I possibly lead without an understanding of our oldest students and program?

Like all other ages and stages of a child’s development, it was easy for me to fall in love with our tweens and teens! They were independent, respectful, kind, intelligent, motivated, and capable students. All of their years at Wood Acres among passionate and caring teachers, involved parents, and a supportive yet rigorous school environment prepared them for this pivotal moment.  They fully applied their learning and enjoyed it, developed a strong sense of self, and added to our community in so many meaningful ways. It was a joy to be in their company and I can say even in my current role, it still is. They are comfortable to share a thought, an opinion, an idea, and I couldn’t be more honored to be that person. They keep me grounded and focused on what is important.

With this clarity, I look at our younger students in new and different ways. I see the twinkle in their eyes and wonder in their play and can picture their more grownup self. I see interests and strengths and how that will help grow a solid foundation both academically and emotionally. I work with teachers and parents about how to encourage developmentally appropriate high expectations no matter the age of a student. I am better equipped to instill confidence to our families, teachers, and our students that through this thoughtful journey with a stay the course approach, our students will indeed soar when it comes time to graduate.

May this simple wish touch all our hearts and move us to action in our homes, school, communities, state, and nation. May the joys of childhood touch our adult hearts that we, too, can feel the anticipation of the season.

May we create traditions, memories, and reasons to celebrate together. May God bless each of you, those you love, and our country. Each and every day in the coming year, too!  GOD BLESS US EVERYONE!

 

The Heartbeat of Wood Acres

I do not wear a white coat, nor do I have an entourage of eager interns following me, but I do “make the rounds” to check on the pulse, the heartbeat of the Woods, every day. It is my favorite part of the day because it is all about the children, teachers, and staff on this special campus.  It frees me from the paperwork on my desk, the emails to be read, the books to be reviewed, and the other sedentary duties that are unfortunately too common to administrators who are in this role.

My daily rounds are full of those sightings mentioned in Mrs. Thigpen’s current HEADlines. I spend time in dozens of classrooms filled with eager students engaged in reading, math, science, or art. I talk with students as they walk the campus to recess, PE, or Spanish. The Early Schoolers will offer me a shovel to dig for dinosaur bones or ask me to push them on the swings while our oldest students always want to schedule time to speak with me about an idea for a service project or an upcoming school trip or assignment.

These sightings ignite my senses to the rhythm to the day, the “feel” of our campus, and the learning that is occurring. I also touch base with our talented teachers, our watchful security team and dedicated office colleagues.  I take notes to follow up with everyone with thanks, compliments, and suggestions once “rounds” are completed.

The heartbeat of Wood Acres is strong and healthy. My diagnosis is that teaching, learning, and caring (TLC @ the Woods) is alive, well, palpable, and hearty. How fortunate we are to be in such a healthy thriving environment as this.

October 2018… Update on an archived HEADline… it bears repeating!

I wrote the HEADline below two years ago around this time of year. Dr. Carl Glickman and his writing on ceremony and tradition came back to my mind again last week as we celebrated almost a decade of Constitution Day rallies on our campus Quad… a tradition indeed!  Our traditions, symbols, and ceremonies are part of the fiber of a Wood Acres education, yet it behooves us to ponder if they really make a difference to our students and their families?

To answer that question, another sage writing of Dr. Glickman came to mind- his work on sightings- formal and informal, negative and positive- as to whether what a school does matters. Formal observations abound in any educational setting- planned class observations, scheduled team meetings, parent teacher conferences, annual kick off events, etc.  Informal observations happen much more often- watching a class walk the campus Quad, student interactions at recess, daily teacher student interactions, passing conversations with adults and children, communication from all stakeholders- formal and informal.

 

 

 

 

 

The Constitution Day Rally 2018 brought some wonderful sightings to the forefront about the impact Wood Acres has on the school community- our largest attendance by families and guests, book buddies sitting voluntarily with each other to enjoy the ceremony, our Director of Early School sharing her amazing story of discovering a rare family pocket edition of the Constitution dated in the 1800’s, handshakes and hugs from families as they share how valued this day has become, veterans thanking us for recognizing their service, students reciting the Preamble and talking about the Constitution all week long, staff enthusiasm planning the event and tying it to history and culture… the list goes on.  Toss into that mix our enduring symbols of acorns, oak leaves and Ginkgo trees, campus buildings named after the Georgia signers of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution as well as noted historical figures in Georgia’s history, Turner Hall named for two self-educated men, a campus compass rose adorning the Plaza, a new American flag posted every year- the list goes on.

Wood Acres School is about a million little things that are purposefully and lovingly woven into the fiber of our school, the talk of the day, and the walks about campus.  It also permeates the formal and informal happenings on campus.  It is not about a school; it is about a Wood Acres education.  THAT is what matter most and that is what counts. Eureka!  And that is what we intentionally- formally and informally- do each and every day!

Judy Thigpen

Archived HEADLINE: October 2016…

It’s here! Can you see it?  Can you feel it?  Can you hear it?  It is the cadence and rhythm of a school year in place and humming its autumn song as we turn the calendar to October.  Students have found the first acorns on campus, sketched the first fallen leaves, and gazed at the amazing blue sky that arches over our campus.  It feels so good inside and outside of our classrooms.

And before you know it the perfect trifecta of holidays will soon be upon us occupying the main aisles of stores from Hallmark to Dollar Tree and making October, November, and December filled to the brim with decorations and celebrations. Woo be the child who has a birthday during these three months as their parties are often overshadowed by the holiday du jour!  While the commercialism of holidays is certainly omnipresent, the intrinsic importance of tradition and ceremony is vital to a child’s development of time, family, and community.

Dr. Carl Glickman, outstanding Professor Emeritus of the University of Georgia in the field of educational leadership, once spoke on this very topic and made a great impression on me in my developing years as an educational leader.  His writing led me to metacognitively know why I always thought that ceremonies and traditions in the smallest family or the largest school were not “fluff” but critically important to the home and school climate and its ability to embrace its occupants with meaning and memories for a lifetime.

Ceremonies and traditions serve as punctuation marks in our lives. They make us pause, stop, “be”.  They move us emotionally and spiritually.  They help us tie the past, present, and future together in a way that helps us keep time, reflect, enjoy the moment, and wonder about the future.  These events also help us visually demonstrate values and connections among generations. Ceremonies and traditions bring us together, across miles as well as across periods of absence.  And they open the larder to prepare treats and food, open the boxes to deck the halls and walls with pumpkins, turkeys, menorahs and garland, open the photo albums to visit past ceremonies and make certain the traditions are well preserved.  They make us sing, laugh, smile, cry, look wistfully, and sigh in contentment.  Ceremonies and traditions make the time, energy, effort, planning, and often expense worth it in the long run.  They matter to us.  Remember, where our hearts are, so are our treasures!

So here’s to pumpkin carving, apple bobbing, trick or treating, and candy! Here’s to turkey and all the trimmings, football, naps, and holiday shopping.  Here’s to stockings hung with care, candlelight services, cookies and milk, dreidels, and gifts from the heart.  And here’s to the ceremonies and traditions of the Woods- Meet and Greet, conferences, Rally Round the Flag Constitution Day, Field Day, field trips, book fairs, book buddies, graduation ceremonies, and so much more.  Here’s to our school traditions and ceremonies helping us mark the seasons of the Woods in our hearts and minds.

Judy Thigpen

It makes perfect “sense”!

The start to an academic year @ the Woods- be it for our youngest Navigators to the eighth grade graduating class of 2019- makes perfect sense, since it is all about the senses! Each student and family, each faculty and staff member feel the excitement of a fresh start to the school year. They also feel the warmth and welcome that greeted them at the staff kick off or at the annual Meet and Greet. They see the natural beauty of this wooded campus and get to enjoy all the seasons from a winter snow to the first butterflies on the lantana. They hear the sounds of laughter and learning, nature and nurture, ah has and yahoos! They taste snacks, lunch, and surprises as birthdays are celebrated. They hold hands, give hugs, and some well earned high 5’s. They use their hands and minds in collaboration to make learning be memorable and meaningful.  Yes, the perfect start to our school year DOES make perfect sense! Come see for yourself.

Happy New Year @ the Woods!

Greetings all and welcome to The Wood Acres School

At the conclusion of each academic year, we graduate our stellar eighth graders in a special ceremony that honors hard work and a commitment to excellence. This is the speech I shared with our proud students this May.

Good morning graduates, parents, faculty, students, and special guests. It is my pleasure and honor to welcome you to the 8th Graduation of the Wood Acres School.

This spring, you may have heard that we traveled to Spain. Lucky me! I had the pleasure and privilege to accompany our graduates. And to be honest, I don’t know what took me so long to go!

But I do know I will be going again.

Seeing as I was the only non-Spanish speaker on the trip, I wanted to model what that looked like for our students. I wanted to show them to be brave in a new place and how exciting it is to immerse yourself in the language and culture when you travel.

Well, as soon as we landed in Madrid, I couldn’t wait to soak it all in. And, of course, it was easy with such wonderful fluent people to travel with in the most beautiful of countries…and when you enjoy traveling as I do!

During our time in Spain, I noticed though that some words were easy to latch onto. My ears kept perking up when I heard these words and before long I found myself asking about these words and eventually using these words.

Using these words made me feel part of the club and I loved it. I couldn’t get enough. I felt Spanish!

What is also interesting about these words, is that they all represent advice and teachings I would like you to take with you, graduates as you move onto high school and beyond.

And so I’d like to present some of these to you. Are you all ready to travel with me to Spain? Can you guess which of my favorite words are on the list?

This is by far my favorite. I know the students know it. Tranquillo.

Just say this word and you know the meaning. And I also love Sra. Thigpen’s accompanying hand gesture with this one. Tranquillo. Sometimes calma is used as a substitute. Tranquillo. Calma. Don’t you feel better after saying these?

Everything in Spain is tranquillo. How wonderful would it be if we applied this feeling and way of life to our hectic and crazy lives. It just means slow down. Tranquility. Be calm. Hakuna Matata. No worries.

You are late. tranquillo. Not feeling well, tranquillo. Having a tough day, tranquillo. And to our graduates, feeling anxious? Tranquillo.

All will be good, I promise. You have the tools you need and you are ready for this next step.

Claro.

This one seems easily translated, right? It should mean clear. But what is great about this word is that it means more than that. During many conversations, I would hear someone reply, claro. And this prompted me to ask for clarification.

Claro means, I understand you. I understand your story. I understand your situation. I understand what you are going through.

Oh how I wish all of us could have someone say that in return to us. We all need to be understood. We also need to always seek to understand. Claro.

Descanso.

This is a break or a rest.

The image of this word just makes me happy. Each morning the students would take would take a descanso.

It is a ritual. It is a time to stop and savor a snack with friends. No to go cups. No paper products. No standing and gobbling. Just conversation and something to nibble on and sit on proper dishes. No rushing. Just enjoying.

We all need a moment sometimes to pause and rejuvenate.

Cinturones.

These are seat belts! Every time we would get on a bus, the adults would cry out “cinturones” which would be immediately followed by followed by 11 clicks. Wearing seatbelts in Spain is mandatory.

Graduates, buckle up for safety. Buckle up for an adventure of a lifetime. Buckle up for all of the great moments headed your way. It’s going to be quite a ride.

El Mismo.

Mismo. The same.

As in I’ll have what she’s having. This was a great one to know when ordering in a restaurant.

But this word is so much greater than that. How about remembering that we are all more same than different. El mismo. There is a great song by Jennifer Lopez called El Mismo Sol. And yes, I learned about it from my bilingual daughter. We are all under the same sun. What a great thought.

Vale!

This is a funny one. I first learned of this word in a text from Sr. Thigpen to me and Sen. Boyle. We were going over details of the trip the next before our flight and Sra. ended the text with vale.

I quickly turned to my daughter for help. What is vale?

It means ok. Ready to go…Vale! See you tomorrow….Vale! Ready for summer…..Vale!

I love this one.

Gracias.

This is one we all know! Say it with me. Gracias. Gracias means thank you. Graduates, remember to always give thanks and say thanks.

We heartily say thank you to our families and to our students for all of the memories and lessons you have given us.

And finally…..vamos!

As in Let’s go! Come on!

In the words of Dr Seuss from one of my favorite books “Oh The Places You’ll Go”. This copy was given to me from my high school English teacher upon my graduation.

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
So…
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

Vamos!

Graduates, I hope you will keep these words in your heart and place them in the vocabulary of your daily life. Thank you for teaching me that this is possible. Congratulations to all of you.

Summer is here! School is out! It must be June!

What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.”
Gertrude Jekyll

With today’s adult work being tied so closely to the technology in your pocket, the laptop in your bag, and the office in your home, summer is truly for the children! While they are “outta school” for these sunny months, their learning does not stop! Guarantee that for them by helping them leave anything with batteries, chargers, or screens behind and help them employ their senses to the wonders of the summer world around them. If they insist on being early risers, share a sunrise with them. If bed times are more flexible in the summer, sit outside and ponder a gorgeous sunset. Get down on the level of bugs and up as high as you can go to see the world from a bird’s vantage point. Get out the chalk, crayons, markers and paints for some summer masterpieces painted on the sidewalk, old pillowcases, and even on themselves. Paint like Michelangelo (on your back) or with your non-dominant hand, with the brush in your teeth or between your toes! Cook, clean, rearrange, and redo their rooms and play spaces. Give meaning to work in the home as summer “homework”.  And by all means- READ- every day in every way with all kinds of print- OK, so maybe technology can be helpful here! You get the idea!

With just one glance on Pinterest or the many blogs on line, you can find many more easy enjoyable “battery free” ideas to entice your children to see, hear, taste, feel, touch and experience their world anew in this month of “a perfectly young summer”… JUNE!

Here’s to May @ the Woods

It is a merry, merry, magical month of May @ the Woods- full of sentimental farewells and graduation, cheers and celebration. Behind the scenes it is also quite manic.  Summer Camp prep, summer repair and renovation scheduling, academic year wrap with report cards, standardized test results, and student transcripts all appear on a detailed check list.  Parent and student packets for the coming academic year go to the printer, curriculum gets ordered as do supplies and materials.  The campus is scrubbed from top to bottom, from ceiling to floor, from door to door.

Yet the pace is somehow a bit slower, a bit easier, a bit relaxed… at least for a few weeks. The rhythm of a school year at Wood Acres is a carefully crafted symphony of dedicated faculty and staff seeing to all the thousand details behind the scenes that create magic each year as school begins anew.  And for The Wood Acres School, this has been occurring for almost 50 years!

Join us this month as we look back on a grand school year, celebrate the present honoring our graduates of the class of 2018 plus each student’s academic growth, and gear up for the future of the 2018-2019 school year and the preparations for our grand 50th anniversary celebration in 2019.  That will indeed be a merry, merry magical time as well.

Here’s to May @ the Woods and a grand family summer, too!

This Matters At Wood Acres.

  • High Expectations For Teaching And Learning

  • Strong Instructional Leadership

  • Safe Learning Environment For Everyone

  • Positive And Welcoming School Climate

  • Valuing Time On Task For Mastery

  • Close Home School Partnerships