We Don’t Adhere to Arbitrary Standards

IMG_9685-e1429895851898-768x1024Research: Rebecca Givens Rolland laments that schools are racing through K-12 education these days, with policies that encourage children to cover more material in shorter amounts of time, under expectations that are misaligned with natural child development. She argues, “This push, while well-intentioned, is counterproductive. Children need time to sit with a subject, to see mistakes not as humiliations, but as chances to learn.” What’s missing in this “need for speed” is an understanding of the nature of the learning process and proper encouragement to create lifelong learners.

Practice: Every student at Chrysalis is allowed to learn at their own pace and in their own time. Since we don’t adhere to arbitrary standards we can create educational programs that meet each child where they are and allow them to progress when they’re developmentally ready. Our program allows children the extraordinary gift of time to flourish, learn deeply, and develop a love of learning.

Our Beloved Smartphones Prevent Sleeping

smartphone-clipart-smartphoneResearch: A new study focuses on the effect of small screens (phones and tablets) on children’s sleep and concludes that they are worse for sleep than television screens. The problem is that we hold them closer to our faces, which prevents the increase of melatonin that drives us to fall asleep. They are also more interactive, which tells our brains to stay alert.

Practice: The prevailing recommendation for children and teens is to remove technology (TVs, computers, phones, tablets, etc.) from their bedrooms at night. Having a technology curfew is one great way for parents to protect their sleep. Teens especially just can’t resist the temptation of getting to the next level on their favorite video game or checking who “liked” their last post. This is where we as parents have to step in to ensure their ability to function the next day and their overall health.

A New Vision of Schooling

Research: I was taken aback by a recent opinion piece in which James Delisle proclaims that differentiation is a farce. These are strong words for a practice we believe is so fundamental to learning! He agrees that the theoretical benefits of differentiation are great: determining what students know and still need to learn, allowing students to demonstrate what they know in multiple ways, and encouraging depth and complexity in the learning/teaching process. But in practice, it simply cannot be implemented in the traditional heterogeneous classroom where so many types of learners are lumped together.


Practice: Herein lies the qualification of his claim. When we think of schools and classrooms in traditional ways, he’s right—differentiation cannot take place. It can work, however, when we create a new vision of schooling. At Chrysalis differentiation is an inherent part of our program. It is a natural element of the individualized class and can easily be incorporated into small groups that group students according to ability. (Maybe we should invite him in to show him how it’s done!)

Middle School

photo 2 (2)Research: Middle school is a fascinating time in the course of child development. During this period, the section of the brain that’s in charge of organizing, decision-making, analyzing, and judging, is in the process of reorganization. This means that the part of the brain that monitors emotions is in charge of where information goes, which can spell trouble for learning. Author Heather Wolpert-Gawron underlines the importance of having teachers who understand and enjoy middle schoolers during this years. Teachers who can tap into their need to socialize and see their natural self-absorption as an interest to work with will be most successful. Humor, productive feedback, flexibility, and support are crucial during this period.

Practice: Our middle school program encompasses the 7th and 8th grades and is all about keeping our students engaged and preparing them for high school. Seventh graders spend 4 days at SC and Fridays at our high school campus, where they start to gain familiarity with the environment, staff, and students. Our 8th graders make the full transition to the high school, where they take courses with their cohort and begin to interact with the upperclassmen. In preparation for a successful high school experience, they take a personalized study skills class and are taught school guidelines and cultural expectations during this very formative year. Our middle school teachers are rock stars! They love this squirrely bunch and even travel back and forth between the two campuses to maintain continuity.

Thinking Differently

Thinking DifferentlyResearch: David Flink, an advocate for children with learning challenges, recently posted an article and video based on his book, “Learning Differently.” He argues, “…we must accept that one in five children think differently. It is absurd to admonish children with learning disabilities to ‘simply try harder,’ and detrimental and debilitating to cheerlead them along, without acknowledging that in our current school structure they begin at a deficit.” By approaching learning differences from a deficit perspective, we undermine a child’s potential. The most important thing we can do for them is understand their challenges, teach them the tools and introduce the accommodations to allow them to be successful, and encourage them to advocate for their own needs.

Practice: Flink refers to a need for adults to be “learning detectives” to best serve a child’s needs. In our admissions process we ask our students a lot of questions, probing to get a sense of how they learn best so we can match them with the right teachers. Then the work is transferred to our teachers, who are true learning detectives. They help our students identify what works best, implement any accommodations they need to be successful, and develop tools that they can use for the rest of their lives.

Strong Relationships Equals Strong Schools

20140911_094750Research: The Seattle Times sponsored an Education Lab over the last year to look at what works in schools to boost student achievement. They presented their findings in Sunday’s paper. The themes they found included strong relationships with caring adults, teacher buy-in about the school’s philosophy, and flexibility to attend to students’ needs. They conclude, “squeezing 1 million Washington kids through a single curriculum or instructional style is a strategy guaranteed to fail. The most dynamic [schools] trust educators to adapt to the specific needs of the pupils sitting before them.”

Practice: Our teachers are incredible professionals. We trust them to make the right call with their students and allow them the flexibility with their curricula and methods to change gears at any time to respond to student needs, even within the course of a single session. Not only are they highly skilled in the art of teaching, but they also provide mentorship and guidance for their students to help build upon their strengths and character.

One-On-One Instruction

CHS First Day (12 of 15)Research: In 1984 Benjamin Bloom of the University of Chicago concluded that one-on-one instruction was the most effective way to learn. Bloom found that consistent feedback, corrective processes, timely remediation of miscommunication, reinforcement, encouragement, and active participation in learning led to higher student achievement, positive attitudes toward learning, and positive academic self concept. His research remains salient today, as researchers scramble to find solutions that can challenge his results in traditional classrooms.

Practice: Our 30 years of experience endorse the value of one-on-one instruction. People often ask, how can you squeeze a week’s worth of material into one hour of instruction? The power of one-on-one instruction allows us to do just that. Our group classes are small and personal. They necessarily meet for longer periods, but continue to incorporate the elements of instruction that Bloom considered essential to the learning process.

Keeping Technology in Check

education-technology picResearch: Elizabeth Perle, editor of HuffPost Teen, responds to parents’ concerns about their children’s use of online social media in her article “5 Myths About Teens and Technology Every Parent Should Ignore.” She compels us to take another look at their online lives and understand them as new platforms for socialization. As parents this world can be intimidating if we are unfamiliar, but she encourages us to empower ourselves to prevent problems before they start by having them teach us about their online community, share how and why they use it, and help understand who they are within it.

Practice: Our students use technology in a variety of ways at Chrysalis. In some classes they are allowed to use it; in others they have to forgo it…just like in real life. We try to teach them when and where it’s appropriate and when and where it’s not. Parents are encouraged to understand their child’s use of social media, to keep an eye on their use, and to instill technology curfews. Check out Karen Fogle’s video on “Keeping Tech in Check” for more detail.


Student Voice

Research: Russell Quaglia, President and Founder of the Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations, recently conducted a study on the importance of student voice in schooling and student achievement. He found that students who are engaged are 16 times more likely to want to do well in school and concludes that “students who feel respected and have a sense of control and purpose over what they do at school have a much greater chance of doing well.”

Practice: At Chrysalis we recognizDSC_7103e the importance of student voice and engagement in learning. We listen to students’ wants and needs and personalize their educational program to them. They have a say in their schedule, the selection of their teachers, and the direction of their classes. When we receive a new student we’re not only assessing where they are academically, but trying to connect with them on a very human level to understand their goals and help them find purpose in school. All of this adds up to engagement, which forms the basis for any and all academic work that follows.

National Bullying Prevention Month

prevention-awareness-month_imageResearch: October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Unfortunately, bullying is often considered part of the school experience — something that kids are expected to endure and overcome on their own. However, study after study outlines health and academic risks to both the bully and the bullied, including increased indices of depression, anxiety, and risky behaviors. 

Practice: We know that physical and emotional safety is primary to well-being, and that without it learning cannot occur. We take great pride in our ability to maintain a positive school culture, not only for the sake of learning; it also makes Chrysalis a great place for everyone to be!  When situations inevitably arise, we take the time to talk students through them, to help them see new perspectives, and build empathy and community. If you suspect that your child is experiencing any form of bullying, please let us know so that we may deal with the situation appropriately.