Welcome to the 2013-2014 school year! As the days begin to grow shorter, we know it’s time to welcome our school community back to a new and exciting educational year.
Our teachers and administrators spent their quiet time this summer growing their expertise so they can create enriching learning environments that meet the needs and skills necessary for success in the world we live in. Additionally, we have pondered and discussed the future world our students will encounter when they graduate. As the keepers of your child’s educational experience, we take the preparation of their future skill-set very seriously. As the Class of 2026 enters our classrooms, our responsibility has never seemed more real and important. We are preparing our students to enter a civilization or society we can only imagine. We know the competence of today will not meet the demands of tomorrow. Now, we need to determine how to match the pair.
Earlier this summer, the administrative team spent a week at the Learning and the Brain Conference on 21st Century Skills, Character and Knowledge. This experience helped us to reflect on our practices, the new mandates, and the balance we must ensure so the State’s focus on teacher/principal accountability and high stakes assessments does not pull us too far off track from what we believe is important for our students’ future. We must strike an effective balance that meets the expectations of the NYSED along with the important knowledge and skills that need to be deeply infused in your child’s education. In mid-August, the teachers joined this conversation to plan for next year and the years beyond.
To help us consider the important factors that need to be included in the planning process, our Board of Education, and the HCS Staff read a number of articles and books that helped us to consider the compelling factors that are involved in education today. One such book, Yong Zhao’s World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students, was the focal point of our discussions at our Superintendent’s Conference Days.
Our opening day included the author of this book, Yong Zhao, who is a very provocative speaker. Dr. Zhao took a critical look at the present trends in American education and made suggestions on how we should prepare our students for the world that lies ahead. Born and bred in China, his research considers the mistakes that his home country made in recent history, which he now uses to warn American educators so they do not make the same mistakes. Yong Zhao also talked about “Black Collar,” or REAL (rigorous, entrepreneurial, authentic, life-long) learning and the need to create the entrepreneurial spirit in our students, as the learners of the new Millennium.
One of our goals this year is to include the foundational skills of PBL(project-based learning), REAL learning, or Black Collar Learning into our classrooms. We are now including innovative concepts and skills related to PBL as an extension of our thinking, teaching and planning. We will start small and grow this type of instruction through the years.
This school year, we will ask our teachers to include "soft skills" into their planning in order to develop a confident mindset when students approach a task, learn and create. Our teachers are asked to design an environment where failure is seen as an extension of learning, and the journey our students take is deemed an important part of a process. Including these important concepts in their educational development is integral in creating risk takers and developing 21st century skills. Additionally, concepts such as innovation, perseverance, entrepreneurial mindset, ingenuity, and the gradual release of responsibility will be considered in our planning. We will set the foundation for our students to be creative, imaginative and open to new thoughts and experiences. This is the foundation from which PBL can advance and flourish.
Additionally, our work with the Common Core will continue to be infused into student learning, with a greater emphasis on non-fiction text. New classes such as Black Collar Learning will expand our course offerings and provide our students with experiences that will help them navigate the world ahead.
We are excited to get our school year underway and anticipate great things ahead. Thank you, once again, for your ongoing support. We look forward to a great year.