Acknowledging student accomplishments and student effort is a big deal at SJEDS. One way we have traditionally done this is through our end-of-school awards ceremony. Each year following this event, I receive feedback from parents. In response to this feedback, small changes have been made over the years to improve the awards ceremony. In hindsight, most of these changes were more like bandaids and never really accomplished the kind of difference for which we strived.
This past summer, discussion began with faculty and staff about how and why we give awards. The discussion was driven by some of the following questions: Does our awards system reflect our philosophy on education (see below)? Does it encourage individuality, foster student-led learning, and inspire self-motivation? Are there other models that support self-directed learning? What are the time-honored traditions that we would not consider changing? As you can imagine, this sparked discussion on every level. Included in the discussion was research on motivation and models implemented by other schools. After much consideration, we believe we have found a right fit, and this year we are going to pilot a different approach.
Awards and recognition will occur mainly through three venues. These venues will be Senior Prep Graduation, Senior Prep Program, and San Jose Shines.
We are excited about these changes and believe they will provide balance between our traditions and support our educational philosophy. We are embarking on something novel and this year will be a pilot program. As always, our commitment is to provide an exceptional education and the best possible experience for our students.
At SJEDS we seek to provide the best educational foundation to prepare our students for the future. As our students transition from the elementary level to the middle school level, this preparation becomes the centerpiece of their sixth grade year.
This is a special year in which we guide students through challenging lessons to deepen their understanding and appreciation of all subjects. We build upon their creativity, unique talents, and we further develop their leadership skills. We hone in on their organization, time management, study, and social skills. We prepare them for life by also further developing their character, spiritual growth, and community involvement. Building lifelong friendships, exploring nature, and engaging in rigorous studies are all part of our unique sixth grade experience. I know this firsthand, as I taught sixth grade for many years and my own two sons had the blessing of graduating from SJEDS.
We are excited to announce a new name for our sixth grade program, Senior Prep Year , as a way to signify this hallmark year of preparation. We have several new initiatives in store throughout this next year to further enhance our middle school, sixth grade experience while still retaining our time-honored traditions.
The four guiding cornerstones of our Senior Prep program will be Knowledge, Leadership, Character, and Service. To launch this program, our sixth graders will receive red ties which will be worn exclusively by our Senior Preps to signify that this year is different; it is a pinnacle point that will guide their future life path. We recognize that the Senior Prep Year marks a significant landmark in a much larger journey for our students. When you see the Senior Preps sporting their new red ties, let that be a symbol of greater things to come in sixth grade and the continued promise at SJEDS to constantly be providing the best educational experience for your child.
Think Tank, an SJEDS signature program, was initiated to provide enrichment for every student. The program is based on the work of Dr. Joseph Renzulli, a leading expert in gifted education and his assertion that all students benefit from project-based, student-led learning. Think Tank provides the opportunity for exposure to topics outside the regular curriculum and a time to passionately pursue an interest. I wish my own children had been able to benefit from Think Tank when they were students at SJEDS.
We teach our children that part of learning is to reflect and look for ways to make improvements. As teachers we must model this, and we did just that this past summer. In reflecting on Think Tank, we celebrated the many successes of this program including having offered almost 60 different pods. We looked critically at how we can improve Think Tank and make the experience even better for students.
Based on feedback from our teachers, we learned that more time for planning and collaboration to ensure a deeper dive into each topic was needed. With that knowledge, we made the decision to provide this time by offering Think Tank only in the spring this year. During the fall, we will spend time on collaboration and developing the planning process to ensure the future success of the program. As always, our commitment to our families is to constantly improve and provide the best experience for our students and families.