March 7, 2011

posted Mar 4, 2011, 3:47 PM by Anna Saunders   [ updated Mar 4, 2011, 3:50 PM by PFC Webmaster ]

Hello Walnut Acres parents!


Our lifeskill this month is citizenship and students are beginning to have discussions about what it means to be a good citizen. (Come join us for our Citizenship Sing-out on April 1st. Click here for lyrics.) I am very grateful that your children can look to you as models of citizenship. In fact, let me give you one example of how your children are watching and learning from you. Last Thursday, during Dining with Dr. Dowd, I asked students one of my favorite questions, “What do you think we should do to make our school a better place to learn?” While I often get responses related to the return of chocolate milk and the need for more recesses, it was ironic that the students at my table began energetically talking about fundraisers and project ideas to raise funds for school supplies. The conversation among the students sounded for all the world like a PFC meeting! I chuckled to myself as I verbally reinforced the students for being excellent school citizens and quietly gave thanks to all of you wonderful parents who are creating  future entrepenuers and humanitarians.


Thank you to all who work on our school fundraisers, including our upcoming annual auction, those who volunteer time on projects or in the classroom, and those who serve on our PFC board. Your energy and effort are crucial to our school community success! I salute you all for the innumerable benefits you provide to all our students and the values you are teaching to your children.      


Next month I will share what I know about budgeting for 2011-12. Right now I will direct you to the clear and direct communication from Superintendent Lawrence presented in his newsletter. He presented an informative power point presentation to PAC (Parent Advisory Committee) which holds open meetings (ALL parents welcome) monthly, and that will also soon be posted.


This month I want to tell you about our hot-off-the-press Walnut Acres Homework Plan that was developed by a homework committee comprised of parents, teachers and myself. The plan is based on the district homework model (user name: public; password: mdusd) created last year. A draft of our plan was presented at two PFC meetings, to grade level teams and to the whole staff for input. The Walnut Acres Homework Plan was approved by the School Site Council on 3/3/11 and is now on the Walnut Acres website for you to review.


It was decided that the grade-based time limits for nightly homework in the district plan would be applied to the site plan and that the district plan’s brief statements regarding academic standards (cf.6011) (user name: public; password: mdusd) would be emphasized with a focus on homework components of purpose, choice, and student ownership to support 21st Century Learning. Our goal is implement a homework plan that manifests in purposeful homework within reasonable time limits that serves to reinforce content, encourage critical and creative thinking, and/or enhance student empowerment within the learning process.  


It is important that our plan is implemented across and within grade levels consistently. We are currently discussing how to clarify time spent on homework in each class so that teachers can modify their homework assignments if necessary to match the plan timeframes. We also want to ensure an effective and ongoing parent-teacher communication plan so that there is a well-understood and effective practice for meeting the homework needs of individual students.


The final component of our plan is balance. The time limits for nightly homework four nights per week should allow for family time, other activities, and open-ended playtime.  Well-Balanced Wednesdays are also part of our plan to remind us all of the importance of a well-balanced family life.


I know that some parents are concerned about the balance of school and homework as discussed in the movie “Race to Nowhere”. For those of you interested in participating in a discussion of the Race to Nowhere movie, please note that there will be a free Parent Education Night open to the community in the Northgate Teacher’s Lounge on March 9th from 7-9:00 p.m. The discussion will be facilitated by Northgate counselors, Michelle Dooner and Jill Sabotka. It will focus on the pressures children face as well as what parents and community can do to help students succeed at being balanced and healthy – emotionally, socially, and academically. The conversation is open to all whether or not you have seen “Race to Nowhere”.


As we continue our partnership to create balanced learning opportunities for our children, let’s remember that our modeling each day is internalized by our children. The way we handle stress, the strategies we employ as we learn, (including our mistakes!) the way we interact with one another, and the choices we make become the hallmark of behavior for our children. To paraphrase author, David Bly, “Our children will become what we are, so let’s be what we want them to be.”


Here’s to all of us learning and growing right along with our children,

Colleen Dowd

Walnut Acres Principal