In April 2019, Graded invited some of the world's best educational thought partners to brainstorm and ideate with teachers, students, administrators, and Board members in a two-day workshop. We designed this deep dive into learning to leverage the knowledge, expertise, and experience of participating organizations and individuals.
The documentary showcased in this month's Gazette serves as a historical account of our two-day endeavor, as well as a guide for the work ahead of us. As you will see, the video concludes with a series of questions posed by our thought partners.
Since April, the Leadership Team, Board, and faculty have been deeply engaged in designing our next steps. We have made the decision, as I wrote in the June Gazette, to focus our attention on the science of learning, on belonging, and, most importantly, on the intersection of the two.
Think Tank Participant and Columbia University Professor Kevin Mattingly has been back to campus three times since July to train faculty and Leadership Team members on cognitive science learning strategies. Together, we are developing observation tools to assess student understanding of these techniques and their application within the classroom. Dr. Mattingly asserts that the work Graded is undertaking in this area is groundbreaking for international schools. This practice is, indeed, fundamental to ensuring our students are ready for the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world in which they will be required to live and lead.
Due to peer interest, over the next several months, I will be presenting our work to educators from around the globe. In November, I will speak in Dubai at the Global Recruitment Collaborative Leadership Huddle and in February, in New York at the Association for Advancement in International Education Annual Conference on the topic of "Change Leadership: Making it Stick." My presentations will address how Graded is systematically implementing cognitive science practices in Pre-primary through grade 12.
Additionally, Stanford d. School Learning Experience Designer Ariel Raz. Director of Analytics, Innovation and Research, Shauna Hobbs-Beckley and I will be presenting at the March Deeper Learning Conference in San Diego on the intersection of Design Thinking and the Science of Learning: The Experience at Graded - The American School of São Paulo.
Ensuring that students have a toolkit of skills and strategies to address any problem will undoubtedly provide them with the ability to make meaning of our world and affect change. In accordance with our strategic focus to inculcate our faculty in the application of cognitive science, we have created four new positions to begin in July 2020. Deeper Learning Coaches will be deployed, under the direction of the Teaching and Learning Department, to partner and guide our faculty in the use of cognitive science principles.
Over the coming months, we will be holding additional parent presentations to keep you informed of our progress. We will also invite Dr. Mattingly to speak with our parent community to share more about the science of learning efforts around the world in K-12 schools and universities.
For now... enjoy our Think Tank documentary. I hope it inspires you the same way it has inspired our faculty, as we continue to improve our practice everyday.
1. You have a master's degree in educational equity and cultural diversity from the University of Colorado Boulder with an emphasis in linguistically diverse education. How does your degree help at Graded?
For my entire career up until Graded, I taught in school districts where the vast majority of students were minorities who faced oppressive educational, economic, social, political, and belief systems. I sensed that in order to create a thriving classroom culture, I had to spend every day telling them a different story than they had heard all their lives: you matter; si se puede; you are safe; you belong; I will not insult you by expecting anything less than the best; I got your back.
It turns out, my master's degree equipped me with the language and pedagogy for this innate belief: affective filter. Some fancy education and linguistic researcher named Stephen Krashen found lots of evidence to back up the idea that students who are learning a second language will not learn unless they feel safe in a classroom, unless teachers take measures to lower their affective filters. #micdropyo
It's what we all know, isn't it? Despite our busy culture, distracting interactions, and never-ending multitasking, the risky presence of our authentic hearts is required to learn. Yes...a second language. But I would argue a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g.
THIS is the core of who I am as a teacher, from the "hood" to the halls of Graded. And I have learned that it doesn't matter, the parents' paychecks, or access to resources, or the native language, or the color of the skin, or the status of citizenship: All people need love.
And so I take certain measures to create in my classroom a space safe for hearts: mindfulness, check-ins, circles, feedback opportunities, laughter, raw transparency, daring conversations, and nonacademic moments of human beingness. This is also why I took on the role of the Community Connections Coordinator. I see this as an opportunity to advocate for students, to build a meaningful mentoring program, and to foster vibrant space at Graded for hearts.
It also is why I am a fierce advocate of adult culture at Graded, too. Our teacher hearts matter, too. We can sometimes get so consumed filling the cups of our students and our families that we forget to fill ours, too.
We need people who are guardians of hearts. This is why I teach. #heartsmatter
2. What is your favorite way to spend a long weekend or short vacation?
I used to have the perfect dog, Spooner. He would go, go, go when we went, and he would chill, chill, chill when we were at home. He was my animal spirit.
On the weekends, I live in the soft paradox between activity and inertia. So my first answer to this question is...
Naps! Or as my best friend calls them—because they are long and sluggish and hard to wake up from and kind of ruin her nonstop agenda—"day sleeps." There is nothing like crawling into the darkened sanctuary of my comfy bed and disappearing under the weight of blankets to just let go, to breathe (and maybe to snore).
But, on the flip side, I love to explore. From breweries to beaches, mountain trails to museum halls, one of the reasons my husband and I moved overseas was the call of adventure. Our first year here, after getting settled in, I think we traveled every long weekend and holiday break. Truth be told, I can get a little obsessed about travel planning (I think my other life calling is to be a travel agent), so that's half the fun. Right now we're dreaming of a trip to New Zealand, so that's taking up my free time. #firstworldproblems #I'lltakeonefortheteam
3. Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Some of my earliest memories as a child are of my mom getting up long before the sun, playing a few games of Atari with me curled on her lap, before she headed off to work. All my life she was up in the blue-cold-quiet-darkness of the morning. I didn't get it.
And now, as the trajectory of life goes, I find myself also a morning person. I get it. There is something so special about the stillness of the morning. Our apartment porch is perfect for this: we have flocks of chattering parakeets and those yellow Brazilian birds who sound like they're yelling "Hercules" and doves that wake the sun with their melodic song. And, I am at my best in the morning. Work that takes me an hour in the afternoon or evening takes half that time in the morning. So I like to make my mornings as productive as possible, be it hitting the gym or getting to work early. Because of this, I am most definitely not a night owl. I am in bed every night by 9. #dinnerreservationsat5please #ohwaittheydon'topenuntil6
4. You're a trained yoga teacher. Does that carry over into your classroom in any way?
Yoga for me was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. Though I've always been active, it is different to be together with a group of people working toward the same goal. It's even more special when we are breathing and beating with what feels like the same lungs and heart.
Yoga introduced me to being present through breath. That introduction, coupled with grieving the death of both my parents, led me to meditation. It started with a few silent weekend retreats. Then I found myself in a 5-night silent meditation retreat in the breath-giving mountains of New Mexico. I could not get out of my own head, but I had nowhere else to go. It was torture. It was transformative. Slowly, I incorporated mindfulness into my regular routine. I set a goal in 2017 to meditate every day. And I did. And it was powerful.
As someone who has always been plagued by anxiety, I felt myself changing... not out of striving, but through some kind of inward—almost magical—restoration. My own experience, coupled with my training through Mindful Schools, led me to begin offering mindfulness in my classroom. #everysingleclass
If I can have a soapbox moment: I am worried about the enormous pressure our High School students face. They are overwhelmed and sleep-deprived and hyperalert and double-triple booked and overstimulated and constantly behind and always worried about their future (which is so very bright) and bombarded with messages of not being good enough (which is so very false). Again, I come back to the heart. What can I offer them, besides the best teaching, that will serve their spirits?
Mindfulness. All kinds of research tout its benefits: from sleeping better to stronger relationships to less stress to better academic results to improved athletic performance to... I could go on and on. So now I start every class with a short mindful practice. It is a moment to stop and breathe and be. It is a moment to shift from what was to what is. It is a moment to notice without judgment. It makes me a better teacher. I hope it helps my students' hearts, both immediately for that day's lesson, but also—and most importantly—for the time that comes after that.
5. In what way did your own experience as a student in middle school or high school lead you to become an English teacher?
His name is Strauss. He was my high school AP English teacher. We had the best discussions, even arguments, in class. His daughter and I bonded over gymnastics. He personally took me on a college tour. He taught me that it is not about answers, but about questions; it is not about content, but about connection.
I was fortunate: he was the apex in a long line of great teachers in my life. But honestly, this would not have happened in the same way had my parents not moved our family out of the Chicago city into its suburbs where education was, I hate to say it, better. My parents wrote my first suburban teacher a letter of commendation at the end of my 2nd grade year because they were so impressed by the difference. #zipcodesshouldn'tdetermineeducationalquality
6. If you had an unlimited shopping spree at only one store, what store would you choose? Why?
OMG, this question. I hope my husband doesn't read this, ha! First: Ulta. Ulta is like Sephora, a mecca for makeup lovers. And that I am. I am obsessed, ok maybe addicted, to eye shadow palettes. I have like ten. And I can't stop. #can'tstopwon'tstop #somebodyhelpme
It started, I think(?), when I went to beauty school. I took a break from college and became a cosmetologist, and I loved what I could do with makeup looks on myself and friends. I am especially obsessed with eyes. At one point, I would clip out of magazines images of eye makeup styles I liked, and they were all hanging on my bathroom closet door. #creepy
I'm not that far gone now. But rarely do I repeat the same eye makeup look in a week. #eyeshadowfordays
My second choice, despite the cliche, would have to be a bookstore. Doesn't it just smell like an old soul? The rows of words and stories and pretty displays of stationary and endless selections of journals just waiting to be filled and choices of cards to gift people. Being in a bookstore makes my heart happy.
7. What's your favorite animal?
Ahh, the easiest question. Horses. Though not easy to explain.
If there are any spiritual readers up in the hizzy, you know about John Eldridge. He is an author who writes about "divine rumors." It's like a hint of something eternal, a whisper to something greater than us. Something we can't quite articulate, or capture, yet nonetheless we feel it, we deeply experience it. That, for me, is horses. When I see them, smell them, groom them, ride them, I am transported somewhere better, somewhere "wholer," somewhere right. Sometimes, just a glimpse of one grazing on a distant hill is enough to reduce me to tears.
I ache for horses. Though I have never been able to afford my own (either space- or price-wise), I seek them out whenever I can. My husband and I were so very fortunate to spend about a week on horseback through Patagonia. It was... divine.#takeme(horse)back
8. What's your favorite thing about Graded?
The very thing that makes the world go round: hearts.
From day one, the students embraced me and welcomed me and made me feel part of the community. The staff, the leadership, and my colleagues treat people like humans, not data points. The parents greet me warmly with beijos at conferences, and we form true partnerships. This campus is also good for my heart. I love walking in early to the serenade of birds in the Student Center and the slant of the sun through the trees. Looking out from my classroom and seeing people learn and linger in hammocks is therapeutic. And I would be remiss to not mention the vivaciousness of Graded... and Brazil. Hands down the best parties I've ever been to as a teacher. #workhardplayhard #partyhearty
In our new alumni feature, iFood co-founder and entrepreneur Michel Eberhardt '94 talks to the Graded Gazette about what drew his family to Graded, thinking out of the box, and the soft skills he acquired at Graded that have helped him in the business world.
Why did your parents send you to Graded?
I think because of my paternal grandfather who escaped Nazi Germany. He immigrated to Brazil at the last minute before the war. After he made money in Brazil, he started businesses in other countries. He said, "If we have to flee again, I don't want the family to start from scratch." He sent my dad, uncle, and aunt to Graded. He wanted them to learn English, to be international. My parents enrolled me and my brother at Graded, too.
Why did your grandparents come to Brazil?
It's a funny, sad story. On my mother's side, my grandmother went to Auschwitz and survived. And my grandfather went to labor camps in Hungary. They were in line in Paris to get Canadian visas when they heard that Canada wasn't issuing visas anymore. And then they heard that Brazil — a country called Brazil — was giving visas. They had no idea about Brazil, but they were issued visas, got on the first boat from Marseille to Rio, and landed in Rio in the middle of Carnaval. They saw everybody naked in the streets, fireworks, and they said, "Oh my God! We immigrated to a country at war!"
What appealed to you about Graded?
I always wanted to be a global citizen: not Brazilian, not American, not European. Graded provided an international environment, diversity, new cultures, and new opportunities. From a very young age, my horizons were opened. My friends who went to Brazilian schools — that they only experienced this diversity when they were older and went to live abroad. Graded helped me to understand different cultures, which has helped me in business. I like bringing business ideas from afar and adapting them to Brazil. And so I did that with the food delivery business.
From left: Wanda Malhotra '94, Fernanda Rudge '95, Bruna Siciliano '94, Elena Anargyrou '94, Michel Eberhardt '94
You and your brother founded iFood. How did you get the idea?
The iFood/Disk Cook story is funny. My brother (who also went to Graded) went to Boston - to Boston University, and then Harvard, and he didn't know how to cook. He survived by ordering food from a restaurant delivery business there. When he came back, we said "Food delivery is a good business," so we opened Disk Cook in 1997. iFood started as an in-house project and was spun off in 2010.
What challenges did you face building Disk Cook?
Disk Cook was a vertical operation. We handled every step of the delivery process — the call center, the payment, and the delivery itself (which was always the hardest part). We had to send the client order by fax, and, at the time, a restaurant only had one phone line, because telephone lines were very expensive in Brazil. So we had to start thinking out of the box. We decided that we had to fix the ordering system.
How did you find a business solution?
We went worldwide looking for a solution. How could we communicate with restaurants better and faster? We found this technology in Scandinavia that was like a two-way pager printing machine. With online ordering increasing rapid-fire, we created an online food order taker platform called iFood. With this solution in hand, it made it easier to expand to other cities. In 2011, we got some venture capital investment to improve and expand the model. At the end of 2014, I sold the whole delivery business and then left to take a sabbatical in California.
What have you done during your sabbatical?
I studied sustainability and design at UCLA for a couple of years, and I've developed an online knowledge-sharing platform called 2toring.com.
What inspired you to enter the education business?
I helped with Saúde e Alegria project in the Amazon, which brings internet connectivity to solar-powered information centers in the middle of the jungle, by the Tapajos river, in the state of Pará. This project totally changed life in these communities. You could say that the communities were catapulted from the Stone Age to the Digital Age with the flick of a switch.
When the computers started running in the info-center, they asked one of the community leaders, "What do you want to see?" The guy said, "I want to see snow. I never have never seen a picture of snow in my life." Imagine this guy in the middle of the Amazon. We Googled 'snow,' and he was mesmerized. "Oh, it's so white! How does it smell?" Like he thought the computer could emit smell. "Oh is it that cold?" And he touched the computer to "feel it".
After I left, I think about eight months after, there were two guys from this community who had never before seen a computer. They began learning to code on their own watching Youtube and created an app so you could buy the boat tickets that service that region of the Amazon basin. So I realized what the power of education — online education — and how access to education changes lives. Realizing this really changed my life.
Tell us about your new project.
I realized that online/virtual education had to be interactive, and with the current technology, you could finally mimic a physical class online. I met my new partners in Los Angeles, who had a Brazilian software house called 2Mundos, which specialized in multi-player gaming and online education platforms. I decided to invest in the company, and we spun off to create 2Toring.com.
We decided to build this platform for interactive online classes, empowering people to teach anything to anyone. Pre-recorded classes work, but a lot of people, something like 70-80%, don't finish their course because it's boring, because there's no interactivity, because you can't ask questions on the spot, and because it's hard to learn on your own. You learn a lot from watching and sharing experiences with classmates.
Which of your Graded teachers made learning fun or had the most influence on you?
There were two. I had a great 4th grade teacher called Ms. Powell. She had us run around school and promoted healthy eating habits (in the 80s). That always kept me active. Today, if I start sitting too long, I stand up, start walking around the office. I also had a great photography teacher Mr. Gann. Photography, which I started at Graded, is still a hobby of mine today.
What are some skills you learned at Graded that apply to your professional life?
Negotiation, social skills, the ability to work with different cultures, the ability to make new friends and handle losing old friends (because families relocated), and the ability to adapt. Graded helped me learn to think out of the box. Working and living internationally, I realized that these soft skills I learned at an early age strongly impacted the person I am today. And I am happy to say that Graded played an important role in this.
by Alejandro G., Grade 10
My alarm went off at 3:20 am on Sunday, September 22, the morning of my first Classroom Without Walls (CWW) trip. After some difficulty, I found the will to get out of bed and change into the travel clothes I had picked out the night before. I quickly double-checked my luggage and was out of the house, arriving at school right on time to meet up with my mentoring group in the Graded Student Center before departing for the airport.
Nearly all 10th graders embarked on the much anticipated trip to Lençóis Maranhenses, a legendary region of Brazil I had heard of many times before but had never visited. I knew the journey there would be somewhat tedious – between the bus ride to the airport, the three-and-a-half-hour flight to São Luis, Maranhão, and the long bus ride to the city of Barreirinhas where we would be staying. However, I knew that once there, I would have a great time.
After finally arriving at the hotel that evening, our guides advised us to set our alarms for 6:45 am, as we were scheduled to leave for our first adventure by 8:00 am. My group would be the first of the three to visit the famous sand dunes of the Lençóis National Park; I couldn't wait. After a long and bumpy drive via pickup truck, we arrived at the dunes that instantly stunned me with their beauty. They were unlike anything I had ever seen before. For starters, they were much bigger than I had expected, and the sand felt incredibly smooth, albeit very hot, under my bare feet. We trekked through the dunes, passing small lagoons with dramatically blue water, until we arrived at our destination: the magnificent Lagoa Azul. We slid down a tall dune into the lagoon and swam in it for a while, taking it all in. We then continued on to Lagoa Bonita. I was astonished by the stark contrast in the elements: strong winds, scorching heat, and the cold water. At the end of an incredible day. I was exhausted but exhilarated.
The next day, we traveled by motorboat along the Preguiças River to Marcelino, a self-sustaining artisan community. There, the locals showed us the entire process of using 100% natural fibers to make iconic artisan bags. They demonstrated how they extract and dye (all with natural coloring) fibers, which are delicate and malleable strands obtained from buriti plants that grow near wetlands in tropical areas of Brazil. The artisans then weave the dyed fibers with incredible skill to make beautiful boxes, baskets, bags, and accessories such as colorful bracelets. As if the experience itself weren't enough, we left Marcelino with souvenirs the artisans made specially for us. Happy and hungry, we then headed to lunch at Restaurante Casa da Farinha by the river. Upon finishing our meal, we were led next door where the restaurant owners make their own manioc flour (farinha de mandioca). We learned all about the starchy root vegetable and observed the flour-making process, starting with the meticulous peeling of the root.
On Wednesday, the last day of activities, we again left on the boats. This time we were heading towards the ocean to explore the town of Mandacaru, and we met a group of local fishermen in the fishing village of Atins. They shared with us a number of interesting stories about their profession and about the challenges they have faced since Atins became a popular kitesurfing destination. It was eye-opening to get the fishermen's perspectives on the impact of kitesurfing on the main local economic activity. After this incredible learning experience, we went to another beach and walked through smaller dunes to swim in a lagoon.
Later that afternoon, we took the boats back to the hotel. As the sun lowered in the horizon, we were able to appreciate the particularly beautiful scenery. It was an unforgettable closing to a great trip. I could not be more grateful for this opportunity, not only to explore those amazing landscapes, but also to interact closely with local communities and experience Brazil in a way that many have never done.
Graded’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA) organized a colorful reading-themed Teacher Appreciation Week, honoring faculty for their steadfast dedication to students and their growth. Teachers were showered with gifts, snacks, special breakfasts, heartwarming messages from students, and a party with amazing raffles.
Internationally-renowned author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds also visited Graded in October, teaching students to use art as a way to channel their creativity and express their ideas and dreams. Mr. Reynolds also spoke to parents (“grown-up kids”), encouraging them to promote artistry at home on a daily basis.
We are excited for our school-wide Thanksgiving Celebration on Saturday, November 9. Tomorrow, we will hold the annual all-school Halloween Parade. IB Theatre students will also premier their production of “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. Be on the lookout for the Lower School Musical, Upper School Choir and Orchestra Concert, Kindness Week, and sports tournaments in November!
Last year, we envisioned a new Upper School Library that would provide our students with an inspirational and flexible learning center. Just a year later, our dream has become a reality.
In her August 2018 Gazette article, Learning Reimagined: Why We Should Invest in Innovative Spaces, Chief Strategic Communications and Advancement Officer Susan Clain wrote about the critical relationship between space and learning, as well as the importance of funding such transformational spaces.
On August 15, 2019, we inaugurated a beautiful new Upper School Library, home to more than 17,000 volumes, including print books, magazines, and ebooks. Graded's renovated library, captured in the accompanying photographs, features comfortable furniture and inspiring signage that incorporates the school's vibrant color palette. The library's main reading circle serves as an area for class instruction, while study rooms and booths allow our students to work both independently and collaboratively.
The Graded Libraries' most popular program, the Visiting Author Series, was hosted in our new space for the first time earlier this month. Alan Gratz, author of the young-adult novel Refugee, spoke to students in grades 5-10 about dire situations that force individuals to flee their homes and seek refuge. During his visit, Mr. Gratz delivered presentations, facilitated class discussions, and led writing workshops. These activities enabled our students to better empathize with refugees and further understand the harsh conditions and challenges that they continue to face today.
The Visiting Author Series returns next month, this time to the Lower School Library. With the support of the Graded Annual Fund, we look forward to welcoming visiting author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds. Best known for The Dot, a picture book about a girl who unearths her artistic talent, Mr. Reynolds will conduct Lower School activities that foster creativity and self-expression.
All my best,
1. You have a degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin. What inspired you to become a social studies teacher?
My desire to teach came fairly late in life. I was working as a substitute teacher in various school districts to supplement my income. During that time, I had an experience as a long-term substitute for a history class that made me realize how much I love history. I realized during that same month that I wanted to devote my life to being a history teacher.
2. How has life changed for high school students since you were in high school?
I began working for money at the age of 15, first as a grocery clerk and then as a dishwasher, waiter, and bartender. These were all jobs that I had in high school. I don't think any of my students have ever had a job during high school. Also, students are so much kinder and smarter now.
3. What would your dream day as a social studies teacher look like?
I would start the day with a prep period with my colleagues moderating Extended Essays and planning the welcome party for the new member of our Social Studies Department who would be joining us next school year. Then I'd teach IB History, a lesson evaluating the effects of the First World War. During Flex, there would be an Extended Essay consultation with Giancarlo W. At lunch, I'd be discussing the Grateful Dead with students Pedro C. and Rodrigo M. while eating baião de dois. Then for third block, I'd work with grade 12 students in the Theory of Knowledge Socratic Seminar on the prompt, "Can bad art shape bad people? Can good art shape good people?" Fourth block would be grade 9 social studies with a lesson on the economic causes of the American Independence movement. After school, there would be a reassessment with every single student I teach, because they all value self-improvement, learning, and exercising their skills. Finally, at home I would take a long walk with my dog Ayla and my partner Renata, followed by dinner at Bendito Bar with a live album by Phish playing on the radio.
4. If you could change one thing about your appearance, what would it be?
I can't grow a beard.
5. Tell us about Old American Junk.
Old American Junk is the moniker for my songwriting. Making music is a deep passion of mine and I have been composing songs and playing in bands for much of my adult life. I spend my summers playing shows in the United States and from time to time I also play gigs in São Paulo. People could listen by visiting Old American Junk on Spotify or on my website oldamericanjunk.com.
6. What do you remember about your first day of school or your first teacher?
I cried for an hour during my first nap time in kindergarten because I thought I would never see my mom again.
7. What is something that bothers you if it is not done perfectly?
Pasta: Don't overcook it.
8. If you could have dinner with one of the people your students learn about in your classes at Graded, who would it be?
Sir Edward Grey, the British statesman who served as foreign secretary from 1905 to 1916.
9. What "life advice" would you give every student if you were sure they would listen?
It is always now.
10. What's your favorite thing about Graded?
My partner, Lower School Pre-primary Teaching Assistant Renata Reis.
1. What inspired you to study teaching and become a pre-primary teacher?
I've always had a desire to work with young children. I believe teachers have a very significant, lifelong impact on all of their students. This impact involves not only the teaching of particular academic skills, but also, and just as importantly, the fostering of a student's self-esteem.
2. What do you enjoy most about working as a Pre-primary teacher at Graded?
There are always new experiences and challenges. I also love the fact that we get involved with so many different cultures and backgrounds. I've had students from Denmark, the United States, Italy, Portugal, Argentina, and South Korea, to name a few. And of course, Brazil.
3. You're originally from Rio de Janeiro but have lived in São Paulo for many years. What is something you've learned to admire about São Paulo?
I moved to São Paulo, because my husband is from the city. It is the place where I have had the opportunity to grow as a mother, a person, and a professional. I treasure it for that. Also, I like cooler places, and I love the variety of restaurants in São Paulo.
4. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I was born in Rio, but I would never move back there. Where would I live? Definitely New York. Like São Paulo, New York is a huge city with many food options, museums, and a diverse population. It is also an extremely accessible city where you don't need to have a car. I can walk or take public transportation to any place at any time. New York has an amazing energy. There's no other place like it.
5. What was your favorite TV show when you were a child?
I really liked Bewitched and Charlie's Angels because they both had strong female characters.
6. What advice can you give about how to relieve stress?
Find a hobby, eat your favorite dessert, dance, and always think positively.
7. You love arts and crafts and particularly working with paper. What kinds of things do you make?
I love scrapbooking and doing new art projects with my students. I used to create scrapbooks with my daughters and it was such a fun way to keep track of our memories.
8. What character trait are you currently trying to change or improve?
I want to become more athletic. I'd like to try yoga.
9. What's your favorite junk food, even though you know it's not good for you?
French fries and brigadeiro de colher!
10. What's your favorite thing about Graded?
It's definitely my second home. My daughters both graduated from Graded. It's a place that makes me grow professionally and as a person every day.
As a middle schooler, junior Olivia P. watched her older sister journey to school on Saturday mornings to teach English. Once she witnessed how her sister's volunteer work not only impacted the community at large but also the volunteers themselves, Olivia instantly knew she wanted to be a part of Friendship and Language Acquisition (FALA).
Graded's FALA program was created in 1999 to serve low-income individuals in the nearby community who lacked English-learning opportunities. Today, student enrollment is at its highest in its twenty-year history. More than 180 students — children, teenagers, and adults — from throughout the city of São Paulo travel to Graded to receive free English lessons.
Over the years, FALA has thrived. "It's incredible to see how much the program has benefited our community," said FALA Advisor and Middle School Teaching Assistant Sandra Greenwald. "I've had students reach out to me and their Graded student-teachers years later, to tell us how English has provided them with new educational and job opportunities."
The program has also greatly benefited Graded student volunteers. "Our students learn that there are many things they take for granted, such as being bilingual," explained FALA Advisor and Lower School Teaching Assistant Renata Duarte. "Through FALA, many of our students are able to make connections with people from other places and realities, that they would never have if it weren't for FALA."
When he stepped into his classroom for the first time, senior Gabriel M. thought his nerves would consume him. As he started speaking, he was immediately interrupted by students who asked him to speak more slowly. Fortunately, his fears of not "being a good teacher" quickly diminished. Fast forward the semester, Gabriel's students told him he was one of the best teachers they had ever had.
"I love being a part of FALA because I am able to help people and the community that surrounds me. I've been able to make new friendships, share my knowledge, and help people grow," said Gabriel. "The most important thing for me is to see people smile and have fun in class."
Graded students demonstrate exceptional commitment, leadership, and a positive attitude. Driven by a passion for education and gratitude for the opportunities they have been afforded, student-teachers prepare their own lesson plans and improve their teaching strategies by working collaboratively with their co-teachers, advisors, and fellow student leaders. "I value FALA because it is so real. It's a little different from the other clubs I participate in, because our actions have real consequences," added Olivia. "There is a much bigger responsibility. But it has also shown me how much I love teaching and education, and that I can bring change."
The program continues to evolve and grow. Prospective FALA volunteers observe classes each week, providing their peers with ongoing feedback. After a semester, they move on to teach their own classes. FALA's leadership group strives to improve their students' experience. According to Olivia, "It is challenging, but we're currently trying to make sure everyone [teachers] is prepared to teach so that our students are more engaged in class."
The 2019-20 school year is upon us, and a record 1289 students are settling back into their school lives. Many exciting additions to the school greeted our students on their first day — from facilities to learning experiences.
Upon our arrival back to campus, we welcomed the creation of the new Graded Greens, a leafy outdoor space adjacent to the Student Center. On Thursday, August 15, we held the Grand Opening of our reconceptualized Upper School Library. The newly completed Innovation Studio, a STEM space for Pre-primary to grade 2 students, opened last week. All these inspirational spaces were designed with learning in mind. Each one offers students new ways to connect and heighten their engagement with our curriculum.
To enhance student learning in these spaces, Graded has begun intensive faculty training in the Science of Learning. In partnership with the Klingenstein Center at Columbia University Teachers College and Dr. Kevin Mattingly, we are educating our teachers on the design and teaching of meta-learning strategies.
Equipped with these scientifically-based strategies, our students can apply the very best practices to ensure their learning is deep, enduring, and most importantly, transferable. This means the things they learn today can be retained, recalled, and later applied in new contexts. These are the skills global leaders of the future must have.
Please know I am at your disposal should you need anything. We are committed to making this year a most positive, fruitful, and powerful one for your students.
See you in the hallways,