As we near the end of our academic year, Graded is abuzz with activity. Our seniors have begun their International Baccalaureate (IB) examinations and made their college decisions. Graded’s Arts Department has showcased its fine end-of-semester work with the IB Art Exhibition, K-12 Art Exhibition, Graded Voices II Concert, Orchestra Concert, and Into the Woods play. We look forward to the upcoming Graded Film Festival and Band Concert. Our high school athletes have competed in the Big 4 Tournament, and our middle schoolers are currently participating in Little 8 Tournament.
As our strategic plan ensures, students are at the center. It is through this lens during May and June, that we watch them shine. The ability to watch students grow, develop, learn, and change is what makes being part of a school so special. I hope you will join me in celebrating all of our students’ accomplishments and hard work.
This edition of the Graded Gazette features the impressions of incoming Graded High School Principal Stuart Kent after his recent visit to campus. We profile two of our outstanding Graded faculty members, High School Portuguese Department Head and College Counselor for Brazilian Universities Adriana Silveira and Lower School Grade 4 Teacher Andrew Hossack. A beautiful pictorial spread highlights our four Lower School Grandparents and Special Friends Days. Finally, you will note that we need your help in reaching our Graded Annual Fund goal. Our aim is to have 100% parent and alumni participation — no matter the size — in this yearly initiative. The Graded Annual Fund supports excellence and enrichment both in and outside the classroom.
As we approach the last twenty days of school, know that our faculty are committed to readying every student for the coming school year and instilling in them the confidence and knowledge they have gained throughout the school year. We are so very proud of our students’ work and I, too, of our faculty.
1. What drew you to teaching lower school children?
When I was a kid, my teachers were such an important part of my life.
In several ways, my home life lacked stability. My teachers, in direct contrast, were always in the same place at the same time, interacting with me in the same, consistent manner. You can’t imagine the power of this kind of consistency until you have lived without it.
I will never forget, for example, my third grade teacher, Mrs. Deming. She met me at the door each morning and always greeting me with the same smile on her face. I knew in that moment that I was shifting environments in a way that gave me the mental and emotional space to learn and thrive.
I want to create this same experience for children. For this reason, for example, I meet my own students each morning and shake each child's hand, give some hugs, and say good morning to start the day.
2. You worked for nearly a year teaching and developing curricula in Namibia. Tell us more about that experience.
I actually did not move to Namibia intending to work with kids. In fact, after teaching for five years, I was not sure if I wanted to continue in the career. With the help of a pen pal, I decided to travel a year in southern Africa, exploring other possible life opportunities.
After about two weeks in Namibia, I met a Namibian man named Ricky who had been helping to collect supplies to provide to local shelters, or “places of safety,” where women had opened their small homes to children who had lost their mothers to HIV/AIDS. He invited me to go along one day to help deliver these supplies. I soon found myself working with these kids, teaching basic literacy and math skills. I would walk through the community, from one house to another, meeting with groups of children who were eager to experience any form of schooling. When I was blocks away the kids would already spot me approaching, and I would hear them chanting, “Andrew! School time!” as they hurriedly collected the few supplies we had to work with and sat themselves down expectantly. During that year of working with those kids - the year that I had set aside to explore other options - one thing became crystal clear. I was meant to be a teacher.
3. What contradiction in life have you had to learn to accept?
Things do not always happen for reason. They often just happen. But if we try, we can usually make sense of them in retrospect.
4. What is something about you that most people don’t know?
One life option that I seriously considered was going to seminary, which is a school that educates people to become priests or ministers. I applied and was accepted to a seminary in New York City in my mid-twenties. I think it appealed to many of the same parts of me that make me love teaching: educating people, being in front of groups, and counseling those in need or experiencing difficult moments.
5. You have taught children in orphanages, children with special needs, children in charter schools, and gifted children. What one factor from all of these experiences do you use every day at Graded?
Kids, like all of us, just want to be seen and heard. When interacting with any individual student, I try to make sure they have my undivided attention. I also try to interact with each of my students individually at least once in the day so they know someone is looking out for them.
6. What do you think needs to happen to make the world a better place?
All people need equitable access to education, regardless of any aspect of their identity or their access to wealth. Furthermore, this education needs to be a process that intentionally builds empathy for others and creates a drive in students to be central players in creating social, economic, and environmental change.
7. What is your idea of a good time?
Favorite Day: Wake up, drink coffee, read, walk my dog, go to the market with my husband, cook lunch, and watch movies.
8. What is your motto?
Leave people better than you found them.
9. What is your favorite thing about Graded?
I sometimes wish we could put a GoPro on the head of one of our students and see their perspective through a single day. I think you would see a kid who is involved in a wide variety of learning experiences, a kid who spends their time in beautiful spaces, and a kid who interacts with many adults who care deeply for them as individuals. That is my favorite thing about Graded: the loving and enriching experience we strive to create for our students.
1. You have a post-graduate specialization in neuroscience and education. How do you use this knowledge in your daily life at Graded?
Our brains are constantly growing and changing. All our experiences - either from our interaction with the environment or with other people - have a direct influence on the plasticity of our brains. We learn from many different sources, and all of them enrich us and turn information into knowledge. We then incorporate that into our long-term memory. Becoming more aware of this was important and has helped me to consciously try out different teaching strategies. My goal is to always focus on the students and create the best possible conditions for their learning.
2. In addition to extensive experience teaching Portuguese language and literature, you have also taught and written articles about literature and film. How did you become interested in film?
I have loved movies since I was a teenager. As a result, I have been a member of several film clubs, and I have also had the opportunity to teach a course on cinema and literature. As a teacher, I know that movies can be a good resource for students, especially when the movies are connected to specific themes or texts that we discuss in class. Through film analysis, students also understand better how style and language are used to produce a specific message.
3. What was your first job?
I started teaching when I was 13. My Portuguese teacher invited me to be part of a community service project, and my job was to develop music activities and tell stories to young children in a school with limited resources. This experience showed me that education is the best way to truly interact with people, and that this interaction is an opportunity for constant transformation, both for the teacher and the students.
4. If you were not a teacher, what job would you have?
When I was a child, I dreamed of being an astronomer. I would still love it, but I think I have an overly romantic and unrealistic notion of what astronomers do. I really just love the stars and always want to learn more about them.
5. What one word sums up your high school experience? Why?
Friendship. High school was a period during which I strengthened some very special bonds. My friends and I used to spend a lot of time together, developing cultural and social projects involving music and poetry both in and out of school. We lived in Serra Negra, a small, quiet town with a great sense of community, so felt as if we were one big family. I sometimes miss it, but the teenager that I was still lives inside me, and she is a permanent source of courage, joy, and freedom.
6. What is your greatest regret?
I will always regret not having spent more time with the people I love who have already died. Relationships are my priority, and I usually feel terrible when I am not able to devote as much of myself as I would like to the ones I love.
7. Where is your favorite place to take out-of-town guests visiting São Paulo?
Downtown. Every time I visit a city for the first time, I try to take a walk through its downtown because I can clearly see a city’s history and culture through its architecture, art, music, markets, restaurants, and people in their daily routines. São Paulo is no different, so downtown is where I take visitors.
8. You are the college counselor for Brazilian universities. What is going on in that area?
The number of students interested in attending colleges in Brazil has grown significantly in the past few years. One of the reasons for this is that some universities accept the IB diploma as a form of entry without the need of "vestibular" or ENEM exams. This started in the middle of 2016. Currently, five universities accept the IB diploma: Fundação Instituto de Administração (FIA), Escola Superior de Propaganda e Marketing (ESPM), Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado (FAAP), the business and economy schools at Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV), and Instituto Brasileiro de Mercado de Capitais (IBMEC).
We are adapting the Brazilian counseling program to this new reality. Our university visits are an important part of the process. Besides the visits, students participate in different workshops and study groups held at these universities. This year, several juniors and seniors took part in projects and classes at IBMEC, ESPM, and FGV, and Insper.
9. What book in Portuguese do you feel all high school students should read, not for academic reasons but simply because it is fun or interesting?
I think that high school students should read more Brazilian poetry. There are a lot of great poets that I could mention, but reading Paulo Leminski’s poems is a great idea. Mostly of Leminski's texts are short and deep. They are easy to understand, but they have a profound meaning. Leminski's collection, Toda poesia, is a fantastic starting point.
10. What is your favorite thing about Graded?
What I like the most at Graded is my interaction with students, both as a teacher and as a Brazilian college counselor. There is a great sense of community here at Graded and, at the same time, it is much easier to work with students individually than at most schools in Brazil. This high-quality interaction is a true privilege.
At my first international job fair, Graded School interviewed me for an economics teaching position. I remember sharing the news after my interview with fellow international educators. Their responses were generally along the lines of “What an amazing school!” or “Graded is one of the best schools in South America.” I would not join the Graded community for another 20 years, but the reputation of Graded as an institution that pursues excellence, inclusivity, and a mission-driven approach was firmly solidified in my mind.
While a lot has occurred in my life since that interview - and I know a lot has changed at Graded in that time - there is one thing that has not: Graded’s excellent reputation within the international school community.
I was thrilled when Graded advertised the position of High School principal. After searching for leadership opportunities all over the world, I was excited to see how Graded met many of my family’s general requirements, along with some of our specific criteria. We were searching for a school with rich tradition, longevity, and a stellar reputation. I knew that if Graded offered me the position, I would be joining one of the best, most prestigious, and well-established, international schools in South America, and indeed the world. I wrote this in my application letter:
Graded is a school in which I want to lead. I would relish the opportunity to lead in a school that is distinguished by the hallmarks of a rich tradition, embraces cultural differences, and exhibits a deep commitment to producing effective, productive citizens who give back to the world. Leading and learning in a school dedicated to these ideals aligns with both my experience working at the Seoul Foreign School and my values as an educator.
I am excited and humbled to join a school that exhibits and values these characteristics. I am leaving a school that celebrated its 100th year in 2012, and I am looking forward to celebrating Graded’s centennial in 2020.
To be a leading school for almost a century speaks of a commitment to excellence, of being mission-driven, of staying relevant, and of flexibility during times of change. Graded is clearly an institution that performs on many levels. It delivers a rigorous academic curriculum, provides an array of opportunities in the fine arts and sports, gives back to its local community, and continues to develop a world-class facility.
My two visits to Graded this year have left me convinced that a further strength of Graded lies in one more important area: its people. During my visits, I was privileged to meet many Graded students, and I was impressed! Graded students have smiles on their faces, a sense of purpose, and an observable friendliness and warmth. They express themselves clearly, confidently, and passionately. The staff at Graded also inspired me. Their sense of purpose was clearly infused with a joie de vivre, creating a work environment that seemed to find that balance for which we all search for in our work environments. And, during both my visits, I enjoyed a friendly welcome from supportive parents. I look forward to getting to know them better and partnering with them in the near future. I am humbled and honored to be joining this community as a leader, an educator, and a dad.
I am excited about moving to São Paulo to join the Graded team. My wife Sheree and my children Grace, Sophie, and Jack are also eager. On the Sunday before my family departed from São Paulo, Grace wanted to visit the Graded campus one last time. She asked Sheree to take this photo and has since shared it with her friends, giving it the caption, “My New School.” This picture captures so many of the emotions everyone in our family feels: excitement, joy, and anticipation of a new adventure combined with a leap into the unknown. The Kent family is keen to arrive, to join the Graded community, and to start this new chapter of our lives!
My New School
In March and April, Graded’s Advancement Department hosted four Grandparents and Special Friends Days for each of its Lower School learning communities. Grandparents, parents, family members, and friends spent the morning at Graded enjoying a student-led assembly, visiting the classroom, and getting to know one another over refreshments. It was a privilege for us to welcome guests who play such an important role in our students’ lives.
Graded’s Advancement Department is responsible for areas at Graded which serve to strengthen the institution including fundraising, internal and external communications, alumni relations, community relations, and public relations.
I recently finished a most profound read entitled The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness by Todd Rose, Faculty Director of Mind, Brain, and Education at Harvard University. Alan November, Keynote Speaker at Graded’s iNNOVATE 2017 Conference recommended it to me.
In his work, Rose states that averages exist everywhere. Averaging can be helpful for an airline to determine an estimated flight time or for a grocery store to approximate how much milk to purchase each week. However, when it comes to students and learning, an “average” falls short.
The practice of averaging a student’s results over time was influenced by Frederick Taylor’s theory on efficiencies and systems in labor productivity. In the early part of the 20th century, Taylor, often referred to as the first management consultant, introduced the idea of standardizing work in factories to maximize efficiency. This notion required workers to conform to an average series of actions.
The philosophy was later adopted by schools and continues to impact classroom structure today. Executing this practice, a teacher delivers to learners at the midpoint, meeting the efficiency need. However, students at both ends of the learning spectrum miss out. By focusing on personalized learning, we are aiming to meet each students unique learning needs.
What we are finding in recent research, and what is confirmed by Rose, is that this focus on “sameness,” to ensure maximum efficiency, is detrimental to learning. Let’s take reading, for example. The "sameness" philosophy and a Tayloristic focus suggest that every child learns at exactly the same moment.
Simultaneous skill acquisition would be easy and efficient for the teacher, but humans do not process information at the same pace. Students don’t learn to read on the same day or even in the same week. There is little or no correlation as to when a child learns how to read and their long-term achievement or future success. We watch reading develop over time, as a student’s ability and comprehension improves.
This individualized pace and process of learning is central to Graded's belief that a grade should not equal the sum of a student’s results divided by a denominator. This average simply does not reflect an individual's longitudinal learning trajectory. It also assumes that all children learn identically and simultaneously. We know that this is not true.
Similarly, when grades are used to rank students, the method falls short as a valid measure. In fact, in the End of Average, Rose addresses Ergodic theory and states that one can only use a group average to make predictions about individuals if two conditions are true: 1. Every member of the group is identical and 2. Every member of the group will remain the same.
What is more important, and the focus of our grading reform efforts, is assessing the individual. In 2015, Graded discontinued averaging students’ grades to determine an overall final grade. Our decision to reform our middle and high school grading practices was influenced by the groundbreaking content of Ken O’Connor’s Repair Kit for Grading: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades and supported further by Rose’s The End of Average.
Setting measures of growth for each student that are reflective of their abilities and their desired outcomes is our goal. In fact, it drives each student toward our Vision as a school: Individuals empowered to reach their potential and positively impact the world.
Currently, our faculty are working with leading assessment specialists. Together, they are developing and implementing evaluative methods that provide feedback students and deliver evidence of longitudinal growth.
Graded is also not alone in our efforts to move from averages. At Brown University, for example, the institution does not average grades, nor does it report a GPA. Many other prestigious K-12 institutions and medical schools have adopted these same assessment practices.
We welcome you to learn more and ask questions. If you are interested, stop by and join me in conversation.
|“If someone proposed combining measures of height, weight, diet and exercise into a single number to represent a person’s physical condition, we would consider it laughable….Yet every day teachers combine aspects of student’s achievement, attitude, responsibility, effort, and behavior into a single grade that’s recorded on a report card and no one questions it.” - Thomas R. Guskey, Five Obstacles to Grading Reform|
1. You studied International Relations and History at Stanford. What inspired you to go on to get a master’s degree in education?
Two summers after graduating from college, I worked leading high school kids on backpacking trips in the wilderness. I was hiking down Olympic Beach wondering what to do at summer’s end since I had not found a “dream job” yet. A fellow leader said to me, "It doesn't matter what your major was - do what you want. College teaches you how to think." At that moment I realized that all the work I had been doing with kids during the past two years was leading me in a clear direction, and I should follow it. I applied for my master's program in education a month later.
2. You have two children at Graded. If you could choose one historical figure to be their teacher for a semester, who would you choose?
A few people come to mind for very different reasons. I would love for my kids to take a course from each of them for one semester! First, Mahatma Gandhi to learn about struggle, what it means to be human together, and peaceful protest. Second, Mother Teresa to learn about self-sacrifice, believing in something bigger than yourself, and true empathy and kindness. Finally, Benjamin Franklin to learn to be unconventional, not to worry about what others think of you, and how to love learning and experimenting just for the sake of learning and seeing what will happen.
I will limit myself to these three, but I don't want to!
3. What was the most challenging part of moving from rural Colorado, where you lived and worked for several years, to São Paulo?
Immediately, the biggest challenge was culture shock. I struggled with the language and learning how to do things. Over time, the challenge has been adjusting to the noise and bustle of the city. Our house in Marble, Colorado, was surrounded by national forest and most of the time, all we heard through our windows was the breeze or a nearby stream. When I get a noseful of pollution on my walk home, I can't help but miss the amazing smell of a Colorado pine forest. Although I miss certain things, of course, I am so very grateful for this experience at Graded and in Brazil. Brazilians are the warmest, most genuine people, and I have learned and grown so much as a teacher here at Graded!
4. Who are your favorite writers?
Hard question! Classics: Austen, Hemingway, and Steinbeck. Kids’ authors: Dahl and of course Rowling. Tolkien fits both of those categories for me, and The Lord of the Rings is my absolute favorite adventure story. I love to read young adult fiction and talk about books with my two children and my students.
5. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I cannot take full credit for my two amazing children - in fact, I am sure the credit due me is a very small percentage - but I'm so proud of the kind, strong, and thoughtful young people that Maia and Mason are. Two other things I am very proud of are establishing a preschool program in our hometown and earning my black belt in taekwondo. The hours and hours of work and learning and personal growth that went into each of these endeavors also make me proud.
6. What elements of taekwondo help you in your professional life at Graded?
Taekwondo has it all: discipline, focus on goals, commitment through adversity, and teamwork. Training for my black belt test was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It was also a unique experience because I got to share it with my son, Mason, who received his black belt at age ten alongside me. Through this process, I learned that you are never too old to learn something new, and that perseverance and discipline are the most powerful tools for success in the universe. It changed my focus as a teacher - how you learn and the attitude you bring is definitely more critical than the "what."
7. You teach middle school. If you could go back in time and do your own middle school years again, what would you do differently?
I would ask more questions. I would worry less about what I thought others were thinking about me. I would also explore some passions before high school while I had more time, like learning to play the guitar. And I would listen more to people who thought differently or who had had different experiences.
8. Who are your heroes in real life?
My heroes are those with the courage to step out of their daily lives and stand up for what is right, no matter the cost. The unknown protester who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square in 1989 is a global and epic heroic example. Other historic examples include Rosa Parks, Jane Addams, and the Suffragettes. Modern examples include the students in Florida pushing for gun control laws. There are so many stories of those who fight for their rights and dignity and even those who fight for the rights and dignity of others.
9. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would be more courageous on a daily basis. I would stop more often to appreciate the moment. I would smile more and frown less. I would make sure I have a real connecting moment with another human every day. I would improve my memory. I have a lot of things I am always thinking about changing and working on so I can't pick one! You can pick one of these if you want one.
10. What is your favorite thing about Graded?
My colleagues! I have learned so much from my teammates, who have challenged me, helped me, and reminded me of the best things in life and teaching. They have helped me become a better teacher and taught me to always strive to be a better person. My students have also inspired, challenged, and surprised me, and very importantly, laughed with me, and I am sure that I have learned as much from them as they have learned from me.
1. What is the best part of teaching middle school kids?
I love that middle school kids have the passion and commitment of older people but the openness and optimism of younger people. This makes middle school the perfect time to tackle topics of social justice. I also love that, typically around the second half of eighth grade, students experience a tremendous intellectual leap and are able to grapple with complex ideas in increasingly sophisticated ways, whether through language, music, or art. It’s fun.
2. What inspired you to leave Dwight-Englewood School in New Jersey to teach in Bulgaria?
My husband and I both wanted to teach internationally, so we interviewed for a few jobs. Then we met with the Director of the American College of Sofia, and we were really impressed by the school and the notion of living in this fascinating corner of eastern Europe. It turned out to be a wonderful choice, and we were very happy during our five years there.
3. What do you do in your free time?
I love playing with my kids, yoga, cooking, reading (of course!)... Here, I like exploring pockets of culture and cool in São Paulo. The city is so vast, and it has taken me a while to feel like I have even the foggiest notion of how to get around!
4. What was your first job after you graduated from Mount Holyoke?
I was a Teach for America corps member on the border of Mexico, in Texas. I taught seventh and eighth grade English, both standard English language arts and English for recent immigrants, and I coached volleyball!
5. What is your most treasured possession?
I’m not really a “stuff” person. I don’t have many things that I consider irreplaceable, but my wedding rings are really special. I have an engagement ring from my husband, which I treasure, but my other two rings are my grandmother’s engagement ring and wedding band. She died shortly before I was married, and I am honored that my mom and her sisters suggested that she, Noonie, would have wanted me to have them.
6. You’re fluent in Spanish and Bulgarian. What surprised you when you started learning Portuguese?
The biggest surprise is that there are fewer cognates than I assumed there would be. In the initial months here, I would say something in my version of Portuguese and just watch the listener’s face for a sign as to whether I was using recognizable words or making things up from a Spanish base.
7. What do you most value in your friends?
I value a down-to-earth, balanced approach to life combined with a passionate desire to make the world a better place. I’m very lucky to have close friends who embody this ideal.
8. If you could give a piece of advice to middle school students all over the world, what would it be?
I have a few pieces of advice that they may already be hearing at home such as “Put down your phone,” “Read!” and “Go outside to play more often.” To avoid the broken record effect, I’ll add another one that’s more personal to me. I really regret that I don’t play a musical instrument, so I would encourage anyone with the opportunity and the inclination to pick up an instrument and learn to play as many kinds of music as they can! It’s such a joy to be among people who know the language of music and who can play for others.
9. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
I can’t compare any kind of love that I’ve felt before to that which I felt--and still feel--when I first saw each of my children’s faces. Clichés are clichés for a reason, right?
10. What is your favorite thing about Graded?
I love the professional community here. My teaching colleagues in the Middle School and the support I have felt from the administration make a job that I would enjoy almost anywhere a true pleasure. I also love the food in the cafeteria!
Every year, Graded music teachers record an audition with our students to send to the Association for Music in International Schools (AMIS). AMIS selects the best auditions and invites those students to be part of an amazing orchestra comprised of the best musicians from international schools worldwide.
This year, I accompanied seventh grader Guido S. to the AMIS Honor Orchestra Festival at the International School of Madrid.
Guido was the first chair at this event. The first chair is the leader of the first violin section and the second-most significant leader in an orchestra, after the conductor.
I have attended the AMIS festivals for 13 years, but this year I noticed something. During the orchestra’s rehearsals and breaks, I realized that all students there had the exact same personal characteristics: They were extremely focused, disciplined, well-behaved, hard-working, kind, and respectful.
This special group of kids showed me in real time the benefits of learning a musical instrument. Everything I’d read in scientific articles throughout my life materialized in front of me at that moment.
Certainly, this group does not represent all music students, as these were each the best from their own schools. However, they represent where the learning of a musical instrument can take a student.
Making music is a collective experience, and without personal skills like respect for others, kindness, organization, and teamwork, there is no music.
We are all spending more time on our devices, and scientific research shows that this is affecting the development of our brains. It pleased me to see kids who will not have this problem. Those kids were able to resist to all distractions and spent hours and hours practicing their instruments alone in a quiet place. I am completely certain that the music students I met in Madrid are already successful and will continue to thrive, a bit like Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin, who both played the violin throughout their lives.
I am glad to be a music teacher and happy to provide this experience for our kids. Thank you 17th century technology: the violin!
As part of an exploration into Brazilian universities, a group of Graded students visited Instituto Brasileiro de Mercado de Capitais (Ibmec) São Paulo on Thursday, March 8. It was a great opportunity to learn more about the institution and to talk to representatives, coordinators, and Ibmec students.
Ibmec is one of the universities in Brazil that accepts International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma applications. Others include Fundação Instituto de Administração (FIA), Insper, Fundação Armando Álvares Penteado (FAAP), Escola Superior de Propaganda e Marketing (ESPM), and the economy and business colleges of Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV).
Students have already visited FIA, Insper, and ESPM. We will visit FGV in April and will announce the date soon.For more information, contact Ms. Adriana Silveira, Counselor for Brazilian Universities at firstname.lastname@example.org.