An Expression of Gratitude from Langley’s Head of School

by Dr. Elinor Scully, Head of School

One of the great privileges of being the head of The Langley School is the opportunity to meet with a small group of elected student advisors on a monthly basis. This group, my “advisors to the head,” keeps me focused on the real work of school leadership: the quality of student lunch, the number of minutes spent at recess, and the spirited debate over 4 Square rules. Last week, however, after the obligatory conversation about food and fun, I asked the students what they were looking forward to most as Thanksgiving approached. While food was certainly mentioned, more of the discussion centered on spending time with family, cherished holiday traditions, and seeing grandparents and special friends. The group reminded me that the purpose of the holiday is to be thankful for our families and friends and to be grateful for all the blessings in our lives.

These wise students reminded me what should be obvious, that gratitude is at the heart of the holiday season. And this year in particular, I definitely feel a strong sense of gratitude for the compassion and strength of our school family. For a number of members of this school community, 2016 has brought significant health challenges and untimely loss. In just the last few months, I have attended memorial services for parents taken from their families too young and I have sat with community members battling life-threatening illnesses. I have also watched our community step up with arms wide open and offer the kind of support that makes a real difference in times of sadness and struggle.

The Langley School Community

At a recent service I attended, one of the speakers offered the following advice to the group gathered to mourn the loss of a friend, father, and colleague: “Invest tirelessly, relentlessly, and fearlessly in your relationships.” I watch this happen every day at The Langley School. I watch colleagues step up and cover classes so that someone can tend to a seriously ill family member. I am in awe of the candor, tenacity, and humility of one of our parents who is battling cancer, all while being fully present in every moment of her life. I’m moved when I hear this same person offering to help another community member who is just beginning her chemotherapy. Publicly and privately, in large and small ways, members of our school are doing everything they can to lighten the load for those whose burdens are heavy.

When you live in a community as large and multigenerational as ours, illness, loss, and struggle are expected. This fall, however, it’s felt like we’ve had more than our share. In the midst of this, my young advisors brought me back to what matters most – gratitude, compassion, and hopefulness. Investing tirelessly, relentlessly, and fearlessly in our relationships gives us the strength to weather tough times, connects us to a community that is here when we need them, and reminds us not to take any moment for granted. So as we head into a season that can be eclipsed by “to-do lists” and frantic work to get everything right, slow down, be present for those you love, and savor those relationships you’ve worked so hard to cultivate.

I give thanks this holiday season for Langley, our community, and all of the inspiration and hopefulness it has brought into my life.

 

 

‘Tis the Season… To be Inquiring

By Mary Worthington, Director of Admission

December is one of my favorite times of the year. Langley’s campus is covered in garlands, the students are bursting with joy, holiday cheer fills our halls and the admission season is well underway. My days are filled with meeting new families, introducing them to our community and guiding them in finding the right educational environment for their child.

In my 8th year in Admissions at Langley, I continue to relish each admission season. It is a true pleasure meeting families with a deep commitment to their children. Welcoming curious student visitors to our classrooms is a highlight for not only our office, but also our student hosts as they share their school.

Our students are truly Langley’s best ambassadors. I want to share these wise words from one of our 8th graders – Jackson Sands – who joined Langley in kindergarten. Enjoy Jackson’s reflection on his experience in the video below.


In addition to our traditional admission events, we held three webinars throughout the fall providing families with important research and trend-based information regarding Langley’s dynamic program.

  • Introduction to Langley
  • Why Invest in a Private School Education?
  • Starting Young: What the Research Says About Choosing the Right Learning Environment

Langley Webinars

The demand for these types of events is exciting and we look forward to hosting more.

Langley’s application deadline is around the corner! For families interested in exploring Langley, I encourage you to take advantage of some of the material in this blog. Please also know that my door is always open as you think about the right school for your child. I wish all of you a happy, healthy and relaxing holiday season.

 

Schedule a Tour to Langley

 

Purposeful Play in Primary School

CBy Amy Thomas, Junior Kindergarten Teacher

“Play isn’t the enemy of learning; it’s learning’s partner. Play is like fertilizer for brain growth. It’s crazy not to use it.” -Stuart Brown in his book, Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul

This September, New York City implemented universal pre-kindergarten, making it the latest of many cities and states to do so. In recent years, pre-k education has gained national press as research has consistently and repeatedly demonstrated the positive impact that high-quality early childhood programs have on student success in schooling and beyond.

Langley SchoolA recent New York Times article, titled “The Building Blocks of a Good Pre-K,” challenges the notion that high-quality programming is marked by a singular commitment to an academic curriculum. In fact, it argues quite the opposite – that some of students’ deepest learning occurs during play. The authors write, “As they play, children develop vital cognitive, linguistic, social, and emotional skills. They make discoveries, build knowledge, experiment with literacy and math, and learn to self-regulate and interact with others in socially appropriate ways.”

This phenomenon is not new to us at The Langley School. A few summers ago, the faculty read Tony Wagner’s book, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World (2012). In it, Wagner writes about the changing role of the workforce and the necessity for students to develop a sense of play, passion, and purpose. He describes preschools in which teachers are acting as guides while the students take control of their own learning through authentic play experiences that encourage innovation and collaboration. I am proud to say that play is one of the cornerstones of Langley’s Primary School curriculum.

Students in our Primary School begin each day with “choice time,” a largely unstructured play time in which students are able to make play choices based on their own interests. Students in my junior kindergarten classroom enter each morning ready to take on a day of fun and learning. Some skip over to the play kitchen and begin working on their restaurant menu. Here they practice their phonetic spelling skills as they attempt to write words like “hot dog” while also practicing number formation as they list prices.

Others head to the block bin and begin working on their latest architectural project. This past week, their work focused on designing a new parking garage for Langley. Through careful thought, they were able to create a two-level parking garage with an entrance and a floor plan that enabled them to fit all of the cars from the car bin inside. Other students may find a comfy spot in the book corner to flip through one of their favorite books with a friend. I can hear them pointing out letters or see them dragging their fingers underneath the text as they pretend to read. This is purposeful play and it is one of the most valuable learning experiences that I can give my students.

In addition to its academic benefits, play helps students develop the social and emotional skills essential to success in school and in society. Students must work together to problem-solve when conflicts arise. What will they do when two students want to be the dog in the puppet theatre production? How will they react when someone else is reading the book they want to read? These experiences help students develop the communication skills necessary to articulate their desires, while simultaneously giving them the knowledge that they may not always get what they want when they want it, and that is okay.

In an ever-changing society, students need to develop more than the traditional content-based knowledge. They must develop an understanding of how to communicate, collaborate, and think critically. These are skills that we develop each day in The Langley School’s Primary School classrooms. As children play, we provide them with rich educational experiences in which they can take risks and expand their capacity for future learning.

The Power of Service

By Brent Locke, Interim Dean of Students

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a
difference. And we have a choice: What sort of difference do we want to make?”-Jane Goodall

Langley students impress me every day with their compassion for helping others both at school and within their community. By making acts of Middle Schoolers took part in the Capital Area Food Bank Face Hunger program.kindness both big and small a part of their daily routine, they make this community very special. Every day, I witness the simple, unprompted, thank yous our students give faculty after a class, a practice, an assembly, you name it. Langley students make treating others with kindness and respect a way of doing business.

While Langley students of all ages participate in a variety of service projects throughout the year, we launched Langley’s first-ever “Month of Service” this February to help raise awareness of the many ways students can help others on a daily basis. As the month progresses, I am hoping to harness the collective energy and goodwill our students exhibit by developing their understanding of service and the power of collective impact. Current educational research directly points to the immense benefits to students of participating in service learning. “Students benefit academically, socially, and emotionally; develop skills; and may come to appreciate the value of civic responsibility,” writes service learning expert Cathryn Kaye.

Developing a sense of empathy in adolescents, as they grapple with who they are and their place in the world, gives them powerful advantages in critical-thinking skills and awareness. Dealing with real-life issues, such as hunger and how to solve the overwhelmingly difficult hunger problem that exists within our own greater community, forces our students to see the perspective of others and expand their own problem-solving capacity. Further, students gain a deeper sense of gratitude and fulfillment of self when doing service projects.

As Langley constantly evaluates and improves our program and curriculum offerings for students, we have seen the overwhelming positive effects of collective impact that occur when our community works toward a common good together. For instance, nearly 30 people donated blood to support the American Red Cross blood drive we held on campus last week, donation boxes for the Capital Area Food Bank are already bursting at the seams, and best of all, students are learning the significance of our core values together as a community.

Langley students have embraced service and what it means to them in an inspiring way at school. At the end of the day, though, there is no greater thing you can do with your child than to continue these conversations about service with them at home. There are an abundance of opportunities to get involved within the community to further emphasize the impact and necessity of service in our everyday lives. If you are interested in volunteering as a family, I recommend you visit www.volunteermatch.org which lists a number of organizations that could use your help.