The social studies program has also been transformed with new texts and a new curriculum with clearly stated goals. For example, a fourth-grade goal in teaching the regions of the United States is to learn how the type of land in an area shapes the lives and economy of those who live there. Such foci guarantee that the time learning is well spent. Finally, one of the greatest changes has come through a conscious effort to honor learning differences. With the addition of learning specialists in both the Sisters’ Building and the Middle School, a full complement of specialists now advocates for respecting differences in learning style. The increase in specialists added more hands to assist teachers so that implementing academic accommodations at all levels has become commonplace. This effort has been greatly facilitated by space provided in the new lower school building constructed about six years ago. Break-out rooms, learning labs, computer labs, and significantly more classroom floor space have allowed students to work in small groups, often teaching each other. These are not all the changes I have witnessed, but these illustrate how significantly our teachers have molded a good school into a great one while I have been here. Meanwhile, in the academic world outside our fence and hedge, and with the great recession increasing class size and reducing the number of learning specialists, public schools have weathered much rougher seas. Now they need what we have never forgotten, and they, under stress, have partially let go. It is that at the heart of education is the goal of producing good citizens and good people. In the attempt to have public school students achieve proficient scores on state exams, they have been increasingly reluctant to surrender academic time to life’s lessons. Children that stop to hold a door, or apologize for a moment of thoughtlessness or tend to a friend who might have been hurt don’t appear as often beyond our hedge. In my opinion, it is lack of emphasis on this one aspect of education that leads children in public schools to feel unease, even unsafe, which in turn reduces the amount of time they can concentrate on learning. The latest innovation here is one I applaud hardily: the introduction of a teaching intern to our staff, one who is not expected to stay for longer than two years. We are bringing teachers into St. Anne’s with the intent not only of expanding the diversity and inclusivity of our faculty, but also of spreading the word through these future leaders in education that the best schools focus as much on creating good people as on academics.
PASTOR MERRIE NEED Spring 2017 Newsletter