As we enter the final four weeks of the school year, this is a good time to take stock of how we are doing and remind ourselves of why we choose a Wise education for our children. 

In its March article, “Top U.S. Companies: These Are the Skills Students Need in a Post-Pandemic World” Education Week surveyed executives at some of the nation’s leading companies and asked them what they’ll want and expect from today’s K-12 students when they eventually hire them. I’m pleased to report that much of what these top execs shared are skills and capabilities that are a top focus for us. Here are some highlights of the close alignment between the needed skills and traits of tomorrow and those that we foster here at Wise School.

Michael Fischer, vice president of global talent management of Sysco:

  • “Growth Mindset and Resilience” – Just a few years ago, Wise reimagined our report card and grading to help focus more on Growth Mindset, highlighting levels of performance in grades K – 4. Our feedback systems to students help them build resiliency in their academic efforts, with the understanding that the right kind of targeted effort and positive mindset allows anyone to continually improve.  Our PAWS trait of the month for May just happens to be Resiliency, and teachers nominate students weekly for their exemplary abilities to bounce back quickly from adversity.
  • “Learn to Learn” – This just happens to be one of the strands of our Wise Learning Process (WLP)!  Students are taught metacognitive processes and techniques to help them be aware of their own strengths and areas where they might need more support – we want our students to know as individuals which tools work for them and how to create an optimal learning environment and frame of mind that suits their talents and learning styles. This better enables them to continuously acquire new knowledge and skills, and to measure their own growth and celebrate their own achievement.
  • “Teamwork and Collaboration” – From Quick Team Challenges to small-group learning tasks, our students are given opportunities daily to work together with peers to solve meaningful problems.  Through this, they build their communication and negotiation skills, their patience, and their knowledge of the strengths they individually bring to their team.

Mark Sparvell, director of marketing education for Microsoft:

  • “Problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity and innovation” – The first three items in this list are each strands of our WLP. This coming school year it is our plan to focus our teacher professional development on the topic of building creative thinking in our students.  Wise Students have many opportunities to innovate, including on our Odyssey of the Mind teams and our Robotics teams.  Other examples include last year’s 5th grade Water Filtration project, our annual Tiny House projects, or use of the Engineering Design Process in both science class as well as in Project Studio.

Susan Prescott, vice president of worldwide developer relations and product marketing for enterprise & education for Apple:

  • “Coding” – Coding at Wise starts in Kindergarten with a program called CodeSpark Academy, where students learn block coding, looping and sequencing. We are proud of the fact that this early start leads to more of our girls maintaining interest in coding at later grade levels and beyond! In upper grades, students use a programming language called Scratch from MIT, where they learn more advanced coding processes to create projects and games. They also use JavaScript to create their own iPhone app for our annual Hour of Code event each December.

Kelly Williams, senior vice president and chief human resources officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield Association:

  • “Self-awareness and personal well-being” – For the past several years, Wise School has brought in Mindfulness experts and trainers to work directly with students and teachers in the classroom, leading them in various breathing, concentration and relaxation techniques to help them know how to take care of themselves, increase their focus and attention spans, and let go of the tension and anxiety that often have a negative impact on learning.  Weekly, and even daily, practice helps students be more centered and grounded, so that they can put maximum effort into their academic pursuits.  In addition to this, we are proud to have a full-time counselor on campus who works directly with  classrooms to support students’ social-emotional health and well-being.

Angela Celestin, executive vice president and chief human resources officer of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield:

  • “The ability to express oneself” – Wise students have a plethora of opportunities to practice and learn how to be vulnerable and honest in front of others in a variety of settings and formats.  Through all of our on-site performances and services, projects and rituals, our young learners develop trust in themselves and their peers, while gaining respect for their own talents and for others’ abilities to contribute to the group. Even at a young age, they learn to be “comfortable in their own skin”, along with an ability to speak engagingly and communicate effectively.
  • “Relationship-building” – This is an area in which Wise School excels for its students.  Our talented and caring faculty create wonderfully nurturing environments and provide great flexibility “so that students feel comfortable bringing their whole self to school.”  Our rabbis lovingly lead Wise students in weekly services to grow their minds and hearts and to nurture their souls. Our students are highly engaged thanks to the relationships they have with their teachers and clergy and these, in turn, serve as excellent role models for the fostering of strong and impactful relationships in their adult life and careers.

Dr. Stuart Lustig, senior medical director of Cigna:

  • “Resilience-building factors” – 
    • “Practicing good physical and mental health; staying active” — From twice per week physical education classes, to twice daily outdoor play time, to after-school sports teams, to a full-time on-campus nurse, we focus on the physical health and active lifestyle of our students.
    • “Practicing stress-reduction activities” — From our focus on Mindfulness practices, to our emphasis on physical education and sports, to the techniques taught in class by our school counselor, students are given tools and strategies to manage their stress levels.
    • “Building connections” — As previously mentioned, one of the great strengths of Wise School is the close, family feel of our learning environment, one in which everyone knows each other and interdependence is cultivated.

These are but some of the many ways that Wise School lovingly  prepares its students to have successful and enriching careers, along with healthy and meaningful lives.

-John Heffron, Principal