Growing Never Stops: Adults as Learners at High Meadows

One of the books we live by at High Meadows is Carol Dweck's Mindset. Its message is simple but powerful: those with a "growth mindset" believe that abilities can be developed through dedication and effort. In other words, such people believe deeply that they are--and always will be--learning.

Our teachers and staff cultivate a growth mindset in their students, in no small part by modeling it themselves. Here are just some of the professional growth experiences our teachers have experienced recently:
  • Since 2015, we have sent 12 teachers and administrators to the National Institute of the Progressive Education Network (NIPEN), getting to know and learning alongside dozens of other educators from across the country;
  • Five of our teachers have offered programs through the Center for Progressive Learning on topics such as creating cultures of thinking and growing social intelligence;
  • Second and third grade teacher Annie Swanlaw attended the Reading and Writing Project at Teachers College, Columbia University;
  • Three teachers and I attended NAIS's People of Color Conference to learn about best practices in diversity education.
A few weeks ago, I engaged in the professional growth experience of a lifetime at the Heads of School Program at the Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University. It was a great endorsement of all the things we are doing here at High Meadows--you can read about it in my latest blog post. Happy reading and never stop growing!

Take care,
Jay's signature
Jay Underwood
Head of School
Center for Progressive Learning Aims to Innovate Learning

By Kate McElvaney, Director of the Center for Progressive Learning and Director of Educational Advancement

Teachers and parents learn together at a recent CPL Workshop.

This article is a condensed version of one nationally published in the Spring 2017 issue of Independent School magazine.

Strong relationships--the relationships between teacher and child, school and family, knowledge and understanding--are fundamental to learning and central to the philosophy of progressive education. High Meadows School recently embraced a gift-funded opportunity to reach out into the greater community to promote the transformative principles of progressive learning. Through the creation of the High Meadows Center for Progressive Learning, we have begun to form strong and enduring relationships with other schools, educators, parents, and the larger community.

Who are we?

The Center is founded on the core beliefs and practices of High Meadows School, but goes beyond them by promoting all of the principles of progressive educationThe Center aims to cultivate and promote a deeper understanding of these and other progressive practices through first-hand experiences. It offers programming that provides authentic opportunities for parents and professionals to connect and learn. 

How can we learn together?

Progressive educators believe that learning is a social endeavor; each individual brings his or her own experiences, understandings, and values to the table. The Center brings teachers and parents together to share perspectives, enriching the experience for everyone. In November, renowned psychologist Dr. Madeline spoke about authentic success at one of the Center's free, open-to-the-public events. Prior to the presentation, parents and educators participated in a book study of Dr. Levine's book,Teach Your Children Well.  In January the Center screened the film I'm Not Racist...Am I? to begin a dialogue on race and diversity. Such conversations build strong relationships and understanding between two of the most important groups of people in a children's life-one of the core aims of the Center.

What is the best model for professional development?

As innovation creates the conditions for positive change, the Center innovates professional development for teachers by demonstrating the interconnectedness of our actions, words, and ideals. We know that there is never enough time for teachers to do what they do best. The Center's workshops are designed to help teachers see how to do differently, not do more.

Instead of being interactive and experiential, many professional development experiences follow a sit-and-get approach. Philosophy and theory are important to explore, but without the practical, real-world application, learning is likely to remain theoretical with no practical outcomes in classrooms. Participants need to see and experience theory in action for the learning to "stick." The Center invites participants to learn with us, not from us. Participants collaborate with each other and the facilitators to make the learning relevant to each. Facilitators provide the space and time for the learning to solidify through reflection and discussion.

Every school has its own culture and approaches to learning but we are all about growing good people and preparing them for the world as best we can. The High Meadows Center for Progressive Learning is a conduit through which we can build community understanding and awareness of the most important ideas and models in education today.
Parent Perspectives on Lifelong Learning
Learning and Living Diversity 

By Suzanne Taylor, parent to Noah (Class of 2012), Luke (8th Grade), Ava (4th) 

Noah, Luke, Suzanne, Ava and Greg Taylor

Growing up in Queens, NY, in the 1970s and 1980s, diversity was not something we talked about. We lived diversity every day. Like me, many of my friends had at least one parent who was born in another country; many had parents whose first language was not English.

As the mother of three biracial children, including two young men, diversity and race relations are topics discussed regularly at our dinner table. When I heard that the film I'm Not Racist...Am I? was going to be screened at High Meadows, I was interested to know more about it, and to hear how the filmmaker-facilitated discussion after the movie would go.

Watching the film was emotional, as complex subjects tend to be. Looking around the Community Center, I could see that attendees were watching with looks of shock and awe on their faces. The film was uncomfortable for many, but they were there doing the work, learning, and hopefully later, sharing with others. One man remarked that the people who were there were probably not the people who needed to be there. That comment resonated with me because as I listened, it seemed obvious that everyone there was informed and wanted to deepen their understanding. I remarked to the friend sitting next to me that the training the teens in the film went through is training I'd love to see everyone go through, because of how powerful it was.

I'm so pleased and impressed that the Center for Progressive Learning brought the film to school, and not just for the parent community, but for the faculty and staff. Even the most enlightened among us can learn something from this movie and also from ongoing discussions of diversity, race, inclusion, and privilege.

Just as our children are constantly learning, the lessons learned from this movie will continue, through gatherings led by High Meadows parents Clive Davis and Amy Jewett. The more we talk about these issues, the more comfortable we will feel, and the more open-minded we will become. 
For the Love of Learning

By Maggie Godhard, parent to Noah (4th)

Maggie Godhard and her son, Noah 

"The most important attitude that can be formed is that of desire to go on learning." ~ John Dewey
When I was first asked to write about continued learning and its benefits from the parent perspective, I must admit--while I was excited to share my voice and love of learning, I was also questioning--what would I say? How do I capture what it means to me to be a lifelong learner? How am I showing up in my own life as a lifelong learner? How does my ten-year-old son see me as a learner? 

One of my goals is to be a model for my son and family in being open and optimistic about learning. Being engaged in caring collaborative conversations and meaningful thought process is comforting to me. At our core, don't we all desire to feel a sense of excitement, belonging and contribution? I believe continued learning brings us closer to these things. It encourages us to grow, share our abilities, pursue our passions, use our gifts and live our lives with greater purpose, care and connection.  

The High Meadows Center for Progressive Learning has brought to us some of the best and brightest advocates for continued learning. What a privilege it was to attend the presentations of such devoted creative leaders in learning like Wendy Mogel, Kevin Carroll, Madeline Levine and most recently Andre Lee, with his film screening I'm Not Racist...Am I? Each event I attended, I left feeling encouraged to continue the learning and to bring it home and share the spark of inspiration! My son sees my enthusiasm about learning, and it's my hope that as he sees me reading, asking questions, attending presentations, listening, showing up and feeling enthusiastic about learning, that he will feel that way, too! 

As a parent I find so much connection, support, and joy in continued learning.  The benefits are infinite possibilities, and it's something we can all come together and do. I am grateful to be a part of a school community that understands and deeply values continued learning for all. How lucky we are to have such amazing opportunities right here on campus to engage in our continued learning. It's a gift to be a part of a community that shines as a beacon for lifelong learning!  
Upcoming Book Study: Loving Learning by Tom Little and Katherine Ellison

Dates: March 20, April 17 and May 15
For: Parents and Educators
Location: High Meadows School
Times: 8:30-9:30 am
Cost: Free 
Book: $20 

What is progressive education? What makes the High Meadows learning environment different from more traditional educational environments? If you have ever asked yourself these questions, then the Center for Progressive Education has the perfect opportunity for you! Please join us for an adult book study around the text Loving Learning: How Progressive Education Can Save America's Schools. Written by the former head of Park Day School, Tom Little, the book demonstrates the values found in a progressive approach by weaving historical, philosophical and practical stories and examples of whole-child learning.

Teacher Perspectives on Lifelong Learning
NIPEN Inspires Progressive Educators

By Jennifer Hannah, Fourth-Fifth Grade Teacher

The NIPEN cohort at High Meadows

Imagine having the ability to freeze time, to press "pause" and step outside of yourself to analyze, evaluate, and converse with like-minded individuals about your passion: education. Engaging in such conversations is exactly what I was able to do this past January as a participant in the National Institute of the Progressive Educators Network (NIPEN).

For a magical 72 hours, I engaged in an in-depth study of progressive education with 23 other educators from around the nation. When we gathered our first morning together at High Meadows, we were 23 strangers from 7 different states, teachers and administrators in public and private elementary, middle and high schools. Some of our home schools proudly wear the progressive label, while other schools were interested in bringing progressive aspects into their classrooms. We all came with open hearts and minds, as well as the vulnerability that allows for transformative growth and connections.

NIPEN provides a unique and intensive professional development opportunity. For starters, the NIPEN cohort takes place during the school year over a four-month period, meeting first in January for 3 days and reconvening in April for another 3 days. This type of professional development that takes place during the school year allows for teachers to temporarily step away from their daily routines to reflect upon the culture of their classroom, their school, and national education. 

NIPEN's mission is twofold:
  • to educate its participants about the history, philosophy, and pedagogy of progressive education through text studies; and
  • to empower its participants to be catalysts of change in education through calls to action
NIPEN definitively sets itself apart from other professional learning opportunities through the second part of its mission. Participants are empowered and called to action. We were asked to take a step back to examine our practice. We questioned ourselves: what could we do better? What is missing from what I am doing? What does my school need from me? What do my students need from me? What is the bigger role that I am playing in the world of education?

These types of reflective questions do more than offer an opportunity to grow; they also provide a valuable catalyst for our school's growth. Over the past 3 years of High Meadows participation with NIPEN, calls to action have resulted in project-based math instruction, a refocus on play during our school day, more collaboration between classroom teachers, and a more defined teacher mentoring program. I am excited to see how my call to action will unfold in the coming months as I explore how to weave social justice into my classroom's work with sustainability, gardening, and wellness.

The NIPEN experience has provided me an avenue to remain a lifelong learner and stay curious about the world, as all great professional development experiences do. Perhaps more importantly, the call to action has required me to be an active global citizen, modeling for my students how to remain engaged with the joy of learning and the magic that follows.
The Value of Training in Math Development

By Kerri Irwin, Fourth-Fifth Teacher, and Elizabeth Swern, Kindergarter-First Teacher

Fourth-Fifth grade students collaborate on a math project from
Contexts for Learning Mathematics

Once a learner, always a learner. No truer words could be said of the faculty at High Meadows. Over the last year, Lower Years teachers have collaborated together to grow the math curriculum. First, a faculty-led task force researched and selected a new math curriculum, Contexts for Learning, developed by mathematics educator Kathy Fosnot. As part of the adoption of this program, faculty professional development days were planned. The initial learning occurred during post-planning last year with two trainers from New Perspectives for Learning (Janan Hamm and Karla Neufeldt Abatie). Often professional development for teachers ends here. However, at High Meadows we feel it is important for all learners to have opportunities to revisit their thinking and see how their knowledge has expanded. With this in mind, an additional two days of professional learning occurred mid-year with Janan. Teachers were immersed in lessons on defining mathematics, how students learn mathematics and how mathematics should be taught. Janan co-taught with our teachers within their actual classrooms, working on developing lessons and understanding philosophies.
The value of math professional development with Janan in the classroom provided us an authentic learning experience that took faculty through the same inquiry we facilitate with our students each day. We model for our students, we ask our students to explore, and then we provide them the space to reflect. Opening our classrooms to invite an expert to work with us can be frightening. The act of teaching lends itself to vulnerability. However, Janan models best practices and allows teachers to emulate the parts that best fit the students. Her expert presence provided immediate feedback to our teaching teams and continuity among the classrooms. 
None of this was learned in isolation in a workshop off campus. It happened in our math workshops, with our kids, in our classrooms. Our learning was tailored to meet our unique multiage, co-taught learning communities. This work promoted deeper thinking and understanding. It invited and nurtured a culture of peer observation to support reflecting and interpreting children's progress. 

Teachers now have the opportunity to explore and observe their own classrooms from a new perspective. The immersed learning provided balance between the long-term academic goals and immediate needs of our math program. We have had opportunities for valuable cross-grade discourse that solidifies our learning and connects us in powerful ways. We are all learning and growing and teaching in a continuous cycle at High Meadows, and we are so thankful for that. 

The High Meadows community celebrates and perpetuates each individual's quest for knowledge and skill, sense of wonder, and connection to the natural environment. We empower each to be a compassionate, responsible, and active global citizen.

(770) 993-2940 |

Connect with High Meadows!

High Meadows School | 1055 Willeo Road | Roswell | GA | 30075