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Welcome to the bi-weekly parents' newsletter from the director’s office. Here you will find notes from Director Emily Jones, upcoming events, updates on schedule changes and links to our most recent website news items. Comments, feedback or requests should go to Emily via Pat Dodge.
Submitted by parentnews on May 15th, 2013
The fundraising workday on Saturday was a success - the students earned just shy of $5000 towards the weaving project in Rwanda, and many of the school's neighbors got spring planting done, garages cleaned, trees pruned, and fences mended. It was also great for community relations, as our students always work with good will and impress the people who have hired them. Students were almost unanimous in reporting that they had a great time. This money will be added to the $1000 they earned in two student art sales, and all proceeds will help pay for looms and other materials to go with a group of our students to Rwanda, where they will be setting up a small self-help weaving enterprise to support an HIV/Aids program.
As you may have heard, Christie Baskett is moving on, and as a result I am looking for a new Development Director. It is not an easy position to fill, as you may imagine. I know that many of you are involved in philanthropic organizations and not-for-profits, and I hope that if you know of anyone you think might be a good fit for Putney, you will send them our way. The job description is on the website.
The next three weeks on campus are packed. I have listed various dates to have in mind below. All of you are invited to graduation, whether or not your child is a senior. Almost all students stay for graduation, although they are not required to. It's a good thing for them to have a mental picture of, as something to aspire to and look forward to. It's also a really lovely occasion.
All the best to all of you,
Saturday May 18th - Social Dance. This is a Putney tradition from the first days of the school. The name is odd - how many dances do teenagers have that are not social? My guess is that it was called that to distinguish it from the contra dances, which happened often. Social Dance this year will include swing dancing, and I expect a sartorial theme to match.
Friday May 24: Spring Dance Concert, 7:30 in Calder Hall
Sunday May 26: Theater Intensive, Boeing Boeing, 7:30 in Calder Hall
Tuesday May 28: Last day of Spring Trimester Classes
Spring Music Concert, 7:30 in Calder Hall
Wednesday May 29: Exhibition Day. Seniors will present their Exhibitions starting at 10:00. All students are expected to attend these presentations. A few students will present on Monday and Tuesday of that week - the full schedule will be available soon
Thursday May 30: First day of Project Week.
Friday May 31: School Life Forum: Trustees discuss the school's investment policy with interested students. 8pm in the Faculty Room
Saturday June 1-Sunday June 2: Board of Trustees meeting, Library
Sunday June 2: Senior Dinner, 5:30 at Rockwell House
Wednesday June 5-Saturday June 8 - Spring Musical: Jesus Christ Superstar, 8:00
Sunday June 9, Graduation, 10:30 am
Submitted by parentnews on May 1st, 2013
It was good to see so many of you here for Family Weekend. There were a lot of grandparents here as well, which made for some great conversations about education.
I also heard from a wonderful number of parents that their children had, in some form or other, actually thanked them for the opportunity to be at Putney - and I promise that we did not put them up to that! We are grateful to you as well.
For those of you who are interested in progressive education at the theoretical level, there is a blog written by Tom Little, the board chair of the Progressive Education Network. He recently visited more than 50 progressive schools and wrote reflections on each one; for the connoisseur these are quite fascinating. The account of his time at Putney is overly flattering, but it is interesting to see the place through his eyes. See http://parkdaytom.blogspot.com/
This Saturday all juniors will be taking the SATs. We are sometimes asked why, as a progressive school, we put our students through this. The answer is that we don't serve students well by being doctrinaire; for most students the test will be a necessary part of a college application, and although they mostly don't enjoy taking them, it's hard to argue that it does them harm. We try to keep the anxiety level low, encouraging them to sleep well the week before and eat a good breakfast. Some general test prep, enough to understand how the tests are structured, is often a good idea, although it should not interfere with the students' actual education.
A week from Saturday (perhaps as an antidote) students will be raising money for a Putney economic development endeavor in Rwanda. This involves students earning money in our local community to help send five students and two adults to Rwanda this summer to launch a weaving workshop in Kigali. You can read about how this will work at https://sites.google.com/a/putneyschool.org/community-work-day-2013/, and if you live close enough, you can sign up for workers.
All the best to all of you,
Submitted by parentnews on Apr 16th, 2013
At long last it is Spring! This means that most of the mud is gone, the daffodils are poking up, and we are spreading manure on the gardens - the lovely aroma of fertility! This Saturday is Earth Day, and Putney will again be putting on a community event including workshops, speakers, demonstrations and a wide variety of educational programs. The day is also set up for local farmers to meet, share ideas and make connections. It is in some ways an old fashioned 'teach-in', although created by students who have likely never heard that term. We hope that any of you who live close enough will join us. You can see the day's program at www.putneyschool.org/earthday2013.
The evening before, Friday the 19th, you are invited to a sneak peek of TrioDance Collective's latest work from 6:45 to 7:45 p.m. TrioDance has been in residence here this week, working on their latest creations and collaborating with members of the student dance program, who will also perform on Friday—either with TrioDance or in a separate piece directed by the visiting artists. All are welcome and admission is free.
As your children may have told you, we are offering a winter trimester in Cuernavaca Mexico next year for Spanish language students. This will allow students to complete Spanish 3 or 4 in an immersion program, a well as study other subjects at school there. Applications for that program are due May 1. Our plan is to have similar programs in place in France and China by the 2014-15 school year.
My sincere thanks to the many parents who made gifts to the Annual Fund in the past two weeks. This has brought our parent participation rate up to 47%. We need 49 more parents to give in order to reach our goal of 66% parent participation, which will result in a $10,000 grant to help support our programs, students and faculty. We are hoping to achieve this by Family Weekend. There's an annual fund button right on the front page of the website at www.putneyschool.org, to make it easy.
All the best to all of you,
Submitted by parentnews on Apr 1st, 2013
As always, it is lovely to see the students stream back to campus, and to witness their delight in seeing each other again. When it is spring, it has special sweetness. The snow is almost gone, except in the woods. The fields are still too wet to play on, but it should only be a short time before they are fit for frisbee and lacrosse.
Many of the seniors are now embarking on their exhibitions. These are ambitious projects that allow them time to explore a topic in great depth, or to create something that takes many hours to complete. On Wednesday, May 29th, just before Spring Project Week begins, we have an Exhibition Day, on which the seniors present their exhibitions to students, faculty and guests. There is also an outside examiner for each exhibition, someone who is an expert in whatever field the student has chosen, and able to consider and discuss the work and the presentation with the student. If you live nearby and are able to come on the 29th, you are most welcome. The students take this work very seriously; adults, I think, often look with envy at the thought of having a gift of time and space in which to dive into something you care deeply about.
I am hoping to recruit a few of you... As you know, we are running a teacher training program, called The Progressive Education Lab, with three other schools. We have four fellows on campus this spring, and I am eager for them to have a 360 degree look at school work. I would like to have them meet with a group of 8-10 parents for about an hour during Family Weekend. The goal would be to hear from you what parents want from schools, how the relationship works, or doesn't, and what you wish teachers understood. Those of you who have had experience with children in a variety of schools would be particularly helpful. If you would be willing to do this - and think you might even enjoy it - please do let me know.
Last, but certainly not least, I want to tell you that you as parents have been issued a challenge! The Putney School will be the recipient of a $10,000 challenge grant from the Educational Foundation of America when parent participation in the Annual Fund reaches 66%. We are hoping to do this by Family Weekend, which is only a few weeks away. Right now we are at 42% and we need 67 more parents to help us achieve this intermediary goal of 66%. As always, Putney aims for 100% participation by parents by June 30, but reaching two-thirds participation will do much to help us on our way. Letters should be arriving in your mailbox in the next day or so (if they haven't already), and you can always make your gift on Putney's website. We will keep you updated on results and hope to be able to announce that we have met the match by the time Family Weekend is here.
All the best to all of you,
Submitted by parentnews on Mar 4th, 2013
Spring vacation is nearly here, and as usual we are all feeling that it's not a moment too soon. Cabin fever has set in, and everyone is definitely ready for a break! We are looking forward to the spring, when life moves outside again and the evenings are long and beautiful. In the meantime, we have the sap buckets up and the liquid gold is beginning to flow. We had our traditional Snow Ball this weekend, this year with a Harry Potter theme. We've been playing a campus wide game of 'Stupify' to get in the mood, and our drop holiday on Thursday was announced by Hagrid and an owl.
Many of our students have art work on display in Brattleboro this month, as part of Student Art Month. The 2-D work is on display at Equilibrium, at 14 Elm Street, and the 3-D work is on display at Vermont Artisan Designs, 106 Main Street. The show will be up for the month of March and is sponsored by the Arts Council of Windham County. Those of you picking up students for break will be able to stop in and see this work.
A number of Putney School students are award-winners in the Scholastic Arts & Writing awards program, and have had their work on exhibit at the Brattleboro Art Museum. Two of the four Vermont students chosen to read their writing at the award ceremony were Putney School students, and they did a beautiful job. Although we are warned by our 'Fundamental Beliefs' (www.putneyschool.org/putney) that we should not work for badges and honors, it is really nice for students to get recognition for their work from professional artists and writers.
I recently heard an interesting presentation by Nadira Hira, who consults and writes about "Generation Y", which is now entering the workforce and causing employers considerable consternation. These young adults have a bad rap for being spoiled and entitled, but she argues that many of their challenges stem from fear. She believes that an educational system that has clearly delineated for them how to be successful and has shielded them from both failure and uncertainty has left them unwilling to initiate anything and take risks, and as a result employers are finding them passive and needy. I can't help but wonder whether the evisceration of arts programs in schools because of budget cuts may have contributed to this, as the arts require students to 'put themselves out there' without knowing ahead of time what the 'answer' is supposed to be. Of course a fixation on standardized tests also means that students believe that their task is to learn a right answer which is already known; a stark contrast to project based learning in which students have to start something before knowing where it will end.
I wish you all a wonderful spring break with your children, and we look forward to having them back with stories of their adventures.
All the best,