Blog

Thank You

6/10/20
Liza Ewen
Acting Head of School

Looking back, I think I've always assigned significant meaning to the end of the school year. As an elementary school student, I remember crying when it came time to say goodbye to my classroom teacher, even though I knew I'd be right down the hall from them come September. In third grade, when my mother asked me why I was so sad at the end of each school year, I said, "because I'm growing up," which in turn made her cry. When I graduated with my master's at the age of 36, I couldn't leave without taking a picture with each of my professors, just as I had with each of my classroom teachers long ago. As a parent who's an educator, my second-grader gleefully logged off his last Zoom while I sat teary-eyed and waved goodbye to his teacher.
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Living Our Mission in the Face of Injustice

6/2/20
Liza Ewen
Acting Head of School

As a Quaker school that holds sacred the inherent value of each human life, Friends School Haverford joins with people across our city and nation to mourn the senseless loss of black lives and to stand against the institutionalized racism that allows such violence to happen again and again.
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Learning and Unlearning

5/27/20
Liza Ewen
Acting Head of School

I remember the first time I truly understood just how much of learning is un-learning. Within days of watching with delight as my then-two-year-old son learned to toss a ball, I realized that I’d spend three times as long teaching him all things he could not throw and just how many things in the world his toddler brain would have to understand as “not-ball.” As my son picked up oranges, apples, potatoes and attempted to fling them across the kitchen with indiscriminate glee, I saw with new clarity (and a new level of overwhelm) that teaching is always a process of unteaching and that so few concepts and rules are universal. Not everything that looks like a ball should be thrown. My mother came to understand this with new eyes as well. After putting her gorgeous collection of crystal-ball-like paperweights in storage as the first grandson toddled around her house, she saw the writing on the wall with the arrival of the second and donated them all to Goodwill in one fell swoop.
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Stewardship

5/20/20
Liza Ewen
Acting Head of School

The calendar insisted it was still only March when I started receiving daily emails with forwarded articles or retweeted blog posts about what schools must focus on when they reopen. There was an article in The Washington Post about the value of play and the resurgence it should make in elementary schools. There was The Wall Street Journal editorial about the relative meaning of grades and standardized test scores when schools are closed. There was an entire website created for New York City residents to share their experiences of kindness. It turns out that it only took a global health crisis for everyone to recognize the truths Quaker education has known since its inception.
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Teaching About the Unknown

5/13/20
Liza Ewen
Acting Head of School

In my years as a classroom teacher in Quaker schools, I'd occasionally find myself questioning what, exactly, I was teaching my students. Typically this question would creep into my consciousness during Meeting for Worship when the class before hadn't been my best. (Here's something Quakers don't tell you about Meeting for Worship: for type-A folks trying really hard to get things right, silence runs the risk of breeding existential angst as much as spiritual solace.) At the heart of my silent pondering was always the question: What was I really teaching kids?
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Thoughtful Uncertainty

5/6/20
Liza Ewen
Acting Head of School

Throughout the year, I’ve kept a running list of topics to write about in the Weekly Update--an emergency stash of ideas to turn to when the past week’s events don’t reveal what this weekly note to you should address. For the last two months, that list (like my once-beloved office calendar) has taunted me with topics that are too much to tackle during a global pandemic. The value of a growth mindset and teaching our children (and really, ourselves) how to be resilient. The role of technology and screentime in the FSH classroom. This morning, for the life of me, I cannot remember what could have possibly led me to jot down “thoughtful uncertainty” as a worthy topic, but there it is, on the list.  Honestly, with each passing week in this new not-at-all-normal reality, I’ve considered writing about the now-hourly conversations my wife and I have with our second-grader about why we aren’t getting a puppy. However, with each passing week, despite impressive clarity, resolve, and parental solidarity, I cannot confidently rule out the possibility that come September, I’ll have a new lens for thinking all things teaching and learning--life with our new puppy.
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The Paradox of the Beauty and the Emptiness

4/1/20
Liza Ewen
Acting Head of School

I still have vivid memories of my first weeks at FSH in the fall of 2015, many of which revolve around the campus itself. The lush green, the still-too-warm September breeze, the expansive grounds filled with children at play. Within a few days, we had already surpassed the time I'd spent outdoors as a high school teacher when I passed entire days in my classroom without venturing outdoors. In high school, teachers and students alike worked, wrote, studied, always striving to be productive in a singular sense of the word. Starved of outside time, we seemed to forget that it was merely on the other side of the door. By contrast, students at FSH are always hungry for fresh air and free play, regardless of the weather.
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Adapting

4/22/20
Liza Ewen
Acting Head of School

In trying to find some silver lining in the surreal heartache of social distancing, I've realized this may be the only time I can "go to school" with my second-grader. Each day, I sit across the room from my son as he joins his class via Zoom. (He distinctly does not want me to be on camera, even when I point out I'm the one who has bothered to get out of her pajamas.) From my perch out of the webcam's sight, I listen to my son's teacher teaching. She has a pitch-perfect second-grade sense of humor. She tells stories about her dog, known as "the double-o Dood," to illustrate just about everything. From across the room, I can tell she cares about each kid in her class by the way she calls them gently back to attention or reminds them that their Millenium Falcon Zoom-backdrop makes it harder to see their face. One day she unmuted my son to ask him to share the "awesome process" he came up with for a math problem on the previous day's homework. At that moment, I caught a glimpse of my child's classroom self, and I saw how important it was for him to be seen and recognized by this "room" full of people.
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Celebrating 135 Years

4/15/20
Liza Ewen
Acting Head of School

135 years. Friends School Haverford is 135 years old today. It’s quite a birthday. 

Like every other celebratory ritual these days, we have to reimagine it, be creative, make do with what we have on hand. Dig out any FSH t-shirt you can find, or turn your car magnet into a pendant. We’ll have to celebrate with a little less bang and a bit more simplicity. Not that we had to cut our losses on a caterer, but we had plans. 135 years is not insubstantial, after all.
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