Blog

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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Uncertainty

4/8/20
Liza Ewen
Acting Head of School

One of the first things I brought to my office when I arrived in June was an enormous wall calendar. Mr. Ken kindly re-hung a picture to make room for the 6' X 4' grid. Throughout the summer and the early weeks of the school year, anyone who came to my office couldn't help but notice and comment on it.
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Taking a Moment of Silence

4/1/20
Liza Ewen
Acting Head of School

There was a moment before everything stopped when the idea of being at home for an extended period was appealing. A moment when a montage of peaceful images came--my family entangled on the couch, reading aloud, or the four of us tilling the garden beds in front of our house for hours on end. A moment when I believed we would find satisfaction in settling into a calmer daily routine and finishing the long trail of unfinished projects that we leave in the wake of our busy lives. At that moment as I stood in my quiet office, there was only one other person still in Schoolhouse. I often find myself thinking of the quiet of that moment these days and how it must still be there. It must have only grown deeper since we left.
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Kwaya Marimba

3/10/20
Liza Ewen
Acting Head of School

Two weeks ago, Tr. Ed stopped by my office at the end of the school day to let me know where exactly to find Kwaya Marimba performing at the NAIS Annual Conference. The Philadelphia Convention Center is enormous, after all, and the Annual Conference is such a huge event that it comes with its own app. I assumed that wherever the group played, the audience would consist of curious passers-by, and our 7/8 class would provide background music for the networking of school administrators, or they’d be competing with educational consultants and company representatives hocking innovation, fool-proof branding, and state-of-the-art learning management systems in the Exhibition Hall. I imagined I’d find myself standing amidst a small crowd and taking delight in watching them recognize just how impressive our middle school marimba players really are, much as I have done at venues like the Please Touch Museum and Haverford College. Only this time, I’d be that much prouder to say, “yep, I’m with them.”
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Embracing the Theater

3/3/20
Liza Ewen
Acting Head of School

Like every five-year-old in 1980, my introduction to the world of the stage was the musical Annie. While my life was anything but a hard-knock one, I belted that song out more times than I'm sure my mother cares to remember. As an adult, like many teachers at small schools, my introduction to the world backstage was the need for someone--anyone, really--to take on the MS play. I like to think that had I been directing Annie, my innate, still-hidden talents as a director would have revealed themselves. While I am now certain my home is in the audience, I've long seen the value in making theater a part of any good education. Several essential lessons are best taught through the process of theatrical performance.
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