Lexington Public Schools have made significant progress in tackling issues of overcrowding, curriculum improvement, and student stress. However, more remains to be done. We are at an inflection point. With the ongoing curriculum-schedule reviews and the high school envisioning process we have a unique opportunity. We can reimagine our pedagogy and adopt ideas beyond just college and career considerations. We can strengthen our schools and community by:
• Educating the whole child
• Building student resilience
• Delivering value to taxpayers
Our children should grow into confident and empathetic global citizens, who adapt to change with equanimity and skill. Children who will be facile with technology, yet socially integrated. Most importantly, I would like us to adopt educational ideas and innovations with entrepreneurial proficiency.
Educating the whole child
It is important that we shift our focus from educating the classroom child to the whole child. We are already accomplishing wonderful things in our schools and town. Our children do well artistically, athletically and academically. We can now look towards building up the softer skills which are to do with collaboration, creative thinking, empathy and teamwork. These are skills which are becoming increasingly necessary in the work place and also make for happier adults.
Social and emotional learning provided in a safe, supportive environment can enhance positive character traits as well as boost academic results. In Lexington, given our diversity, we can build unique school-community partnerships. Students can be given opportunities for altruism and character development beyond their immediate circle. This will help foster prosocial behavior.
I have coached elementary and middle school children using project based learning elements for over seven years. In April 2017, our team won the Research Award in the First World Championship from a global field of over 30,000 teams. This win was a culmination of many years of learning which included community engagement, empathy exercises, teamwork, problem solving, and STEM. The students worked very hard but also had a lot of fun. The team developed practical real-world solutions and learned a number of hard and soft skills.
Building student resilience
Lexingtonians are well intentioned, hardworking people. We strive to do our best and so always find scope for improvement. We have high expectations of ourselves and our children are no different. This yields impressive results but may also lead to unhealthy stress. Social and digital-world pressures may also contribute especially in the high school. As a town, we have done much to ease these pressures. We will continue to do so till all causes of unhealthy stress are understood and mitigated.
For a student embracing curiosity and becoming an active learner is perhaps one of the most rewarding experiences. This is especially true for the elementary and middle school years. Unfortunately, we all have had a child feel that they cannot even attempt an academic or athletic activity because their peers have already mastered it. Sometimes it takes courage to try something new. Exploring new concepts in a team setting with a shared purpose reduces the fear of failure. In supportive environments students will dabble in unfamiliar concepts. Initial failures and successes can build a child’s confidence leading to a virtuous cycle of growth. Key skills taught early on, practiced and augmented through the years will help build resilience. As adults we know that with effort and interest, any endeavor is doable.
I have organized elementary and middle school enrichment events and clubs which have created such environments. Students have worked in group settings while being mentored by parents, grandparents and LHS students. It has increased community involvement and benefits have accrued to all.
Delivering value to taxpayers
Lexington is a town for all ages, all ethnicities and all incomes. Providing an outstanding public education while also managing the tax burden is important. Lexington’s family friendly town environment and the excellence of our school system is attracting families locally and from around the world. Meanwhile, some of our aging school and town facilities need renovation and replacement. This leads to enrollment pressures on our school system and budget pressures on our town finances. The town is working to balance the financial requirements of these pressures. As a Town Meeting and School Committee Member I will strive to deliver maximum value to the town as a whole.