An independent school in Middletown, DE for students in Preschool through Grade 8

Beyond The Gym
Mr. Egan, 6th-Grade Advisor, Health and Physical Education Teacher

I love being healthy. Who doesn't, but what do we mean when we say ‘I live a healthy lifestyle’? It would be fair to assume what normally comes to mind is exercise and a clean and balanced diet. These things are definitely part of living healthily, however, there are many more complex components of health that are all interconnected and affect the overall well-being of a person. This is what St. Anne’s students have been learning beyond the typical experience of a health and PE class. 

The curriculum for all middle school health classes is structured around seven dimensions of health which include physical, mental and emotional, social, spiritual, financial, occupational, and intellectual. When we treat each dimension with equal care we move toward a more thriving life. Each lesson sits on a foundation of social and emotional learning (SEL), a process through which students understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. A systemic approach to SEL intentionally cultivates a caring, participatory, and equitable learning environment and evidence-based practices that actively involve all students in their social, emotional, and academic growth.

Health class at St. Anne’s is more than an academic pursuit, it is a community-building opportunity. The goal is to have students experience an environment where they feel comfortable to share ideas, ask questions, support peer opinions and feel respected and valued. Every class begins with a mindfulness practice focusing one's awareness on the present moment, often paired with an intentional breathing practice. Current research in this area has found that mindfulness practice can enhance both academic performance and mental health in middle schoolers. This practice sets the intention of the class and is a time where we connect as a community on a social and emotional level. Once the intention of the class has been established we move into the core of the lesson which includes peer or whole-class discussions, role-playing scenarios, activities to provoke thoughtful and creative responses, and learning skills that students can apply in their journey through middle school and beyond. 

Here are a few student comments from the current 7th-grade health class:

“I think the most interesting thing I have learned is the social media part of health. It has helped many people and when I get a social media account I will know what to do with it now”

“Honestly, I think the most interesting thing that we have learned about is mental health. I had used the skills that we had learned from the teaching and activities during that segment, and had applied them to my real life. There was also a time when Mr. Egan had taught us mindful breathing techniques. I have been using these techniques when I need to calm down or take the time to rest.”

“I have learned about how to build yourself up with positive influences/surroundings.”

“I have learned that you don't have to be a bystander and you have the ability to advocate for yourself or someone else.”

Rik Egan - PE Teacher

 

New Student’s Insights Into Her Learning
Hayden Housey, Class of 2022

Hayden Housey, Class of 2022

 

When I first started at St. Anne’s Episcopal School, I had quite a few worries. I was scared I wouldn't fit in, and that I wouldn’t know as much as my peers. I was especially worried when I was in Spanish class. I was only exposed to Spanish in a school setting very briefly in the past. Seeing how good my classmates were at speaking Spanish made me feel self-conscious. As the year goes on, these worries still exist but have started to fade, because I have already learned so much. All of my friends here have shown me that if you make a mistake, you just have to keep trying and never give up. It has always been a goal of mine to learn Spanish, as I would love to travel to more Spanish speaking countries. 

In our class, we have so many ways of learning which also helps me feel less anxious. We are introduced to different vocabulary and aspects of Spanish culture through different activities. At the end of every unit, our way of summing it up is by performing puppet shows. I really like this activity because we are using everything that we have learned to make a play with puppets. They are really fun because we are not only learning but also acting as if we were in a real-life situation communicating with someone else. We introduce ourselves, form sentences, and use new words to create the perfect play. Our teacher, Senora Caro is always willing to help along the way. She will put her lesson on hold for you and explain something more deeply using pictures, words, and sometimes even puppets. I am excited to learn about different cultures, speak so many new words, and to confidently communicate with others in Spanish. I still have so much to learn, and I can’t wait to continue my journey in the years to come at St. Anne’s Episcopal School. 

Enough Sleep = A Recipe for Student Success
Jill Reilly, Division Head of Middle School

With busy school and extracurricular schedules, as well as many other distractions and activities such as homework, music lessons, online gaming, family commitments, social media/internet use, and sports participation,  it is not uncommon to wonder if our children and/or students are getting enough sleep. Many of us know from life experience that a lack of sleep often has a negative impact on our attention span, memory, impulse and emotion control, and ability to get things done well, no matter the age of the person. The research is clear—sleep is essential to the brain's ability to encode information and consolidate memories; according to the American Psychological Association, “sleep is critical for cognitive function in the short term. Lack of sleep can impair attention, working memory, reaction time and executive function (and wreak havoc on your mood).” 

 

As a long-time middle school teacher, administrator, and parent,  I have witnessed the detrimental impact that sleep deprivation, even mild deprivation, can have on a preteen or teenager. Years ago, when my now-adult children were in middle school, my questions and concerns about sleep deprivation often surfaced after a particularly dramatic misunderstanding with a  friend, a significantly low score on an assessment, or poor decision-making at school or home. No matter the situation, I always considered my child’s sleep patterns in the days leading up to the episode, with the understanding that my child’s level of tiredness could significantly affect decision-making and emotion control, not to mention their learning. Today I continue to consider the impact of sleep on our students as it relates to their learning, decision-making, and self-control. 


Undoubtedly, sleep is a crucial component of student success in school. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that school-age children (ages 6-12)  get 9-12 hours of sleep and teens (ages 13-18) get 8-10 hours of sleep.  If you are looking for tips to help your child get more and/or better sleep, I recommend this WebMD article: Sleep Tips for Kids of All Ages that recommends limiting screen time before bed, having a set bedtime routine, ensuring they get enough exercise through some type of movement, avoiding caffeinated drinks/food, and providing a sleep-friendly environment,  among other tips and advice. I also recommend this article, 10 Ways to Get Your Kid A Good Night’s Sleep, from Common Sense Media that offers additional resources and information about this important topic.

Reflections of a Journey
Shannon Cameron, 5th & 6th Grade Language Arts Teacher & 6th Grade Advisor

At St. Anne’s, our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) work is paramount, and our school’s mission of fostering student potential for good cannot exist without DEI’s universal values of truth, fairness, justice, and equality. For our students to function as local and global citizens, it is essential that they understand how to promote acceptance, love others, challenge biases, and inspire others to find honor in how we treat each other. 

In December, I had the honor of traveling to Seattle, Washington with several colleagues to attend the 32nd NAIS People of Color Conference. Both a personal and professional journey, those few days stretched, confounded, and challenged me in ways that I find hard to put into words. There are vast perspectives to be shared with regard to issues of racism, bias, and equity.  I’m proud to be a member of a community that embraces the conversation and places value in this work.

During the conference, several attendees visited the Seattle School for Girls whose anti-bias and identity curriculum is a beacon of leadership for schools focusing on cultural competency. Throughout the day, we visited classrooms, conferred with school leadership, and attended a student-led discussion panel. When asked why the exploration of identity was so important for middle schoolers, a seventh-grade student replied, “I need to be solid in my shoes before I can confront assumptions.” I kept her words in mind as I attended sessions ranging from equitable grading practices to focused inquiry into student/teacher relationships to curriculum practices that instill empathy while avoiding emotional manipulation. The conference renewed my vigor for self-reflection and improvement as I strive to be a stronger ally for my students and my colleagues. 

Throughout St. Anne’s Middle School, students are learning to grapple with tension, listen to different perspectives, and facilitate conversations that model respect and active listening. Students are stretched through the study of diverse literature, culture, and historical constructs. Through this tension and its uncertainty, we are teaching our students to know, to love, to challenge, and to inspire others. Valarie Kaur, an American civil rights activist and founder of the Revolutionary Love Project, discusses the ethic of love in terms of being willing to step into labor for others. She encourages us to see no strangers and to greet another with the sentiment that “You are a part of me I do not know yet.” Certainly, we strive to greet all members of our St. Anne’s community with open arms, seeking to understand, and inviting all on a journey of learning. As St. Anne’s educators, it is our calling to expand the vision of our students so there is room for all, and we work to be aware of whose stories might be absent in our classrooms and curriculum. We ask: whose truth is being told, and by whom? As a result, whose truth is being revised or forgotten? 

Confronting inequities in relationships and communities is unsettling work. At St. Anne’s, we are leaning into these difficulties, seeking to be more aware of where additional DEI work is needed and are supported by eager colleagues, parents, and community members. We are building knowledge and skills in our community through professional development and student workshops. Last fall, our entire faculty attended the ADVIS Cultural Competency Institute and our entire sixth grade, along with members of our Student Diversity Council, will be attending The 2020 Middle School Student Diversity Leadership UnConference in late January. Our mission to explore issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion to meet the needs of all community constituents is omnipresent. Building a more tolerant society by teaching our students to be disruptors of bias and inequity is the St. Anne’s way, woven tightly into our school’s identity of growing in wisdom and love. We strive to be solid in our shoes as we remain centered in dignity, confronting assumptions for ourselves and others. 

A Christmas Letter to Ms. Howard
Cole, Naima, Ava, Lyn, Mason, & Christian 

 

This year Ms. Howard's 7th Grade Advisory presented her with a letter at their Christmas party. 

We hope you enjoy it!

Dear Ms. Howard, 

     Over the last 4 months our advisory has had many great times... even if we can get a little annoying! In our eyes Ms. Howard stands for artistic, beautiful, nice, funny, and loving person. You have put up with many of our crazy ideas...such as this party but we couldn’t ask for anything better in an advisor. You make us better people each and every day here at school. You make all of our days when you jump up laughing and dancing to music. We can all agree that you are one of our best advisors yet. When people go into your art room they can convey all of their creativity into something beautiful and unique! You help people achieve this by being yourself and not listening to anyone that gets in your way. You are the only Ms. Howard we will ever meet and that is a blessing to know in our hearts. One of the best parts of your personality is that you care about us and don’t just let us run free making bad decisions. Your motivation empowers us all to be our best selves and try our hardest. The talk you gave us in Mrs. Bromley's room made us all think about our decisions and how they will impact our lives and our futures. And best of all, you are funny and you can make us laugh in the worst of situations. You just bring light to us all. For this New Year we wish for you and your family to be as happy as ever & for you to especially to have your Christmas wish come true! We hope we have made you proud as your advisees and have made your day!

Love, 

Cole, Naima, Ava, Lyn, Mason, & Christian