Below is an abidged version of my "Back to School Night" remarks on 8.27.19
Good evening, distinguished guests. I am Willy Haug, proud principal of Hillview, and I am so pleased to welcome you to Back to School Night.
This is the earliest we have ever held Back to School Night, on the fifth day of school, and how great is that? You are immediately going to be able to put a face and voice to those teachers your children have excitedly been talking about this past week. And you won’t have that awkward feeling about when to reach out to your teachers. We all know there’s an unwritten rule that you can’t contact your child’s teacher until after Back to School Night, and you hang on to your burning questions too long out of politeness. Well, now you have an excuse, and you can start to build that partnership sooner and be more proactive.
The beginning of the year always holds such excitement and promise, and for us it is an annual rite of passage where we open our doors and share with you our hopes and dreams for the coming year. I speak for all Hillview staff when I say, what a blessing and a privilege it is to serve you, the Menlo Park community, where anything is possible, and the sky’s the limit - especially if you’re a Hawk!
I’m excited tonight to share with you our goals and aspirations for the new year that tie to our vision. Hillview is a place where we build relationships and create a sense of belonging, and to that end we look forward to launching our monthly Advisory sessions in September. An Advisory is the same group of grade level students who meet throughout the year with the same adult facilitator; it’s like a little family. We’ll be convening monthly to start the year, and our goal by Trimester 3, which begins on March 9, is to have developed a new bell schedule with Advisory meeting two to three times a week.
We feel it’s important for us to carve out this space for students to know others and be known, and to have a venue where we can focus on those non-academic skills and competencies we wish to develop. In September, for example, we will focus on one of our five new core skills, ownership. What does it mean to set goals and take charge of our learning and personal growth? Not only will students be reflecting on this and engaging in goal setting; we also will be involving families as partners in this work. Developing ownership, or what some might call self-direction, is not just the work of the school. It requires consistent messaging at home as well. We hope that one day, any one of us can say the tagline, “Own it,” and our students or children will know that this means they need to take charge and create their own path.
Ownership is but one of Hillview’s new five core skills. Many of you were involved last year in the process to develop them. At that time, we called this effort “The Profile of a Hillview Graduate.” This journey began with soliciting feedback from all our stakeholder groups: staff, parents, and students. We asked, “What critical skills, traits, and dispositions will be needed to not only become awesome human beings, but also to solve the incredibly complex problems of our society?” Our School Site Council then synthesized the input from the various groups and found some powerful alignment. We added a descriptor and a tagline or imperative to each trait. Finally, we went back and tested our language on students. We wanted to make sure our words resonated with our most important audience. Our five core skills - and the word skill is intentional, because it implies that each can be taught and learned - are as follows:
- Curiosity. We eagerly ask questions, discover new ideas, and share what we learn. Be curious
- Compassion. We see the world through many perspectives, connect with others, and act to make our community a better place. Walk a mile
- Critical Thinking. We evaluate the circumstances, evidence, or problem, and work together to come up with solutions. Ask why
- Ownership. We set goals and take charge of our learning and personal growth. Own it
- Resilience. We take on challenges, bounce back when things get difficult, overcome self-doubt, and see things through. You got this
These five core skills replace the “3 C’s,” and our goal this year is to weave them into the fabric of our school community. Advisory lessons will be one opportunity you have to engage with your students on the skills, making meaning of them and finding authentic ways to apply them at home, at school and in the community. Our weekly “Hawk Hurrah” student recognition slips now have the five core skills listed as check boxes at the bottom so we can reward students for their good decisions. We’ll also be asking ourselves how we can measure these skills in our students. Academic growth is a critical aspect of our children’s success, but it can’t be the only metric we value. Our report card ought to encompass the whole child and give feedback on the five core skills as well.
What’s really inspiring to me is that these skills are representative of an intersection of all our values; the educators, the community, and the students are all aligned on curiosity, compassion, critical thinking, ownership, and resilience. Let’s take every opportunity this year to develop this vocabulary and build these competencies in our children. As teachers, let’s think about how the work we do and the tasks we engage our students in help to foster these skills. Project-based learning is a great example of the kind of meaningful work that strengthens all the core skills. As parents and guardians, let’s sit down with our kids when Hillview sends out information on our Advisory lessons. We’ll always provide some talking points and activities that are the kind of homework that you and your family will find enriching. If we spend the time this year immersing ourselves in these values, our students will become even more awesome and future ready.
The Hillview Neighborhood is an amazing place, and as you travel from class to class this evening, it will be evident how and why this school is so special. What our teachers here manage to accomplish is truly remarkable. I invite you not only to share your gratitude directly with the teachers and staff throughout the year; but also, when you experience a member of our faculty doing something special that truly impacts your child or family positively, please email me personally; these messages brighten my day, and I love to share them with teachers and staff.
Once again, we are thrilled to welcome you all back to Hillivew. Have a fantastic Back to School Night!
Warmly, Willy Haug, Proud Hillview Principal