13 Sep 2018 Head’s Fall Welcome Address
On Thursday, September 6, Advent hosted its annual Head’s Fall Welcome at Moseley Hall, Church of the Advent. Advent’s Head of School, Nicole A. DuFauchard, formally addressed the faculty, board members, and parents in attendance, and welcomed the community to the 2018-2019 school year. Below is an excerpt from her speech at the event.
One of the greatest joys about Advent is the relationships that our children get to make with the adults that support the School. The teachers, administrators, class parents, Parents Association Chairs, and volunteers that all walk with one vision for the School. This event brings us together to celebrate the year ahead. As parents, the new year brings a sense of possibility for our children; to reflect on the years past, and what we hope to accomplish in the upcoming months. However, it is also a time where we look upon the choices that got us here and ask ourselves, “Did we make the right ones? Will we continue to make the right decisions to give our little humans all that we hope for?”
So tonight, I wanted to share some thoughts on why your choice for Advent is one of the best choices you have made. I know that sounds a little self-serving, but I figure in this complicated world, we could all use a “parent win.”
I am often asked to speak at other institutions about Diversity, Social Justice, Social Emotional Learning, and Elementary School curriculum; schools that are trying to navigate this new world of complete access to information through technology. The reality of building foundations for students looks very different than it did when I was a kid. The schools that I work with are questioning the purpose they serve in educating today’s children. The most common question I am asked is, “How do you give children all the ‘things’ they need to get to college and beyond?”
The reality is that we are not giving them “things.” What we are doing is providing access to children. Access to information, access to their voice, access to the ability to take risks, access to different views, access to skills that help them navigate the world around them, access to harness their strengths and look at failure and challenges as an opportunity to try new strategies, to create new strategies, to find their courage and face adversity.
Gretchen Vice, Dean of Faculty, was in my office today and said, “We teach reading, because you of course need to learn how to read to get along in the world; but at Advent, we teach reading so that our children have access to learning that they can truly own and explore.” A fundamental value amongst all of our faculty is that children are capable, and that our job is not to fill their heads with knowledge, but to open their minds for the possibility of knowledge. Our students return each year to a place that values them, that encourages them, that challenges them, and that honors them. This is not just because our teachers are nice (which they are, by the way). It is because our view of children is rooted in the principles of Reggio Emilia, as an access point of understanding how children build their learning.
Our School, is one of about 15 schools worldwide that uses Reggio principles as the basis of “whole child learning” for all its grades. This is intentional; Reggio Emilia was a perfect alignment to the building blocks of Advent’s progressive and social justice goals. That alignment was formed through three stages in history, and realization that we must do something different. In one era, where John Dewey knew the industrial revolution would morph into a more expansive world. In another era, where Loris Malaguzzi knew that a country in shambles could no longer think about school in the same way. And in 1961, when Mona C. Hull, our founder, knew Boston’s social construct was changing and children needed to be ready to lead the way.
As a school rich with tradition and intention around these three fundamental child-focused pedagogies, we are now being asked how to support the national conversation of education. Our faculty continue to host educators from all over the world to help reframe the ways in which we teach. They are selected nationally to present at conferences on the “how” of education. They have taken center stage at the Wonder of Learning exhibit as facilitators, presenters, and study group leaders. School administrators tour Advent to study the documentation of our students’ journeys, and how we individualize learning within our community. We will also be working with members of the Massachusetts Social Emotional Learning Alliance to create the template for the social emotional pedagogy model, which will be used by the entire state.
I have to pause and let this all settle for a bit, because I am in a total state of excitement. Google anything about education reform; look at the questions that are being asked nationally. This way, this thought, and this intention, which Advent has had for 57 years is being tried on for the first time by public, parochial, and independent schools. Even Harvard University is recreating admissions practices that look like Advent’s curricular foundations. As an educator, I am geeking out. As a parent, I am in awe of the access my son has received, as Head of School, I am proud of the work we have done and the work ahead.
As I start the sixth year of my own Advent journey, I look at all of you in admiration. Admiration for supporting a school that has truly walked the walk and talked the talk; educating thousands of students in the last (nearly) six decades. Advent families have understood that the foundation set for their children is not about giving them the “things.” It is about collaborating, facilitating, and building partnerships with our children so they can own, advocate, and strategize their own pathways.
Our community stands as champions, and I thank you for the opportunity to be here with you. I hope tonight brings you some comfort that one decision you have made in this parenting journey is filled with a little less angst, as we start the year ahead.
Come visit the School, and let’s talk about education. The faculty and administrators want to engage with you in this conversation. We are committed to the “why” and to the “purpose.” Let us continue to show others the “how,” and to provide access to others on this educational journey.
I am thrilled for the year ahead and look forward to continuing to collaborate with you on your child’s journey at The Advent School.
Thank you, and have a wonderful fall.