A coeducational day school serving students JK-12

Notes from Head of School Thomas Hagerman on Educational Philosophy
Over the past four months, I have been asked frequently about my educational philosophy and how I intend to implement it here at Latin. Recognizing that there are many audiences for this answer, I would like to differentiate my response.

The one-word version: Engagement.

Mabel Slade Vickery founded Latin School of Chicago with a shared vision of developing a school that is inclusive, student-centered, and interdisciplinary.

Enduring understanding comes from meaningful content combined with a powerful social context. In other words, when students are exposed to interesting and relevant curricula in a stimulating learning environment, they remember the information longer, have a richer conceptual understanding of it, and are able to transfer that knowledge to other situations.

The five-word version: Student-centered approach to learning.

In order for students to best engage in learning, their unique aptitudes and needs must be recognized and understood by the individual students, their teacher(s), and parents/guardians. Perhaps the most effective and well-researched student-centered approaches are proficiency- and/or standards- based learning. These entail an individualized approach to instructing children, along with assessments that demonstrate ongoing, formative progress. Rather than simply reducing a student’s nuanced or inchoate understanding of a concept into a summative and overly simplistic letter grade, the focus of feedback should ensure that everyone involved in the scaffolding of a student’s success has a good understanding of where they are on a continuum of mastery on a particular skill or concept. Final scores may complement this understanding, but not supplant it.

A more extended version: A progressive education approach to learning.

Mabel Slade Vickery founded Latin School of Chicago with a shared vision of developing a school that is inclusive, student-centered, and interdisciplinary. In part, her views were influenced by the “founders” of the progressive movement, namely John Dewey and Francis Parker. They rejected the rigidity of the one-size-fits-all approach of the past and, instead, focused on responding to the interests of students and individualizing curriculum and instruction accordingly. While idealistic in some ways, it was also grounded in pragmatism. Dewey once famously said, “Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself.” As such, his practices and teachings included an emphasis on the development of community, civic engagement, and active citizenship. Schools as communities was a radical, but important shift in the history of education to personalize and contextualize the learning experiences for children, teachers, and families. 

During graduate school, I had the good fortune to learn from many influential progressive education pioneers, including:

John Locke–Truth and knowledge come from experience;

Jean-Jacques Rousseau–Rote learning and memorization are not ways children retain information;

Johann Pestalozzi–Learning requires a holistic head, heart, and hand approach;

Friedrich Fröbel–Play and experimentation are essential elements of learning; and

Maria Montessori–Methods of assessing students must be authentic, intentional, and multi-dimensional.

Our promise to Latin families is that we will prepare your children to pursue their passions and lead lives of purpose and excellence.

These individuals and so many others helped to shape and influence my own approach to teaching students and leading schools. Collectively, these philosophers, educators, researchers, and practitioners created a tapestry of both important aspirations and practical strategies that have impacted my work over the past 30 years. Perhaps the most significant aspect of my interest in joining the Latin community was the understanding that these were shared beliefs and values.

Of course, having a philosophy and translating it into action are two different things. As a Head of School, it is important to keep our vision at the forefront of decision-making, articulate goals for both curriculum choices and instructional approaches, evaluate programmatic success using a variety of high-quality metrics, address areas that need improvements or corrective actions, and provide appropriate resources and supports to accomplish these lofty aims. Embedded in this approach is supporting our teachers, who are experts in their fields and child development, and ensuring that our parents remain active partners and advocates on behalf of their children. 

Our promise to Latin families is that we will prepare your children to pursue their passions and lead lives of purpose and excellence. We fulfill this commitment by believing in the inherent possibility of every child, fostering a sense of individual and collective agency, instilling a sense of social responsibility, and encouraging our students to dream–then make those dreams a reality!

 

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Notes from Head of School Thomas Hagerman on Educational Philosophy
Over the past four months, I have been asked frequently about my educational philosophy and how I intend to implement it here at Latin. Recognizing that there are many audiences for this answer, I would like to differentiate my response.

The one-word version: Engagement.

Mabel Slade Vickery founded Latin School of Chicago with a shared vision of developing a school that is inclusive, student-centered, and interdisciplinary.

Enduring understanding comes from meaningful content combined with a powerful social context. In other words, when students are exposed to interesting and relevant curricula in a stimulating learning environment, they remember the information longer, have a richer conceptual understanding of it, and are able to transfer that knowledge to other situations.

The five-word version: Student-centered approach to learning.

In order for students to best engage in learning, their unique aptitudes and needs must be recognized and understood by the individual students, their teacher(s), and parents/guardians. Perhaps the most effective and well-researched student-centered approaches are proficiency- and/or standards- based learning. These entail an individualized approach to instructing children, along with assessments that demonstrate ongoing, formative progress. Rather than simply reducing a student’s nuanced or inchoate understanding of a concept into a summative and overly simplistic letter grade, the focus of feedback should ensure that everyone involved in the scaffolding of a student’s success has a good understanding of where they are on a continuum of mastery on a particular skill or concept. Final scores may complement this understanding, but not supplant it.

A more extended version: A progressive education approach to learning.

Mabel Slade Vickery founded Latin School of Chicago with a shared vision of developing a school that is inclusive, student-centered, and interdisciplinary. In part, her views were influenced by the “founders” of the progressive movement, namely John Dewey and Francis Parker. They rejected the rigidity of the one-size-fits-all approach of the past and, instead, focused on responding to the interests of students and individualizing curriculum and instruction accordingly. While idealistic in some ways, it was also grounded in pragmatism. Dewey once famously said, “Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself.” As such, his practices and teachings included an emphasis on the development of community, civic engagement, and active citizenship. Schools as communities was a radical, but important shift in the history of education to personalize and contextualize the learning experiences for children, teachers, and families. 

During graduate school, I had the good fortune to learn from many influential progressive education pioneers, including:

John Locke–Truth and knowledge come from experience;

Jean-Jacques Rousseau–Rote learning and memorization are not ways children retain information;

Johann Pestalozzi–Learning requires a holistic head, heart, and hand approach;

Friedrich Fröbel–Play and experimentation are essential elements of learning; and

Maria Montessori–Methods of assessing students must be authentic, intentional, and multi-dimensional.

Our promise to Latin families is that we will prepare your children to pursue their passions and lead lives of purpose and excellence.

These individuals and so many others helped to shape and influence my own approach to teaching students and leading schools. Collectively, these philosophers, educators, researchers, and practitioners created a tapestry of both important aspirations and practical strategies that have impacted my work over the past 30 years. Perhaps the most significant aspect of my interest in joining the Latin community was the understanding that these were shared beliefs and values.

Of course, having a philosophy and translating it into action are two different things. As a Head of School, it is important to keep our vision at the forefront of decision-making, articulate goals for both curriculum choices and instructional approaches, evaluate programmatic success using a variety of high-quality metrics, address areas that need improvements or corrective actions, and provide appropriate resources and supports to accomplish these lofty aims. Embedded in this approach is supporting our teachers, who are experts in their fields and child development, and ensuring that our parents remain active partners and advocates on behalf of their children. 

Our promise to Latin families is that we will prepare your children to pursue their passions and lead lives of purpose and excellence. We fulfill this commitment by believing in the inherent possibility of every child, fostering a sense of individual and collective agency, instilling a sense of social responsibility, and encouraging our students to dream–then make those dreams a reality!

 

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First Grade Flag Project

Latin first grade students started the year building their community. It was important to establish to ensure all feel safe and comfortable taking risks, making mistakes, asking for help and supporting one another. 

As students listened to some of their favorite songs, they got inspired. The song, “Wave your Flag” by K’Nann, in particular, sparked a lot of inspiration. Some may be familiar with this song as it is the anthem of the World Cup. As the first graders listened to the song, they thought it might be fun to create their own flags. 

As students began to explore their identities and community, they discovered that flags often represent groups of people who are related in some way. For example, city flags can represent folks who live in the same city. Team flags can represent fans of a particular team. State/country flags represent people who come from those places.

Each student then created their own flag to represent pieces of their identity. The process started with the exploration of identity, authenticity, symbols, and flags. A lot of time was spent considering the difference between things we like/love, and pieces of our identity. As an abstract concept, teachers worked with students in small groups to help them understand the differences. Students then filled out an identity bubble map and began the process of designing their flags. Each student received a planning sheet to select important colors, symbols and shapes they wanted to include in their flags. 

After each individual flag was created, the grade level came together as a community, to explore how they could create one class/community flag to represent all individuals in the group. This process worked on skills such as compromise, collaboration and communication. The students problem-solved and suggested ways to include everyone in the community. The outcome being one community flag to represent the Latin first grade communities. 

Take a look at the flags students made to reflect their voices and choices. 

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US Marine Science Uses the City as the Classroom

New to the upper school Science course offerings this year, is a Marine Science course taught by Mr. Wisnieski. 

Students in this course are exploring the aquatic environments near Latin and around the city. In September they took a kayaking trip to the Wild Mile, a portion of the Chicago River that is being rehabilitated by the Urban Rivers organization.

Students toured the river on kayaks and studied the organisms living in the new habitats that have been constructed. More recently, students monitored the water quality in Lake Michigan. 

Take a look at the #opportunities found inside and outside the classroom at Latin.

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Do You Know? René Moreno

Get to know René Moreno, Lower School Visual Art Teacher.

FAVORITE QUOTE
"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” -Pablo Picasso

EDUCATION
I earned a BFA from RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) and majored in Illustration.

Position and title at LatinI am the Visual Arts teacher in the Lower School. This is my 5th year at Latin. I was here as an assistant art teacher for 3 years while I worked on my teaching certification, and I am so happy to be back!

I also find a lot of joy in working with the kids. I love their eagerness to try new things and their enthusiasm for learning.
What are your favorite things about Latin? I am constantly inspired by my colleagues, who are excellent at what they do and are so passionate about their work. I also find a lot of joy in working with the kids. I love their eagerness to try new things and their enthusiasm for learning.

Why did you decide that you wanted to work at a school? As an illustrator, I visited schools and libraries to promote my books and I usually taught a little art project at those visits. I loved working with kids, so I decided to get my teaching certification.

Who is your favorite artist?
It’s a tie between Frida Kahlo and Vincent Van Gogh.

What was the last good book you read?I am currently reading a wonderful book called Everything Sad is Untrue, an autobiographical novel about an Iranian refugee growing up in Oklahoma. It’s funny and heartbreaking at the same time.

What are your hobbies and interests?I enjoy collecting children’s books, walking outside, listening to music, and practicing yoga.

What was your first job?After college, I worked several jobs all at once: I worked as a freelance illustrator for children’s books, worked as a waitress and barista, and also painted silk for a fashion designer.

What is one piece of advice you would want to tell your lower school self? You can do hard things!

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Tray White

New Middle School Director Tray White joined the Latin leadership team in July. While Tray is new to Latin this year, he is well-versed in the implementation and support of social emotional learning for middle school students. 

In a recent email Tray noted middle school faculty and staff are engaged in the daily process of nurturing and guiding the development of essential academic and social-emotional skills, building classroom culture and community, and reinforcing key classroom routines and procedures. All of these culminate to center around the joy and fun that comes with learning with a community of peers in an environment that promotes each student’s academic, social-emotional, and physical growth and well-being.

At the October Board of Trustee meeting, Tray expanded on some of Middle School’s practices regarding student wellness. 

He spoke about the Affective Education program’s purpose of nurturing students’ social-emotional growth and curating learning opportunities for students to explore a variety of topics that enrich the student experience. Several of the topics are facilitated by the MS Counseling Team, Dean of Students, Director of Student Life, and Computer Science faculty. 

Another example of social emotional learning in practice is through Middle School Affinity Groups. The purpose of these groups is to provide opportunities for students to share and explore life and experiences within safe and supportive spaces defined by membership and/or connection(s) to specific identity group(s). The Middle School has expanded from one Affinity group to many, including the Gender & Sexuality Alliance, South Asian Women Alliance, Girls in Math, and Students of Color affinity groups.

Take a look at Tray’s presentation to the Board. 

 

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