Warm Demanders

How can a little, independent school amidst fields and woods have anything to say to developing teachers whose classrooms will one day be found in large buildings in the middle of a city?  While the externalities may appear to separate the two contexts, the essence of schooling is based not on such surface elements but on the practices that can be learned in such a setting as Arbor's.


In a recent conversation with former Arbor Center for Teaching (ACT) apprentice, Ren Johns, who was aiming for and found a mathematics teaching position at a large urban high school after earning her MAT through ACT, we discussed what it is that she believes she brings to her students that is making the difference in her teaching.  She attributes her successes with her current students, who might appear to be very different from those she taught at Arbor, to the lessons she learned through ACT, to the relentless commitment to students she saw modeled and now exhibits herself, both in the development of meaningful relationships with them and in her provisioning them with work at which they can be successful.  Ren commented further that she finds herself at the same school as another ACT graduate, Ben Malbin, whose successes in teaching American Sign Language to a wide range of students are likewise predicated on connecting with students authentically as human beings and as capable learners.  

Both of these teachers are "warm demanders," intent on working with their students students from a perspective of high expectations and empathic understanding.  Becoming committed to such understanding and developing the pedagogical imagination required to do this kind of work can be learned in any school committed to individual growth and development within a community of learners being asked to be their best selves.  Arbor is such a school.

Inside the ACT: Teaching/Life Balance

Training to be a teacher through a residency model means working in the classroom all day, combining this with graduate work after school, and during some evenings and weekends.  As a result, one of our seminar themes is the topic of life balance and how to sustain a rigorous and time-consuming professional life as an educator during and beyond the ACT program.

One healthy element in this regard is to embrace opportunities to explore the outdoors in the Pacific Northwest, and to recharge by trying a new outdoor adventure.  Recently, Assistant Director Peter ffitch built on an evolving tradition and invited ACT Apprentices to join him sailing in Puget Sound, following in the footsteps of previous ACT cohorts.  K/1 Apprentice Lauren Reynolds and 2nd/3rd grade Apprentice Kristin Bollingmo took Peter up on his offer.  After this breathtaking experience, both Kristin and Lauren headed back to Portland ready for the teaching week ahead!

Source: http://www.arborcenterforteaching.org/blog...

How Do We Start?

The beginning of the school year brings the same freshness and potential as a clean sheet of paper and a never-been-used pencil bring to an eager writer.  Supplies have been gathered, names practiced, routines introduced, and the meaningful work of being and learning together has been launched.  

First classroom newsletters provide new and returning families a window into our teachers’ hopes for the coming year.  Their styles shine through.

Primaries: “We have been so proud of the Old Hands (first graders) for carefully tending the incoming Kindergartners.”
Juniors: “I believe strongly that all children can learn high levels of maths, that maths are creative and beautiful, and that appropriate struggle, making mistakes, and persistence are key to learning.”
Intermediates: “We will become collectors as we listen to all 44 poems, culling gem-like lines for the craft."
Seniors: “But it is important too, to realize that those final products can only emerge from daily, dedicated labor.”  

Intentions have been set, basic information about classroom and personal needs around celebrations and lunches shared, and clear communications have commenced. Our aims are high and the year begins. Onward with a fleet of felt mice at the prow and a sturdy collection of eighth graders at the rudder. 

In the summer our Primary (Kindergarten and 1st grade) students are sent a homemade felt mouse. They detail the mouse's summer adventures on a postcard which they send back to Arbor -- as well as building a mouse boat to bring in for the first day of school.

In the summer our Primary (Kindergarten and 1st grade) students are sent a homemade felt mouse. They detail the mouse's summer adventures on a postcard which they send back to Arbor -- as well as building a mouse boat to bring in for the first day of school.

ACT Voices, Part 1: Learning to Teach Through Mentored Classroom Experience

Listen to the first in our five part series “ACT Voices” in which Teacher Residency graduate Oriana Connolly discusses her reasons for working for her Master’s of Arts in Teaching and Oregon teacher license at Arbor School.  

Oriana points out that no other graduate program offers as much classroom experience, supported by a co-teacher and seminars linking theory to practice.  In addition, she explains her draw to Arbor School’s philosophy with our focus on helping children develop critical thinking and questioning via deep exploration of science and the arts.  Having the chance to build her own teaching practice with two years in a second/third grade Arbor classroom, outside on Arbor’s twenty-two acre farm and woodland campus, and in a dual language Spanish classroom in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District, Oriana went on to teach fourth grade in a dual language classroom in Oregon City. She currently works in the Canby School District teaching fifth grade within the inspiring dual language community of Trost Elementary School.

We are currently accepting applications for our 2018-2020 cohort of Teacher Residents. Schedule an inquiry visit to Arbor School this fall to learn more about our program or e-mail act@arborschool.org for more information. 

Source: Arbor Center for Teaching

Primary Class: How to Make a Pretzel

Our Primaries have been very busy this week making pretzels to sell at Arborfest, our annual community celebration and fundraising event. But how do you make a pretzel? Check out a behind-the-scenes look at the process below:

Reflections of a Second Year Apprentice Teacher by Holly Bindley

If a year in the classroom has made me certain of one thing, it is that learning is messy. Beautiful— but messy. A year has also helped me to understand and appreciate the absolutely essential student-teacher relationship. It is the foundation for everything. Learners build knowledge as they explore the world around them, observe and interact with it, converse and engage with others, reflect, and make connections between new ideas and prior understandings. It is the meaning-making process. True learning involves enriching, expanding, and changing existing understanding. People make connections and draw conclusions based on their experiences and a sense of what they already know. If teaching does not begin with what students know (or think they know), students may be able to pass a test or regurgitate information– but authentic, meaningful learning will not occur.

Holly and one of her students beginning the year together in their 2nd/3rd grade classroom at Arbor School.

Holly and one of her students beginning the year together in their 2nd/3rd grade classroom at Arbor School.

When children are encouraged to question and investigate their surroundings, deeper learning can occur. It is a critical step in developing lifelong learners. According to Wood (1994), second and third graders are especially intrigued by the world around them and driven by an internal desire to understand how things work. This desire is infectious. And as educators, it is exactly what we must cultivate. Curiosity is not only a crucial part of motivation, but it is also a key element of learning. I aim to always foster the curiosity of my students by creating conditions that support the process of inquiry.

In this short year, I’ve also come to realize that education should not be separate from life itself. Learning occurs when students interact with and directly experience the concept being studied. As the ancient Chinese proverb says, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” I have been continually reminded of the significance and truth of this statement in my first year of this program. It is such a gift to be able to live what I am studying everyday in graduate school. To be able to apply it directly in my 2nd and 3rd grade classroom—and to make mistakes and reflect on them in such a supportive environment—has been incredibly humbling and rewarding. It is the only way to learn. True experiential learning asks us to apply our knowledge to experiences in order to develop skills and new ways of thinking.

As an educator, I strive to create opportunities for active learning— where students are asked to use ideas by writing and talking about them, creating models and demonstrations, applying these ideas to more complex problems, and constructing projects that require the integration of many ideas. When combined with reflective learning experiences, active learning means deeper learning. I hope to encourage discourse to create an environment where I am not the only source of knowledge. An environment where students teach students. By creating a classroom climate of trust, my hope is that students will feel safe to take risks and make mistakes.

 I vow to honor children as the curious, insightful, dignified human beings they are. By valuing their individual voices, solutions, and thinking, I hope to develop students who are confident in the power of their ideas and in their ability to advocate for themselves and others. Open inquiry, thoughtful discussion, and considering multiple perspectives will help students develop the capacity to recognize and respect differences. I want to develop learners who find comfort in complex questions that have multiple possible solutions. Learners who understand that’s exactly where the wisdom is–– lost in the answer.

Arbor students, starting the year off right by observing and exploring at recess.

Arbor students, starting the year off right by observing and exploring at recess.

Wood, Chip. (1994). Yardsticks: Children in the Classroom Ages 4-14. Greenfield, MA: Northeast Foundation for Children.

Source: http://www.arborcenterforteaching.org/blog...

Harnessing Choice

This week we published a new issue of Cambium that focuses on choice as it plays out within the Arbor curriculum, in service of teaching literacy or mathematics, P.E. or research skills. Choice turns out to be a vehicle for developing a great many habits and attitudes we prize: independence, yes, but also self-motivation, open-mindedness, collaboration, effort, willingness to dig deep and tackle difficult material. Giving students multiple points of entry into any unit of study is necessary in our mixed-age classrooms, but providing them with choice also helps us ensure that everyone is genuinely engaged and moving toward our greater academic aims.

Teaching for depth as well as granting students leeway requires constant recalibration on the part of the teacher. Knowing when to draw in the reins is as important as sensing when to give students more freedom; our teachers all discuss the real constraints they put in place to guide students toward choices that will lead to productivity and growth. But we always begin by trusting a student’s assessment of the right level of difficulty, the most intriguing topic, or the most promising way forward. His choices give us invaluable insight into the person he is becoming, and those glimpses allow us to make our own choices about how best to support him toward the fullest realization of his individual self.

We hope these articles will provoke thought about where’s there’s room for choice in your own interactions with children, and we welcome an exchange of ideas.

Click here to download the Cambium issue "Harnessing Choice."

Beyond Marshmallows


A lecture by Dr. Walter Mischel
Sunday 23 November 2014
3:00 PM
Lincoln High School Auditorium

Sponsored by Arbor School and hosted by Lincoln High School, this lecture is Dr. Mischel's invited contribution to the community where two of his grandchildren are growing up.

Dr. Mischel's pioneering work on self-control continues to dominate thinking in this crucial arena of development.  With his new book The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control, Dr. Mischel goes beyond thinking about assessing for willpower to understanding more deeply how self-control and executive functions work in the mind and brain, and how they can be enhanced.

Detailed information about Dr. Mischel's new book can be found here.  Click to read book reviews from Elle Magazine and The Economist.  Dr. Mischel also appeared on the Colbert Report to discuss the Marshmallow Test.  

Please join educators, parents, and community members from throughout the region for Dr. Mischel's discussion of self-regulation and the development of the character traits that will enable students to pursue their highest aspirations. 


1 PDU will be available for attending the lecture.  PDU request forms will be available at the registration tables.  

*Dr. Mischel will be signing his new book at Powell's Books on Burnside at 7:30 PM on Friday 21 November 2014.