When schools and families work in partnership to discover each child’s potential

By October 11, 2019

The dinner event last week for the parents of older students was definitely out-of-the-ordinary. The creative menu included vegetables and plants harvested by students from the school gardens. The school’s naturalist and outdoor teacher, Mr. DeFlorio, created a truly unique, inspired menu utilizing our school’s natural resources and flavorsome spices. Students and teachers all pitched in to prepare the edibles in our middle school kitchen, arranging the place settings and floral centerpieces, and serving the meal. The menu included Butternut Squash & Olive Stew, Pokeweed Frittata, and Lemon Ginger Echinacea.

An inspired menu

This is not the kind of event you are likely to have the opportunity to attend at most schools. It is a successful integration of school curriculum, school facilities, school mission, and student-teacher collaborations that are natural and integral to the soul and Montessori methodology of Oak Meadow School.

This event was the culmination of a series of parent conversations occurring over the last several weeks, with parents of students in each of the different program levels of the school. Coffee conversations with parents had already occurred with four other groups: toddlers (Beginners), Early Childhood (Children’s House), Lower Elementary (first through third years), and Upper Elementary (fourth and fifth years). This final event, a dinner for parents of students in Upper Elementary (sixth years) and Middle School, was held last week in the Rizzi Center on campus.

Delectable options

In addition to the dinner menu, what was exceptional about this event was the interactive and substantive conversations. Parents were discussing the book, The End of Average: Unlocking Our Potential by Embracing What Makes Us Different, by Harvard Professor Todd Rose. In the book, Dr. Rose makes a compelling (and scientifically-backed) argument, that data in the form of averages may be useful in drawing broad conclusions about a group, but they are not well suited to understanding individual human beings. One-dimensional assessments fail to measure what matters most, and often hold students back from achieving their full potential.

Parents reflected personally on the arguments found in Dr. Rose’s book through the lens of their own child’s school experience. Then in small groups of four of five, parents were given time to share their thoughts and observations with each other, an activity that led to fascinating group conversations, as well as an opportunity to get to know each other better. It is so valuable to the school-parent partnership when parents engage on a level that has the power to shape what their child’s education will look like.

We asked parents, “What is happening at Oak Meadow School that helps your child to embrace his or her unlimited potential.” Here are a few of the responses from parents at the dinner last week:

  • A  culture of acceptance, kindness, community
  • Everyone is embraced for his/her/their uniqueness
  • Freedom and responsibility–for individual students to go as far as they want vs. teaching to the test-mediocrity
  • Multidisciplinary learning as a way to connect with student interest
  • Growth is not about achieving the same thing in the same way
  • Freedom to go as far as you want with academic interests
  • Being challenged for your own personal growth – academic or social-emotional
  • Students working at their own pace
  • Genuine feeling and care on the part of the adults with students
  • Individual pathway, flexible-patience, time to do what is needed 
  • Excited about learning but not the pressure of tests and scores.

If you would like to read parent comments from all five program-level conversations, click here.