Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Focus on Strengths: San Domenico named an Apple Distinguished School

When we begin a new year, we notice the challenges facing education and society. It doesn’t take long to find news accounts that underscore the problems we humans have created for ourselves. Yet, in spite of challenges, our teachers educate, engage, and empower our students in learning every day.

Learning is a process of daily growth for students and faculty alike. Growing requires us to change and that is not always comfortable or easy. When our faculty is engaged in its work, we believe that this process of growth and change becomes more effective. Indeed, studies indicate that people who have the “opportunity to focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general” than those who do not get to focus on what they do best (Rath, Tom. 2007. The Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 Quickbook. New York, NY: Gallup Press).

When Apple, Inc. recently designated us an Apple Distinguished School (see: www.prweb.com/releases/2013/1/prweb10299431.htm) it reminded me of the authentic power that is unleashed by focusing on strengths. As Cecily Stock, our interim head of school, pointed out at an event announcing this distinction, we are at our best when we are authentically “San Domenico.” When school leaders, teachers, and supporters of the school began discussing the next steps in the School’s educational technology planning in 2009 and early 2010, it was tempting to work on immediate needs involving buying technology “stuff.” Instead, we reflected on strengths of the school. We appreciated how closely tied technology could be to the excellent student-centered teaching that was already happening throughout our PreK-12 learning community.

L to R: Stacie Grant, Director of Advancement, Katie Van Sluys, PhD, Education Development Executive at Apple Inc., James O'Hara, Board of Directors, Cecily Stock, Interim Head of School, David Wise, Chief Financial Officer, Christopher K. Sokolov, Director of Technology
In announcing the news, Dr. Katie Van Sluys, Education Development Executive from Apple, Inc., noted the strong teaching in flexible learning environments that she had observed in our classrooms. She particularly noticed the energy of our faculty and highlighted examples of how effective it was when teachers knew what they wanted to teach and sought out ways to impact student learning with apps that might not, at first look, be suited for education.

As we begin the New Year in earnest, I’d like to suggest that we continue to focus on our strengths as a way to move forward with the challenges that might be in our path. We are an Apple Distinguished School, today, because of the hard work of our teachers, staff, supporters, and – most critically – students. The widespread support in our teaching community took the strength of our teaching and enhanced that with iPads and other integrated technology. When we work on our strengths, our learning is engaged and effective.

With gratitude,

Christopher K. Sokolov
Director of Technology

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