Critical Thinking at Hess Academy: Naomi and Margo’s Class
One of the most valuable parts of our commitment to modeling lifelong learning habits is that many of our teachers are themselves students. Our 4th-5th grade teacher, Katie Robertson, is finishing her Master’s in Early Childhood Education at Georgia State, and through that experience she has had the opportunity to consider her own big questions and investigate them in the space of Hess Academy. Lately, she conducted interviews with each of the classroom teachers for a project requiring her to delve deeply into critical questions about her school community. For her description project, Katie decided to investigate what it looks like across the grades to “cultivate critical thinking” and foster a “strong supple core of honesty and integrity” (quoted from school website). Katie wondered how this mission is interpreted across the age groups, and how classroom communities respond when students inevitably wander into gray areas as they cultivate their own big questions.
Through describing the Hess community to her cohort of fellow teaching students, Katie began to recognize connecting themes that run throughout our school’s culture and values, the essence of what makes our community unique. For the next few blog posts, we are pleased to open the doors to each classroom and invite you into these illuminating discussions. As you walk alongside Katie and join her inquiry through each class, perhaps you will recognize your own connecting themes, and the features that make the Hess school community unique.
Naomi and Margo’s Class:
Today we will begin in the preschool room, where Naomi and Margo support our youngest learners in developing foundational social and emotional skills, as well as academic skills to prepare them for success in the next steps of their education. Katie sat down with Naomi and asked her what fostering critical thinking and a strong core of honesty and integrity means for preschoolers, and whether they ever step into “gray areas” in pursuing this mission. According to Naomi, in very young children, the difficulty comes when they don’t understand why they can’t do something they want to do. Her strategy in addressing this struggles is through literacy and social reenacting. This could mean reading a book and talking about the choices made by the characters, and acting out common social situations with the class community. You will also find both of these teachers frequently down on child-level, talking through social situations and helping the children problem solve. She adds that at this age, it is not developmentally expected for them to see perspectives other than their own, so they need to be coached through social situations often. As their brains develop alongside their capacity to see alternative points of view, they will be primed for the next stages of social smarts and critical thinking. Thanks to their work with Naomi and Margo, they will enter their next year familiar with strategies and language associated with critical thinking and problem solving skills.
How will these themes be carried into Miss Bobbie’s class as Hess students move in to Kindergarten? Stay tuned next week as we explore Katie’s big questions in a slightly older classroom.