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Gateway Academy Tour

Carolyn Means - Monday, August 27, 2018

A lot can happen at a school when I miss visiting for three years, and at Gateway Academy the changes are many. Cosmetic enhancements to the campus include resurfacing the parking lot and planters with crepe myrtle on the back deck. Beautiful new wood floors and classroom doors have transformed the inside of this school. Gateway serves about 70 middle and high school students who need a small, supportive school but want programs offered at main stream schools. Gateway has this figured out by placing all students in one of five houses named for ancient Greek city states - Athens, Sparta, etc. Each house has its own color and unique gryphon based on the school mascot. Student uniforms have also changed for the better. Students have shirts the color of their house and blue shirts for field trips. Each day students earn points for their house by demonstrating positive behaviors and teamwork. On my visit there was great excitement as students in each house were putting up their group-designed hallway bulletin boards. No doubt there would be points for the best. Gateway students begin their day with exercise on spinning bikes, or running, or using other stationary equipment that is also accessible if a student needs a short break. Social skills are taught as a course and at teachable moments. Business and college readiness skills are part of the curriculum and help students prepare for internships in the community. The culinary program teaches all students basic cooking, serving, catering, nutrition and sourcing healthy foods. I had a brief chat with a senior who spoke about SAT and ACT prep classes and the ease of being able to take these tests at Gateway. Theater is a popular class and the annual musical involves students on stage and behind the scenes. Performances are staged in the Gateway gymnasium before large audiences. Gateway is a member of TAPPS which enables students to play sports such as basketball or volleyball against other small schools. 

The Parish School

Carolyn Means - Tuesday, August 21, 2018

With the faculty busy preparing their classrooms, I toured The Parish School with a client and super Admission team member Sarah Swantner. In spite of the soaring summer heat, there was a lovely breeze permeated by the fragrance of cedar from the recently completed first phase of the Margaret Noecker Nature Center. This beloved, late Head of School was one of the caretakers of the gardens, including the butterfly garden where I was able to capture a photo of a Monarch enjoying the nectar of a bright pink blossom. I knew founder Robbin Parish growing up here in Houston, and we both went to Camp Waldemar where Robbin, who had dyslexia, recalled her happiest days. The School's expansive grounds away from commercial activity, feature limestone buildings with cedar beams and gardens with native Texas plants, echoing Robbin's summer camp environment. The Carruth Center proving support services for children is also located on this campus at the west end of Hammerly off the Beltway.

Robbin pioneered social language curriculum and multi-sensory instructional strategies meant to bring success for the whole child. Those methods were foundational to the Project-Based Learning curriculum and instruction that Parish has recently adopted. PBL is a breath of fresh air - engaging and effective in developing critical thinking skills. Most of our mainstream academic schools have gone to PBL which has obvious expression in the Maker Spaces of schools where outcomes in tangible forms begin with a question seeking a solution. These could be 3-D models, electric toothbrush robots, or a cardboard and straw maze for a Madagascar hissing cockroach (a long-term library visitor) Strongly kinesthetic Parish School children are highly attracted to this kind of learning. Next door to the library is the music room where students learn to play all types of percussion instruments to accompany their many choral performances in front of audiences. The students will be singing at the annual benefit luncheon on October 4th at The Junior League.  

When Children Lose Control

Carolyn Means - Friday, July 20, 2018

Any headline like this from the weekend's Wall Street Journal, July 7-8, 2018will get my attention because self-control and learning go 

hand-in-hand. Self-control, often called emotional regulation, is one of those "soft skills", an "executive function" that schools look for when considering students for admission. 

Teacher recommendation forms ask the current teacher to rate the degree to which a candidate exhibits emotional control in many areas of school life. This article reflects on research about the connection of school success and self-control. "Growing research finds that children who are able to regulate their emotions perform better academically and are more successful socially than those who don't. In adolescence, strong self-regulation skills can help to buffer against impulsiveness and risky behaviors." 

A 30-year study at the University of North Carolina by Dr. Susan Calkins suggests that parents are key role models for their children in how to behave. A study of German families found that when parents helped their child reframe a situation with a more positive view, the child was better able to cope with disappointment and adopt this strategy in the future. "Self-regulation offers big payoffs as we age, including better physical and mental health." Children need tools for handling life's challenges. If you wish to learn more about this topic, contact me and I will send you some excellent resources. 


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Nothing is more important than your child's education. SCHOOL SOLUTIONS in Houston, Texas, offers educational consulting services to help parents make the right choice for their child’s school. As an Educational Consultant and founder of SCHOOL SOLUTIONS in 2004, I have helped over 1000 students find the right fit at over 90 different Houston private and public schools, from preschools to high schools, including special needs schools.

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