Intuitively we all know that our child's relationship with teachers (like our relationships with supervisors) makes a difference in performance. For seven years, researchers from the Regional Educational Lab West put this hypothesis to the test with 7th graders. They chose this age because it typically coincides with the onset of adolescence which, to put it mildly, is a tumultuous time on a wide range of fronts, including academic performance...
I APPRECIATE YOUR VISIT TO BRENTWOOD SCHOOL’S WEBSITE AND HOPE YOU WILL ENJOY A GLIMPSE OF WHAT MAKES brentwood SCHOOL SUCH A powerful and VIBRANT LEARNING COMMUNITY.
As you peruse the site, please keep in mind our motto: “Start curious. Stay curious. Go anywhere.” These six words drive Brentwood. From the School’s outstanding faculty that fuels the fire of curiosity in our students, to the daily athletic and artistic risk taking and accomplishments that occur on our playing fields, in our studios, and on our stages, to a service learning program that inspires deeper understanding and appreciation of the greater Los Angeles and global communities, Brentwood provides a myriad of opportunities to engage its students. It is this level of engagement that fosters the inspiration and intellectual passion we witness in our students on a daily basis.
With your first steps on campus you will feel the sense of community and pride that is Brentwood School. Brentwood students are devoted to their school, as are their parents and guardians, who give generously of their time and resources. We are a school that is small enough to build upon individual and collective curiosity, and simultaneously large enough to have breadth and depth of opportunity for all our students.
Two beautiful campuses, outstanding programs, a dedicated faculty and staff, inspired leadership, engaged students, and committed parents add up to a great school. Our website gives you a taste of all this; I hope it makes you curious enough to schedule a visit to learn more.
Michael Riera, Ph.D.
Head of School
Assistant to the Head of School
This week we had two special events: The 6th Annual African American Read-In on the West Campus and Celebrating Diversity: The Power of Personal Stories on the East Campus. (This newsletter has an article about the Read-In and next week's will feature one on Celebrating Diversity.) To give you a sense of both days from the student perspective, we asked a range of students to tell us what the events were like from their point of view. What follows is their voices. Enjoy!
"I thought that the last panel was absolutely incredible. I wish I could have stayed there all day and listened to them talk to each other. I learned so much. They were all so cool." -Upper School
"That first speaker (Steve Pemberton) was totally amazing! He inspired me in so many ways to always believe in myself no matter the situation." -Middle School
"Our reader inspired us to follow our dreams. It was cool because she is an artist and I want to be one, too." -Lower School
"I really appreciated the chance to reflect and discuss what I had heard in our community time groups at the end of the day rather than listening to another keynote. The chance to talk about the day was really meaningful for me." -Upper School
"Really fun! Eloise taught us many lessons about equality and reaching our dreams." -Lower School
"Some of my teachers led some of the sessions, which just blew my mind. I learned so much about each of them and left with deeper respect for each of them. Thanks for sharing!" -Middle School
"I thought we really got down to it—[another student] was talking about how [the "mold" at Brentwood that we described together] isn't what the typical student really looks like, but rather what we think the mold is and what stereotype we put on ourselves. But we really don't have to go in that direction. We can really just do our own thing and be ourselves here." -Upper School
"The speaker changed the whole audience. He changed everyone by just showing us the truth in life and how he has been through so much but still standing tall no matter what's going through his life. He taught us all how he used his brain, used his mind, used his wisdom no matter where he goes. So, it was amazing. One of the best talks we ever had." -Upper School
"It was totally great to hear from someone of mixed race because that is my experience and I could completely relate to his story." -Middle School
"Our reader was very inspiring! He inspired me to write my own book one day." -Lower School
"I really enjoyed the way he was very patient with our questions." -Lower School
"I went up to see him afterward because his words just truly changed my entire perspective on things. And to hear his story was so moving. We needed this. We needed him a while ago." -Upper School
"Amazing!" -Lower School
"I always love hearing about so many different perspectives, stories, backgrounds, and experiences on Diversity Day. It's always enlightening." -Upper School
A Middle School parent even weighed in on the day by remarking, "One of my kids got in the car after diversity day, (I've been a parent at Brentwood since 1997) and I asked, "How was it?" And she replied, "Diversity day was amazzzzzzing." Kudos for this day!!
Have a great weekend and make sure to ask your children about their experiences at these two special events at Brentwood.
The time between now and the start of Spring Break, is for me, a special phase of the school year as it pertains to our students. They know what to expect from teachers, have deepened their organizational skills to meet the demands of their workload, and are involved in interests outside of the classroom—athletics, performances, clubs, and service. In other words, they have settled into a learning rhythm, which I see whenever I walk around both campuses and peer in classrooms, K-12.
In the early 1900's Lev Vygotsky and Jean Piaget separately theorized that the deepest and most rewarding learning is when people are engaged at the peak of their abilities, which was termed the "optimal challenge." More recently, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi built on and extended this idea as he developed his theory of flow. When exploring these ideas, it quickly becomes clear that their description of the optimal challenge and flow is the intersection of academic excellence and emotional intelligence. For a student to successfully meet an optimal challenge, they have to be emotionally aware and secure. That is, while in a flow mindset, a secure emotional state and connection with the teacher is what allows students to stretch their intellectual abilities into previously unchartered territory.
Whether it is 1st graders humming to themselves as they make maps, 7th graders literally leaning into one another as they work on their group science project, or 11th graders moving as one as their foreign language teacher puts them through a group exercise - this is academic excellence at its best. This is magic personified.
Watch for this flow at home. And yes, along with the way you will no doubt recognize other, less ideal, mental states, just make sure they do not blind you to seeing the joy on your child's face during those extended moments of flow. As both an educator and a parent, these are moments of beauty that I want to forever etch in my brain.
Have a great weekend.
Mike Riera is the Head of School at Brentwood School, a best-selling author, an award-winning columnist, an educator, a television commentator, and a national speaker on issues of children, adolescents, families, and parenting. Mike is the author of 5 books: Right From Wrong: Instilling a Sense of Integrity in Our Children (2002), Field Guide to the American Teenager (2000), Uncommon Sense For Parents With Teenagers (1995), and Surviving High School (1997). His most recent book, Staying Connected To Your Teenager (2003), was launched with three appearances on Oprah!
For eight years he was the Family Consultant for CBS The Saturday Morning Early Show and also hosted an award winning television show on the Oxygen Network, Life in Progress, as well as his own daily radio show, Family Talk with Dr. Mike. Mike has worked in schools for over twenty years as a head of school, counselor, dean of students, teacher, and consultant.