CHARACTER • INTEGRITY • WISDOM
ASK THE HEADMASTER
Welcome to the Ask the Headmaster series. Each week, I will respond to parent questions about our school. Please check periodically to see if I may have answered a question that you may have had about Carden School of Fresno.
What is the Stamina Quotient, and how does it relate to seatwork?
This is a great question because it relates to a lesser known part of the Carden philosophy. Mae Carden did not believe that a child’s Intelligence Quotient (IQ) was a true reflection of his potential as a student. She believed that the IQ was largely inherited and therefore difficult to change or improve. Instead, she focused on what she called the Stamina Quotient (SQ).
In her book Quality Teaching, Successful Learning, Ms. Carden wrote that a child’s Stamina Quotient is his attitude toward his work, his perseverance, and his ability to concentrate. We are teaching the children not merely a collection of facts, but how to learn and how to apply themselves to a given task.
One of the key qualities in a successful student is independence. If a child can learn to work independently, he has gained a skill that will last a lifetime. We do not expect this to come immediately; it must be developed over time. One of the great benefits of the Carden teaching method is that it allows for development in several ways: with small group lessons at the teaching table, with whole class instruction, and with independent seatwork. The teacher acts as a guide for the students, showing them how to approach an assignment or concept and giving them the necessary tools for success. In the end, however, the students are given time and space to practice and master their skills. This is what makes seatwork a valuable component of the curriculum.
As a result, our students understand not only the knowledge required to successfully complete a task, but have the self-confidence to do the work on their own. This an ongoing process that builds slowly throughout the grade levels. By the time the students graduate, they will have confidence, perseverance, and poise in their work – skills that will enable them to succeed in all areas of life.
How does Carden compare to Common Core?
With the introduction of Common Core State Standards into public schools, this question comes up many times. The first distinction to make is that Carden uses a particular method to teach a unique, proven curriculum. Common Core is not a curriculum but a set of standards to help schools improve the quality of instruction.
It is challenging to comment on the success of Common Core because it is so new. One of the major aims of Common Core is to move away from teaching purely informational material and instead combine factual learning with the development of necessary skills – specifically, critical thinking. This has been a focus of the Carden method since the Carden Foundation was established in 1962.
Our concern is the development of the whole child; by incorporating character education into every lesson, we ensure that our students can succeed in any educational system, in response to any set of standards. The goal of Carden is to prepare our students not simply for the next grade level, but for living a full and productive life.
Why does Carden continue to teach cursive handwriting?
Many studies show that cursive handwriting benefits students in terms of motor skill and brain development. I encourage you to seek those experts for a more technical response.
If you want to appreciate what it is like to be a student again, and learning a new skill, you might find it instructive to try to following activity at home:
Each day, I go home and spent some time in the evening coloring with my daughter. She is just learning how to color inside the lines, but for the most part we sit and talk about what we see on the page, what colors we are using, and how much fun we are having. Over time, I have discovered that by observing me, she has begun working more carefully and coloring inside the lines.
Most of the time, I can work quickly and effortlessly, often while having a conversation or watching my son across the room. It is not difficult to complete the activity with my dominant hand. As an experiment, I started working with my left hand – and the difference was illuminating. If I wanted to have any type of success, I needed to carefully and mindfully apply myself to the task. I had to relearn not how to color, but how to concentrate.
This is a lesson that we often forget when we become adults and have mastered most basic skills. A child who is learning something new must be completely involved in his work. Along with teaching coloring, or cursive, or math, we also in every assignment teach our students to be mindful. We want them to make the best use of their energy and ability.
They may not fully succeed on their first try – I am still learning to color left-handed inside the lines – but over the course of time, with diligence and patience, they gain mastery of these skills, what was once weak becomes strong, and they proceed to the next challenge with the confidence that through their own hard work they can accomplish anything.
Cursive handwriting is useful for many reasons, but one important component is that it teaches the children to diligently gain mastery of a particular skill. If you want to experience this for yourself, sit down with your child and write cursive, or teach yourself an unfamiliar instrument or language. You will be reminded (as I have been) that mastery comes only through hard work, patience, and commitment.
What is the Carden policy on field trips? Specifically, how are they arranged, what are the goals for field trips, and how does the school integrate new opportunities?
Field trips are wonderful opportunities to enrich our curriculum, introduce the children to something new and interesting, and provide enjoyment to our students. We generally use field trips to further instruction that has been taking place in the classroom. Two examples that come to mind are the
4th grade trip to San Juan Bautista and the Washington D.C. trip that takes place every two years. We usually arrange 3-4 field trips every year.
Some of the trips, while not tied directly to the curriculum, still provide excellent learning opportunities for our students. The 2nd grade students visit the library, 6th grade spends a week at Camp Shalom, and the 8th grade takes an end-of-the-year trip to celebrate their achievements and spend valuable time together. These trips allow the students to grow, not only academically but socially as well.
I welcome field trip ideas from the parents. If a suggestion is made, I will determine if it is appropriate for the students. Any ideas can be sent to my school address: email@example.com. Although I cannot guarantee that I will incorporate all suggested field trips, I give serious consideration to all ideas that are sent to me.
Does Carden plan to incorporate Singapore math into the curriculum?
As you may know, Carden uses Singapore math in grades 5-8. We began this program several years ago, and are currently evaluating the system to determine its strengths and weaknesses.
Carden math at the lower grade levels provides all of the essential training for success in mathematics. The students develop strong number sense, can manipulate numbers in equations of increasing difficulty and complexity, and become very strong in mental math. Although Mae Carden is best known for her language arts curriculum, she applied her overall teaching philosophy to math as well. We help the students build a solid foundation by introducing new, developmentally appropriate concepts, then guiding the students until they gain mastery.
We encourage parents to investigate all available programs if they wish to challenge their child outside of school. If we find that the Singapore math curriculum is successful in grades 5-8 and that it is appropriate for our lower grade levels, we may incorporate it into all grade levels. I do not have a firm timeline on that process at the moment, except to say that it is ongoing. We are constantly looking for ways to improve our school.
Why does Carden teach French instead of Spanish?
The French language requirement serves two purposes at Carden. First, it allows the children to experience the history, music, and customs of another country. Our students also become comfortable speaking and writing in French. Equally important, however, is that the acquisition of the French language gives the students a better understanding of English. Many words in the English language are borrowed from the French; by learning both languages, the students are better trained in spelling, reading comprehension, and composition.
This is the main reason why we offer Latin in the middle school. The study of Latin helps students understand vocabulary and grammar while also strengthening their knowledge of history. Altogether, these three languages fit well together to offer the students a comprehensive language curriculum. Students who show a real appreciation for language may want to further their study with linguistics courses in college; these early experiences help foster that interest.
We also recognize that Spanish is an important and useful language. For this reason, we have begun offering Spanish as an after-school course. The first session recently ended, and we have plans to offer it again in the spring. This course allows the students to learn the basics of conversational Spanish. From there, students may choose to take private lessons or pursue a more rigorous course of study in high school and college.
It is my goal to provide the students with many opportunities to experience, learn, and grow. It is our position at Carden that learning fulfills an essential inner need, so if I see that students have a desire to learn a subject that is not currently offered, I will do my best to make a course available to them. With current clubs and classes for art, music, photography, film, athletics, and foreign languages, I believe that we are doing a good job of broadening our students’ horizons.
“With the cold weather upon us, I would like to send my child to school with a beanie. Can you clarify the dress code policy for headwear?”
Students are allowed to wear Spirit Wear beanies on cold days. We ask only that the children remove their hats when they are inside of the classroom. Otherwise, beanies are allowed outside during recess and physical education.
“Why are students given a tardy slip from the office when they arrive late? Does the office keep track of this information?”
Although the office does not keep a log of student attendance, all classroom teachers keep track of attendance. These tardy slips allow teachers to keep a close record of how many times a student has arrived late, which is valuable when filling out report cards each quarter.
“Can you please clarify the homework policy for Carden? Is homework still given to students?”
This has been an area that has generated several questions this year, so please allow me to clarify our homework policy. This year, we made a change to how we assign homework; the change was not necessarily in the delivery of homework but in our overall homework philosophy.
As a staff, we are committed to sending home assignments that serve a particular purpose. We do not send home busy work, and we do not send home work as a way to catch up on the curriculum. We recognized that the most valuable instruction takes place in the classroom when the teacher is available to answer questions and offer guidance.
However, some work needs to be completed at home. Studying is considered homework; incremental work on long-term projects is considered homework. Reading should be done each night, regardless of whether it has been assigned. This is important in helping the children develop time management skills and as a way to enrich their education and personal growth.
Finally, we must consider the work that is not completed in class due to time management issues. If a student does not understand an assignment, time will be given in class to ensure that the child knows what he needs to do. However, if the student chooses to not complete the work, we are left with two options: grade the incomplete work, or allow the student to finish the work at home.
It is important to teach the child that avoiding work does not make it disappear. Most often, the teacher will allow the child to complete the work at home. All students should trust their teacher to assign activities that are beneficial and useful. If parents have questions about a specific homework assignment, it is wise to contact the teacher. I trust that the teacher will be able to explain the purpose of the assignment.
“What can parents do to best prepare their children to succeed at Carden?”
This is an excellent question. Let me start with a reminder of some of the character traits that we value at Carden:
Parents can best prepare their children to succeed at Carden by reinforcing these character traits at home. We should be working as partners to help these children grow into thoughtful, compassionate, and imaginative young people. The curriculum is helpful in this regard because Mae Carden was careful to incorporate character education into her lessons. We strengthen this curriculum by giving the children opportunities to practice strong character. Here are some of the ways we teach good character:
improvement is a life-long journey
We do not make a secret of our standards at Carden. Every parent who enrolls a child here knows that we want the very best for every Carden family. The best thing that you can do for your child is to work with us. If you have a question or a concern, bring it to us – but bring it to us with the knowledge that we are both invested in what is best for your child. Let us work together to create a wonderful educational environment for all Carden students. Outside of that, I encourage you to trust the process. The Carden model is not designed to make only fast, forgettable gains. Instead, it creates a depth of knowledge and understanding that will last a lifetime.
“How are staff members hired at Carden?”
I assume that this question is less about our formal interview process and more about the qualities that we are seeking in a staff member, so I will address that.
The qualities that I look for in a candidate are the same qualities that we instill in our students:
Teachers of course need to have subject mastery, but I am looking for more than experts in a particular field. I want people on this campus who love what they are doing, who love the children that attend this school, and who have an unwavering commitment to our Carden values. I want staff members with exceptional character – people in whom our students can place their full faith and confidence.
One quality that I do not seek is perfection. I have yet to find someone who has never made a mistake. Instead, I need people who can learn from their mistakes and become stronger and wiser because of the experience. This is exactly what we expect out of our students.
As a student, a teacher, and an administrator, I have never been part of a school quite like Carden. It takes a special team to ensure our continued success and growth. When you step onto our campus, you will see that we have such a team in place. Our staff members work hard to provide an exceptional learning environment for Carden students. We are not perfect, but we strive each day to make this school better. If there are people in the community who feel they can contribute to the team, I am willing to have a conversation with them.
“Where do Carden graduates attend high school and college?”
Many of our graduates attend University High School or San Joaquin Memorial. Although those are the two most popular choices, some graduates choose Clovis North, the Computech program at Edison High School, or another area high school.
Wherever they choose to attend, our graduates typically exceed expectations. They become top-ranked students, scholar-athletes, and campus leaders. Their involvement in academics and community work sets them apart from their peers and often leads to a choice of several colleges. Carden alumni have attended or will attend the following universities:
We are proud of the accomplishments of all of our Carden alumni, and we are confident that a Carden education provides students with the necessary foundation to succeed in high school, college, and their professional lives.
Please continue to send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.
CHARACTER • INTEGRITY • WISDOM
© CSOF 2016; all rights reserved
6901 N. MAPLE AVENUE
FRESNO, CA 93704
TEL: (559) 323-0126