An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Bernie Noe, head of school

I hope you are all doing well, even during the very short, dark days of winter. I find it helpful, even essential, to just get outside regardless of weather or available light. It is also good to keep in mind that the days are getting longer!
As you all know, for the past two years we have been working on making a significant change in our curriculum, grades 5-12, moving from a mostly content-based curriculum to one that balances content with the development of competencies and mindsets in our students. We still want our students to know content; and we also want them to know how to apply that content in multiple contexts — in future academic settings, in the workplace, and in life. We believe this new approach will allow them to thrive now and in the future.
In early December, 5-12 Academic Dean Hans de Grys, who is responsible for implementing the competencies and mindsets curriculum, reported to the school administration on the exciting work already underway in Middle and Upper school classes. This period of remote learning, when teachers are already restructuring their classes, has proven to be an opportune time to begin making the transition to competencies and mindsets! In Honors BC calculus, for example, faculty are working on cognitive flexibility and unstructured problem-solving; in Middle School history, on developing a global mindset; in Middle School science, on developing a sustainability mindset and the competency of introspection; and in Upper School English, on the competencies of collaboration and leadership, and communication and listening. Our college counseling team asked juniors to review our list of competencies and mindsets and identify three or four that are strengths, which in turn, will help them identify colleges that will further cultivate these competencies and mindsets.
I meet with between 30 and 40 students each week to ask them how things are going with school. Pretty consistently they report feeling more on their own to learn content and sometimes to find content, but that that is OK with them and they are learning to do that. They also report applying their content knowledge in class, which they find interesting and a good use of class time. Their teachers are doing a great job of directing them toward content that might be relevant to an assignment. Our students, like all of us, are awash in information, and in this situation, key problem-solving skills are being able to find pertinent information and to decide which information is the most important.
And, for those of you worried that content is going away, it is not. We well understand that along with having the necessary competencies and mindsets, students need an overall understanding of a discipline before they can know which competencies and mindsets to apply within a situation. We will officially launch our teaching of competencies and mindsets next year (2021-2022), but I want you all to know that we are moving forward very positively on this in our period of remote learning!
Take good care, everyone. I will see some of you, I hope, as we resume in-person learning. I miss you all. We are doing well with remote, and it will be nice to resume in-person learning when we can do that safely!
Bernie Noe is Lakeside’s head of school. You can reach him at Head' and 206-440-2714.
For information about how competencies and mindsets are being implemented in Lakeside Athletics, read Chris Hartley's article.