A culture of care leads to a culture of achievement. Every time we greet a student warmly by name, seek input on school policy, or listen carefully to all parties in a conflict, we reinforce norms of trust, respect, high expectations, support, optimism and accountability. By continually hearing the messages “We know you, we have time for you, and you matter,” students recognize the responsibility they have to themselves and their community. To further set students up for success we have an advisory period where students learn to increase their concentration and self-awareness, and practice stress-reducing strategies like meditation. Students can also spend this time learning homework strategies, studying, organizing materials, developing academic perseverance and tenacity, and practicing goal-setting.
Academic achievement is our key focus. S2 is committed to being data driven while keeping students, not only test scores, at the center. Our students come from many places with varied levels of academic skills. To meet students at their level and pace, a co-teaching model allows for targeted teaching in all core academic classes. Students who are particularly struggling benefit from additional small group learning periods throughout the week. As well, students can take advantage of computer-based blended-learning curricula in both ELA and Math, which provide extra practice for lower performers and more challenging work for higher performers. We are personalizing each student’s education because that is the key to their success.
Learning extends beyond the classroom. S2 offers high quality experiences that spark each student’s passion for learning and build skills beyond core subjects. Teaching artists and staff from community-based organizations mentor cohorts of youth through interest-aligned programming. Students benefit from our partnerships with the People’s Theatre Project and the METS baseball team, and enjoy playing rugby, making mural art, taking classes in coding and exploring cartoon art. Through these programs students gain a vision of future possibilities and forge bonds with their community.
Building a democratic community. At S2, we give students varied and authentic opportunities to practice democracy and make choices that contribute to the school environment. Every six days, students come together for Voice, a time for reading texts, discussing complicated issues, developing proposals and presentations, and participating in democratic decision-making. Through Voice, we empower students to address important school, community and social issues while learning multicultural awareness practices and perspective taking. We find that when children believe their choices matter, they crave the academic and personal skills necessary to exercise them responsibly.
Our staff are all lead learners. At S2 we take as much care with our teachers as we do with our students. S2 is redefining what it means to be a teacher by supporting sustainable, rewarding careers that build on each educator’s passions and multi-disciplinary interests. Extended planning time, team-building and collaboration, comfortable working conditions and fair compensation message to all faculty and staff that they are valued professionals.
We are committed to continual redesign. While the values and mission of S2 will remain constant, the school is committed to regular redesign to meet the ever-changing needs of its students, educators and society at large. This yearly process of reflection and action will ensure that we approach each new generation of students with a fresh perspective. This is necessary to maintain the energy and engagement of a dynamic community and to provide an optimal environment for educating and empowering young minds.