We are holding an Open House on Saturday, April 18, from 10:00 am to noon. Come and bring the family. Talk to teachers, parents and staff. Tour the campus. We would love to show you wonderful school! Reservations for the Open House can be made at Ravenna. Or just drop by. For more information, contact Alvanita Hope-Negrón, Director of Enrollment.
FSA fourth grade teacher John Grijak recalled sitting in his adviser’s office during his last year at college. John had excelled as an accounting major, and sure, the subject was interesting enough. After all, excelling at something tends to build confidence. But something didn’t feel quite right. Would he be happy?
“I remember my adviser saying, ‘Once you get into the real world, things are going to change. There’s a lot of drilling here in school, but you have so many different opportunities you could pursue. Besides, just look at your grades! They say you should be an accountant.’”
Life as an adult commenced. He landed a good accounting job, met his wife, moved to Atlanta, and had a son, after which he became a stay-at-home dad. The move made financial sense for his family, but in retrospect, it also opened his eyes to a new world of opportunity. He volunteered at his son’s preschool, coached T-ball and essentially did everything he could to spend more time with his son—but the experience turned out to be so much more.
“I remember people asking me, ‘Why aren’t you in education?’ After a while, I started asking myself, ‘Yeah, why aren’t I in education?’’
During this time John and his wife were considering schooling options for their son. They could tell he was bright, and the last thing they wanted was for him to fall through the cracks. They wanted small class sizes and instruction tailored not for answers on a standardized test but for actual student needs, both academically and socially. They found all this and more at The Friends School of Atlanta.
Meanwhile, John pursued a graduate degree in education at Mercer University and student-taught at various public schools. The public schools weren’t bad, but besides their large class sizes, they took a prescriptive approach to teaching. The approach certainly worked for some, but it just didn’t feel right for him. Children are human beings, he thought, not numbers on a balance sheet or scores on a standardized test.
No wonder The Friends School of Atlanta felt right. When he substituted at the school, he met middle schoolers who weren’t anything like the stereotypical tween and young teenager. They engaged in class, spoke their minds and knew how to present a convincing argument. When he landed a full-time job at Friends as an elementary school teacher, he began to see why the school’s approach worked as well as it did.
Teachers continually adapt their lessons to meet the needs of the children in their classrooms. Every class is unique, as is every student. Wouldn’t a cookie-cutter approach leave some students behind?
Besides, a cookie-cutter approach doesn’t reflect the world beyond the classroom. John certainly hasn’t lived a cookie-cutter life, and his students won’t either. Life isn’t a standardized test or a prescribed teaching plan set in stone. People change paths and adapt to do what’s best for them, their families, and their communities; Friends graduates learn to think about all three.
The Friends School of Atlanta is still accepting applications for the 2020-2021 school year, class space permitting. The school, however, cannot accept applications for financial aid past the deadline, which was February 7, 2020.
To apply for the 2020-2021 school year, please follow the steps detailed on our Admissions page, where you will also find information about coming for a Parent Tour. Thank you for your interest in The Friends School of Atlanta!
Kenny Rochester, when he began teaching math about a decade ago, thought like many people do that some people were just “math people” and others weren’t. He considered himself a math person. Growing up in New York and Connecticut, he sat in math class after math class, and it all seemed to come relatively easily. When he was accepted to Atlanta’s Morehouse College and was asked to choose a major, he chose a subject that came easily to him. The choice was obvious. After all, he was a math person.
After eight years teaching middle school math at The Friends School of Atlanta, and after being trained on a teaching approach called “growth mindset,” Kenny has changed his view—and his students have benefited.
“There’s really no such thing as a ‘math person,’’’ Kenny says. “It’s really all about your experiences. In fact, those experiences can have a real impact in how successful you are. It’s about one’s willingness to make and learn from mistakes. Honestly, the growth mindset approach has really opened my eyes. I now know that all kids can learn math at a high level.”
Many like math because of its lack of ambiguity. Sure, undergrad and grad students discover the many subtleties of higher math, but when it comes to the foundational material—arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus—primary and middle school students have rules to follow. A math problem like x + y = 10 can have many right and wrong answers; but whether they’re right or wrong isn’t up for debate. An answer is eitherright or wrong, period; x equals 9, but only when y equals 1.
The students who grasp the concept quickly like its straightforward nature; they feel good when they find the right answer. Students who don’t get the right answer, though, can grow insecure in a hurry. They then think they’re just not a math person and, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they stop applying themselves in a positive manner.
Kenny has seen this happen many times, and to turn things around, he takes a multipronged approach. First, he knows that a teacher’s impatience is the enemy. He never praises students who get a problem right and, then immediately after, turn around and express disappointment with those who don’t. That just reinforces the “math person versus non-math person” stereotype.
He instead praises mistakes. When students make errors, it’s not a failure; they’re instead one step closer to getting it right. Kenny also doesn’t shower excessive praise on students who grasp math quickly. He asks them to explain what they did, find other ways to solve the problem and sometimes asks them to help their classmates.
Kenny also gives the class what he calls “low floor, high ceiling” problems—like, say, x + y = 10. The low floor allows all students to gain a solid footing; the high ceiling pushes those who are ready for the next level.
For instance, most middle schoolers grasp the basic concept and insert various answers to x and y that add up to 10; that’s the low floor. But Kenny doesn’t stop at integers. Introducing the high ceiling, he talks about the concept of infinity, that it’s not just about the fact that numbers go on forever, but that there are infinite numbers between two points on a number line. The x variable could be 5, but it also could be 5.879832, which would make y 4.120168. How do you express this? Kenny draws crosshairs on the board, a y vertical axis and an x horizontal axis, with zero in the middle, and graphs the answer.
The ceiling rises from there, and all of Kenny’s students continue to climb, reach higher, and embrace the mathematical concepts that have built our modern world.
The Friends School of Atlanta is expanding its substitute teacher list for all grades. Qualified candidates will have classroom experience or a background in education for age 3 through 8th grade. To be considered, please submit cover letter and resume to [email protected]