Monthly Archives: October 2014
It is encouraging, when caught in the day-to-day “trenches” of school life, to read an article that affirms the worthiness of one’s work. I had one such moment recently. A piece in the Dallas Morning News, announced DISD Superintendent Mike Miles’ desire to increase pre-K spending by $45 million by the year 2020 in order to get more children college and career ready. This followed a press conference headlined by Mayor Rawlings to promote the newly released study by Children At Risk on the state of pre-kindergarten programs in Texas. In light of research that clearly indicates the ways in which high-quality pre-kindergarten improves short-term and long-term educational gains, narrows the achievement gap between socio-economic groups, and reduces taxpayer costs, they are promoting a renewed investment in the state’s pre-K programs.
West Dallas Community School came to a similar conclusion back in 2003 when we expanded our program to include a pre-kindergarten class for four year olds. We view this as a critical year in a child’s development, building the habits and skills necessary for children to be truly school-ready. At WDCS we keep our pre-K classroom sizes small, 10 students to a class with 1 highly qualified teacher. With the exceptions of Fridays, it is a full day program. Our Friday noon release allows us to host regular “Parent and Teacher” training sessions over lunch, a part of our strategic initiative aimed at engaging and equipping our parents to partner more effectively in the education of their own child.
Pre-Kindergarten at WDCS is informed by a classical approach to education; it is rich in literature, the fine arts of the masters, and the great works of classical composers. Our children become well acquainted with the paintings of Van Gogh, Aesop’s Fables, Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, and Tchaikovksky’s The Nutcracker Ballet among others. Even in pre-K, we introduce our students to what we call “living books” – stories that possess rich language and big ideas that are both universal and timeless.
Our adapted Montessori program in pre-K utilizes children’s natural curiosity and builds upon their innate desire to explore their world through the senses. We focus on the development of concentration, order, gradation, coordination, motor skills and oral language. As students are ready, we begin to shift to the development of written language skills. In addition, “Practical Life” activities are also built into the day. Some of these activities include: sweeping, dusting, pouring, use of various utensils to move solid and liquid materials, manners, walking with precision, carrying items, etc., all of which help prepare our students for success in future learning experiences.
But what makes WDCS truly unique is that at our core we are a Christ-centered school. This bears emphasis for two reasons relative to this article. First, it fuels our mission. God as expressed in Jesus is seen as a God of mercy and justice. From his miraculous healings to his deft handling of the woman caught in adultery, from his reading of Isaiah 61 to his ultimate sacrifice on the cross, we serve a God who describes himself as the “…compassionate and gracious God. Slow to anger and abounding in love.” As his followers, what grieves His heart should grieve our hearts. And our hearts are indeed grieved by the inequities in our educational system and by the achievement gap between socio-economic groups; for too often a child’s future is determined by his zip code. Indeed our own zip code, 75212, is disproportionately represented in the Texas prison system. At WDCS, one of our core beliefs is that every child is made in the image of God, regardless of background, and therefore worthy of the very best in education.
Secondly, it transcends test scores and college readiness. Yes, we want to help break the cycle of poverty that for too long has plagued West Dallas. Yes, we want our students to be college and career ready. But ultimately, and even in pre-K, the atmosphere, programs and curriculum are aimed at cultivating in our students a love for the Good, the True, and the Beautiful so that they might come to know and love the Author of all that is Good, True, and Beautiful. We seek to prepare our students to, “…live purposefully and intelligently in the service of God and man,” for the good of the city and the glory of God.
Head of School