Message from Our Interim Dean
I joined the School for Children community in the spring of 2020, a time of dramatic upheaval and anxiety. Despite the challenges we continue to face, I am filled with a sense of promise: for greater fairness and deeper understanding, and for reconciliation and healing. I see and hear that promise in our school as I work with our teachers, our students, and our families. We know the state of the world is unbearable, just as we knew things were unacceptable before 2020. We also know that we have a role to play to fulfill the promise of a better future.
Bank Street College of Education has always been at the forefront of fostering a more just society by investing in our children collectively and in each child’s development individually. At the School for Children, our faculty and staff partner closely with families to support the growth of every child as a whole person: socially, emotionally, physically, cognitively, and ethically, and as a member of a loving community. We possess a fierce commitment to inclusion and equity, and firmly believe that diversity, in its broadest definition, strengthens our school and society. As our students develop an understanding of justice, they become motivated to see, confront, and act against injustice.
I have been an educator for two and a half decades, serving the last six years as the founding Vice President of the Bank Street Education Center, which focused on expanding Bank Street’s public impact efforts in schools and districts across the country. I have seen many wonderful schools, but nothing has prepared me for the distinct and deliberate application of expertise in child development in and outside of classroom spaces in the School for Children. The care with which our faculty observe and facilitate the interactions of children—with each other, with ideas and materials, and with the world around them—ensures that we know each child deeply and build from their strengths and interests. Our inquiry-driven and child-centered approach to learning requires our educators to listen to each child, see their perspective, and guide them through their development. In this way, we teach our children while also learning from them in profound ways.
The School for Children is uniquely situated within the larger Bank Street College and serves as a demonstration site for the progressive pedagogies developed and refined in our institution’s Graduate School. We are continually working at the intersection of theory and practice. In fact, more than two-thirds of the School for Children teachers earned their master’s degrees from Bank Street and our associate teachers are all currently enrolled in the Graduate School.
As we re-imagine learning in school and at home for our children during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are holding firm to what we know works best for children’s learning and development. Take, for instance, a math lesson that I was fortunate to observe virtually this spring. Students were broken up into small groups and asked to find how many pies a chef would be able to make with a given number of apples if each pie required three-quarters of an apple. They were expected to represent their thinking in a mathematical model and discuss not only their reasoning but their process of coming to what they believed was the right answer. The teacher visited each breakout group, listening to and laughing with the students, and offering open and advancing questions. At times, the students struggled and helped each other; they also prodded and respectfully challenged each other. The teacher then convened the whole group to have them share their thinking and analyze the value of the various approaches to the problem. Classes like these, no matter the platform, support the development and thinking of each student, ensuring that deep learning is taking root.
Lucy Sprague Mitchell, Bank Street’s founder, wrote a credo that asks us to have “flexibility when confronted with change and ability to relinquish patterns that no longer fit the present,” as well as “the courage to work, unafraid and efficiently, in a world of new needs, new problems, and new ideas.” It is our progress with children, and our school’s tireless efforts to love and support each child through successes and struggles, that gives me such courage. It is the resilience of our children and educators that gives me confidence that we will fulfill our promise to each other and for the future.
Interim Dean of Children’s Programs
Interim Head of the School for Children