By Dr. Stuart Grauer, in collaboration with the entire faculty of The Grauer School
"Ever since I have been at The Grauer School, there has been a place for my voice."
—Divvya B, Class of 2018
Parent Question: "My child is a senior now and she has become so articulate and clear in her values that I am amazed. I often wonder if this is the result of the school's programs and intentions, or did my child just grow up that way?"
Grauer 11th grade student Gabby, speaking about Jimmie Lee Jackson in her "Voices for Social Justice" project honoring important figures from the Civil Rights movement - May 2, 2018
How can a school foster and develop student "voice" and confidence?
When you meet a student who speaks with confidence and positivity, that's normally the result of not just nature but of nurture—an intentional environment. The Grauer School was founded with the expressed, fundamental purpose of giving students VOICE. Here are some of the programs, each one requiring years of refinement, that enable and encourage students to gain a confident voice (the list is in no particular order):
1. Mastery Learning: Students set their own minimum grades, and are accountable for achieving the goals they set for themselves—if you exceed your own goals, we trust that.
2. Expeditions: Our twice-a-year trips all over the world teach and encourage independence and cultivate an understanding that students are an engaged part of a global community. These are immersions, not tourist trips, and students pick where they will go. We even invite students and teachers to propose and develop trips.
3. Socratic Method and Harkness Tables: Our seminars put students eye to eye with teachers, in deep conversations through their entire course of study at The Grauer School.
4. No class ranks or AP exams: We keep the focus on developing individual strengths and values. Rather than select a valedictorian award to the highest GPA student, Grauer awards the annual "Resourcefulness Award" as the highest student award. My collaborator and proof-reader for this column, Tricia Valeski, has four children. How about if I asked her to rank them? Parents: Do you rank your kids? Crazy. But they wonderfully distinguish themselves through their unique voices.
Grauer 11th grade student Will, showing the 3-d resin artwork he created to represent segregation for his "Voices for Social Justice" presentation - May 2, 2018
5. Honors options: Students petition to take courses for honors credit. They create their own honors options, and work with teachers personally to develop extra work or projects that reflect their passions—that's honorable!
6. Student proposal process: Students and teachers petition for clubs, new courses, trips, activities—they are not prescribed. A successful, reasonable, articulate proposal will get you anything you want at Grauer. Students become entrepreneurial. Clubs and events are student organized and directed.
7. Evaluation ("Evals"): It's not sufficient to be simply evaluated/graded on test and homework scores. Our students are evaluated on their perceived demonstration of our core values including perseverance, intrinsic motivation and resourcefulness. They even give themselves a grade to compare with the teacher's grade.
8. Admissions process: Families are asked on the application form what they value more: high scores/college ranks or moral development and personal creativity. Guess which we prioritize?
9. Teacher development: Hiring, training, professional development, evaluation, and retention practices identify and honor humble and Socratic teachers. Our teachers demonstrate deep listening—nothing is more important than this in the development of student voice.
10. Portfolios: At the conclusion of every term, through portfolio development, each student expresses learning in a way that reflects their personal communication style.
11. Senior Graduation Defense: Graduating seniors present their achievement of the school's values through a capstone public presentation. Even our middle school students present their accomplishments to a panel of teachers prior to eighth grade graduation.
12. Head of School's Weekly Column: "Fearless Teaching" provides empowering research and encouragement to parents and educators around the world so that they have the rationale they need to honor individual voices and the development of universal values.
13. Research and Evaluation: Grauer's research team conducts and shares ongoing research on small schools and educational design. Grauer teachers model emerging technologies that honor the development of individual learning styles. We conduct qualitative and quantitative research on how to create the conditions for student voice.
14. Focus on arts and nature across the curriculum: We know that integrating arts and nature in elementary school makes it a safe and holistic learning experience for students. So why do educators throw out what we know is best about education as soon as our students get to secondary school! We don't. Let's insist on creating conditions where all kinds of learners can gain in confidence and creativity—not just those who can sit in chairs for six hours a day.
Grauer 11th grade student Rhian, singing an original song she wrote to honor Juliette Hampton Morgan during her "Voices of Social Justice" presentation - May 2, 2018
15. Student-led parent teacher conferences: Students facilitate their own conferences with parents and teachers to discuss their progress academically and in demonstrating core values at the end of each semester.
16. Philosophy of Art: Grauer's tireless depiction of education as fine art creates a platform for student creativity and personal expression.
That's just a jump start. Can you think of more? ...
Grauer's Summer School program continues to provide educational and entertaining classes for our students. This week's programs include Spanish Boot Camp, where the students are participating in a week-long intensive course in the fundamentals of Spanish.
The Grauer School's Middle School Coops & Chickens Club has 4 chickens on campus. The chickens are about 6 months old now, and they just started laying eggs in June!
Summer School officially kicked off on June 25, and it's a busy week around the Grauer campus!
Congratulations to all of The Grauer School's 12th Grade "Class of 2018" graduates and to all of our 8th Grade graduates! The 8th and 12th grade students received their diplomas in ceremonies on Friday, June 8, cheered on by their family and friends.
The last week of school from June 4 to June 7 was Finals Week. In addition to traditional academic finals for all of Grauer's core subjects, there were also many fun and challenging year-end experiences in other classes.
Congratulations to all of the Grauer Visual Arts and Photography students whose work won prizes at the San Diego County Fair! We're expecially excited for our students who won the prestigious "Best in Class" green ribbons for their artwork.
Congratulations to Ethan D. '23 for performing with his 6-cello ensemble at Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall in New York City on Memorial Day. They were invited to perform at this venue after winning 2nd place in the American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition.
Congratulations to 8th grader Joshua B. '22 for being selected as our Encinitas Chamber of Commerce Student of the Year! We couldn't be more proud to have him representing The Grauer School.
Congratulations to the Theatre Arts Department on their showcase of Feiffer's People on Thursday, May 31. The student directors and actors successfully produced all their hard work, and it was a great end to a very successful theatrical year!
Congratulations to two Grauer student groups who raised an impressive amount of money this year to help others in need around the world! These students demonstrated the importance of Compassion, one of The Grauer School's core values, through their fundraising efforts.