Bringing School Together – Volume One, Part One

Launch Initiated in 10…9…8…

For those of you diving into Educationomics for the first time: my name is Charlie Gramatges, and I am the Head of Middle School (principal) at Presbyterian School in Houston, TX. I have blogged for a number of years, building a catalog of experiences I have enjoyed during various stages of my career in education. I have learned much, and now have an opportunity to do something I have never done before.

This post marks the start of a new series I hope to share over the summer months and through the upcoming school year. The series is filled with the inner workings of our Presbyterian School educational system, specifically in the middle school. In addition to defining our middle school identity, I hope to document the coming months of our institutional future. I’ll reflect on the physical, pedagogical, and programmatic design of our institution and the educators who serve as guides and thrive as co-learners to the young people who explore within our current (and future) learning spaces.

More than any other time in the history of our good school, we are leaning into our counter-cultural mission to deliver meaningful, joyful, soulful learning to every child, every day.

Dr. Mark Carleton, Headmaster

Volume One of this journal will include a number of additional entries, all focusing on the ethos and belief structure that makes Presbyterian School truly unique. Not because we have something that other schools do not; I believe that the culture of Presbyterian School provides the opportunity for each child to build an experience that energizes and celebrates learning pathways, enabling children to move past our program and into high schools with advanced capabilities to research, perform, discover, and extend interests to fit every challenge they will face.

For further detail, here is the topical index of both Volumes. An entry from Volume One will be released each week through the middle of July. Volume Two will begin in mid to late August.

  • Volume One
    • 21 June: Introduction and Main Beliefs
    • 28 June: Humanities and Language Acquisition
    • 5 July: STEM Connections in Math and Science
    • 12 July: Student Voice and Choice
    • 26 July: Faith and Fine Arts
  • Volume Two
    • 3 August: Location and Partnerships
    • 17 August: Classroom Spaces in Renovation
    • 31 August: Common Spaces in Renovation
    • 14 September: General Conclusions

This We Believe

Our middle school students develop a resiliency they emulate when contributing to future institutions of learning. Through encouraged voice and choice, our young people become community leaders, team captains, and ambitious contributors to the world around them. Typically, students and Presbyterian School go on to 12-15 different high school programs, impacting the entire city of Houston with their dynamic expectations in learning. These successes stem from an intentional focus on giving one’s personal best and seeing how to push these limits through age-appropriate risk. We have worked hard to develop this culture as a faculty, reflecting how we present discovery opportunities to our students and encourage them to become the best versions of themselves.

In short, what a child learns should be up to him or her. How that child discovers knowledge through trials, successes, and happenstance must be cultivated and harnessed as a part of skill acquisition.

Our smaller class sizes provide students the opportunity to learn about themselves, to appreciate differences of opinion, and to celebrate the different perspectives that exist around them. We encourage students to consider unique ways to demonstrate their learning, and expect the various pathways to be bumpy. That is why we encourage our students to embrace the learning process by modeling grit and determination in the face of missed opportunities. We design the various pieces of our curricula as challenging to master, yet engaging to experience.

Teachers have the opportunity to connect to each child during any class period. Students receive direction as a means to find their next step on the path. While we are bound by a traditional grading structure in core courses (STEM, humanities, or foreign language curricula), all faculty consider the overarching skill sets that a middle school student develops to remain essential and a priority over content. In short, what a child learns should be up to him or her. How that child discovers knowledge through trials, successes, and happenstance must be cultivated and harnessed as a part of skill acquisition. Faculty work as grade level teams to ensure that skills being developed are complimentary and useful no matter the scenario. Similarly, our content areas meet and develop a vertical alignment within to ensure the skills a child develops are scalable and dive deep into learning pathways, preparing them for more challenges in the years to come. We are in the business of developing capability, not databases, in the minds of each child.

tune in next week…

Next week I’ll dive deeper into the first of our two thematic pathways – Humanities and Language Acquisition.  We will walk through the progress our students make in preparing themselves as capable representatives through a deep dive into the concept of identity. 

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