Kendell Berry’s Message to Parents: You Have Chosen Wisely

Canterbury’s Interim Head of School, Kendell Berry, has a message for parents: “To quote a certain Indiana Jones movie, ‘You have chosen wisely.’”

With three children who grew up mostly in independent schools and a professional career that’s focused on independent schools, Kendell has a keen ability to judge a school’s livelihood. “Canterbury,” he says, “is a special school.”

“This is a school where your child will be age appropriately challenged and where he or she will learn to take reasonable risks while still having a safety net.”

Interim Head of School Kendell Berry

Interim Head of School Kendell Berry

In August, as the newly named Interim Head of School, Kendell had the opportunity to see that concept play out firsthand when he was invited to join the 8th graders at Wilderness Adventure in New Castle, VA. The experience primes students for their final year at the school as they work together in a variety of team-building activities from caving trips to building a raft from scratch using just a few materials and a lot of determination. The school has offered Wilderness Adventure since Canterbury opened 22 years ago.

Kendell was drawn to Canterbury for a number of reasons including its PreK-8 structure and the fact that it is an Episcopal school. “I had worked at two Episcopal schools previously and have found that they have the best opportunities to teach kids character development and to unify community. Plus, it is a progressive denomination and a very inclusive denomination. It is respectful of all religions.”

Seventy-five percent of Canterbury students are not Episcopalian, in fact.

“We respect difference here. Our Episcopal heritage and our motto speaks to that—‘To learn, to love, to serve: to live. I love the ‘live.’”

Kendell describes his first impression of Canterbury as very welcoming. “The first thing I saw was the chapel and, wow, that’s a landmark.” Walking through the classroom buildings, he was impressed by the school’s learning environment. “The noise level was appropriate, the level of interaction was right and the small class size was excellent.” Now, Kendell makes a point to walk the campus twice a day. “I want the community to know that what we’re doing here matters, and that I am here to support them.”

As a biologist and naturalist, Kendell admired Canterbury’s walking path and the ropes course. After earning his undergraduate degree in biology, he took a position with a boys boarding school that sat on 900 acres. It was a great place to teach biology, and he fell in love with the field of education. Soon, he went on to get married and earn his master’s degree in biology from The University of Virginia.

Kendell is the proud father of three adult children. David works for Springleaf Financial and is working on an MBA. Martha is working in New York City as a graphic artist. Sarah is in her third year of optometry school at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

“I’m transitioning in life, and I absolutely love it at Canterbury School, where holistic education and relationships matter. This is a healthy environment and a very good school.”

That takes us back to the message Kendell has for parents about having chosen wisely. “This school is filled with outstanding teachers who are very student-centered. They care deeply about the kids. I see it everyday when I walk though campus, but I also was able to witness it with the 8th graders at Wilderness Adventure, where they really were pushing out of their comfort zone while supporting each other.”

Kendell Berry joined the incoming 8th grade class at Wilderness Adventure in New Castle, VA in August.

Kendell Berry joined the incoming 8th grade class at Wilderness Adventure in New Castle, VA, in August.

Kendell’s other message is about investment. “You often hear that your biggest investment is your home. But for parents who choose an independent school, their biggest investment is the education of their children. It’s a long-term investment, and like other great investments, one needs to hang in there, ride the few difficulties and enjoy the rewards at the end.  Trusting Canterbury is absolutely a wise choice for parents wanting the best for their PreK-8 children.”

With just one year to make an impact at Canterbury, Kendell has a clear view on where he wants to place his focus. “The job is never done at this school. We really have been moving forward lately, and I want to continue to move the school forward in a collaborative way and ensure that we are giving the faculty voice in matters that involve them.”

One recent change is that there are now two faculty members on the program team. The faculty itself selected those representatives, Mary Anne Sacco and Nicole Schutt. It’s the same with the technology team. Two faculty members are on that team as well— Justin McCollum and Allan Chandler.

“Ultimately, my goal is to pave the way for the next head of school.”

What’s Kendell reading? He enjoys a combination of fiction and nonfiction. Currently, he is reading The Wright Brothers by David McCullough, loaned to him by first grade teacher Elaine Hoover.

What does Kendell do in his spare time? “I like twisting a wrench, and I’m pretty handy. I like working on my cars. I’ve been attending St. Francis Episcopal Church in town. I also enjoy outdoor activities like hunting and fishing. In fact, I went hunting with Wes Vogel (5th grade teacher) last weekend.

by Andrea Crossley Spencer

Spencer_2014_073Andrea Crossley Spencer is a Canterbury parent to McKenna (5th-Vogel) and Kellen (PreK-Copeland/Kaplan), a freelance writer, and cofounder of Tigermoth Creative.  She also serves as a Writopia creative writing instructor in Canterbury’s After School Fine Arts program. Her favorite Canterbury tradition is Chapel Buddies. She loves hiking, running and biking especially when followed by a chocolate peanut butter shake.

Canterbury Middle School: Meeting Students Where They Are

My 4th grade student was pretty excited to be invited to lunch with Head of School Burns Jones and Middle School Director David Skeen. She didn’t realize that it was more than a lunch; it was her first orientation to middle school. Over the past few weeks, students have attended these lunch sessions in small groups, in which they were invited to ask questions, hear more about middle school, and get to know their new division director.

During the winter and spring trimester, 4th grade students and parents are gaining an introduction to middle school, which at Canterbury begins with 5th grade. Recently, David Skeen, middle school faculty members, and the Admission Office hosted an evening Meet the Middle School session for 4th grade parents.

Several administrators and teachers share interesting in and out of classroom learning experiences on their Twitter feeds. Follow along!

Many administrators and teachers share interesting Tweets about hands-on learning inside and outside of the classroom. Follow along!

“At Canterbury, we know the students well. We meet them where they are,” Mr. Skeen emphasized during his presentation.

Where are middle school students anyway? From age 10 to 15, they are in a stage of rapid brain development. Until about 10 years ago, teachers and parents believed most of a child’s brain development was finished by middle school. The job was to fill the brain with knowledge…like a little vessel. Through the use of brain imaging, neurologists found the brain actually grows a lot during the middle school years. The only other comparable stage is birth to age three.

So this is not our version of middle school (junior high, anyone?) because educators are meeting children at this newly discovered place of brain growth. And with brain changes come significant social, emotional, physical, and intellectual growth.

In terms of academic support, the middle school has created layers of contact with the students.

Mr. Skeen also explained that the job of the middle school is to provide “structure and relationships to help (students) accomplish their goals in safe and healthy ways.”

One example of the Canterbury structure is the Social Contract. Students in 5th through 8th grade meet to represent their grade levels and decide what the rules for middle school students should be. Once they agree upon these rules, the Social Contract is drafted, signed, framed and hung in Armfield Hall as a reminder of their agreement with each other and the faculty. The contract is one way Canterbury sets high expectations for every member of the community.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 11.05.11 PMTwenty-first century skills of scholarship, leadership, and service are also a focus. When I first heard the phrase “21st century skills,” my mind went to technology and the tablet learning program, but I had so much to learn. These skills are also developed through understanding others. The program “In My Neighbor’s Shoes” is a three day service learning project in which students explore how other people in our community live. Each middle school grade visits various areas of Greensboro to learn more about the realities of others, and they must articulate their experience to the rest of the student body.

In terms of academic support, the middle school has created layers of contact with the students. Each child is assigned to an advisory, similar to a home room but with much more character development. These advisory teachers are the first and last teachers students see, and they continue the “morning meeting” type of activity that the middle school students first experienced in lower school. In addition to the instruction students gain from teachers throughout the day, faculty members offer optional after-school tutorial sessions – much like a professor’s office hours – for students who want extra help. Students also have the benefit of an additional team of faculty members who help guide them: Judy Cram, Middle School Student Support Services; Kat Wolfson, Middle School Counselor; The Rev. Nathan Finnin, Chaplain; and Kathy Durham, Director of Student Life.

“I like the message that the after-school tutorials sends to the kids,” Andrea Spencer observed. Her daughter will enter middle school next year. “That message is: ‘The work is challenging, but we are here for you; take the responsibility to come to us.’”

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 11.08.47 PM

All 5th grade students will attend a study skills class for the first part of the year to provide a solid foundation for academic success. They will also get an opportunity to sample foreign language offerings before choosing one language to study for the duration of their time at Canterbury.

Fourth grade students will begin to visit the middle school in small groups, and they will each have a big sister or big brother who will help answer questions and show them the ropes. Probably the most exciting part of orientation is early adoption of the middle school dress code for 4th grade students in the spring trimester.

One orientation or one blog post can only scratch the surface of the spirit of the middle school at Canterbury. I would encourage parents to subscribe to the Twitter feed for Dave Skeen and other faculty members to get a snapshot of middle school activities. From following our amazing faculty, I learn something new every day.

by Kelly McKee

mckee Kelly McKee is a freelance writer and community volunteer. She has three daughters and a very high golf handicap (these two facts are not unrelated). Follow her on Twitter: @narrowprovince

Girls have things to do: Empowering our girls to become leaders

I truly believe girls are natural born leaders. When they are young, girls are fearless and ready to take on the world. But this drive and passion seems to dissipate when they get older – specifically during the tween and teen years.

Much of this can be attributed to peer relationships and the importance of fitting in and being “popular.” In some cases, girls start to put more value into the views of their peers. gp

When did being smart become so unpopular? Why do girls have to fight so much harder than boys for success? Females have broken many barriers, but we often struggle to gain acceptance, respect and equality. In fact, many still have doubts about a woman’s ability to lead.

These are pervasive messages. But there is good news. We can counter them. The vehicles for change are increasing daily and those in the driver’s seats are making an impact.

Three of those drivers were featured in a recent Parade Magazine article: Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State turned professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business; Anna Maria Chávez, the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA; and Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. The story made me realize that today’s girls have important work to do. And that includes my daughter.

As a mother, I always look for ways to build my daughter’s confidence and help her discover her strengths. I remind her to use her own judgment and to be true to her voice, no matter what her friends and peers say.

The Parade article poses some poignant questions that highlight three things that we, as parents, can do to support our girls:

  1. As Condoleezza Rice and Sheryl Sandberg say, words matter. In a Girl Scouts study of 8-17 year olds, one-third of girls who said they didn’t want to be leaders attributed their hesitancy to a fear of being disliked by their peers. “We are trying to get at the subtleties, the messages that keep girls from achieving,” Rice says. For example, Sandberg wants to ban the word “bossy.” “I tell parents that instead of saying, ‘My daughter is bossy,’ try, ‘My daughter has executive leadership skills.’ It seems that statement is taken more seriously when said about a boy: “My son has executive leadership skills.” There is often a difference of expectations for girls versus boys. Therefore, in addition to using different words with our girls, we need to become much more comfortable expressing and accepting statements about the strength and power of our girls.
  1. Leadership is critical during the early years. “Women still represent only five percent of Fortune 500 CEOs,” Sandberg says. “And more worrisome is that the number has been stagnant for a decade. What hasn’t changed fast enough is our acceptance and encouragement of female leadership. That goes for all of us—parents, teachers, managers, society, everyone.” We must see our girls as valuable leaders.
  1. PARENTS are the vital source for building strong leaders. We, as a community, are responsible for empowering our girls to be great leaders. Consider the words of Anna Maria Chavez: “Instead of teaching me how to cook, my mother taught my brothers how to cook, and me how to run a board meeting.” Sandberg agrees. “I, too, had supportive parents who told me I could do everything,” she says.But the rest of the messages I got from society were pretty negative on leadership.”

girl powerIn the article, it’s apparent that all three women encountered some obstacles. The force that kept these women empowered, however, was the strong leadership of parents.

I am a strong advocate for girls, and not just because I am the mother of a nine-year-old girl. We need strong girls in our society. To create strong girls, we need to surround them with positive friends, family, teachers and role models who will foster in them a desire to lead. Self-confidence helps build character and strength. How can we lift up our girls? How can we educate young men to see girls as leaders?

It’s up to us. As a school that teaches children to learn, love, serve and live, how can the Canterbury community lead the way? From our children’s academic experiences to their spiritual growth to their every day interactions with one another, let us do all that we can – because girls have things to do!

Read the full article in Parade Magazine.

“We are trying to get at the subtleties, the messages that keep girls from achieving,”  Condoleeza Rice, American political scientist and diplomat.

by Na’Tell  L. Miller

Na’Tell  L. Miller is a Canterbury Parent to Natalya I. Jones ( 4th–Wesney). She values the constant change and positive growth that Canterbury offers students. When time permits, she enjoys swimming, photography, and scrapbooking.