by Audrey Hagopian, Director of Student Affairs
The student support system at BASIS Independent Fremont is such a unique and incredible asset for the students. While we do have a challenging curriculum, we make sure that we set up all of our students for success. As the Director of Student Affairs, I coordinate all of the student support efforts at our school. What this looks like, though, depends on the student’s grade level.
When parents are considering enrolling their children at BASIS Independent Schools, a lot of the questions we often receive at our Informational Events centers around ensuring a smooth transition into our program. We gathered a few of the most popular questions and asked the Head of School for our sister school BASIS Independent McLean to provide his insight into how our program is set up to ensure success before BASIS Independent, and after.
QUESTION: Are my children prepared for a rigorous academic program?"The greatest indicator of success is the child’s desire to be at BASIS Independent. If a student is hungry for more, wanting to be challenged, and craves more authentic learning experiences, then navigating some of the potential difficulties is always much easier.
Our program is designed to ramp up as the school matures. From a new school perspective, it is easier to enter BASIS Independent in a campus’s early years as opposed to when it is more established, as the content of the curriculum takes into account a wider distribution or prior exposure and preparation. Obviously, this conversation is different with a new 9th grader than a new 1st grader.
Our unique Connections Class in grades 1-3 is a great example of how, starting at a young age, students bridge their content-rich studies with deep critical thinking skills, putting what they learn to the test in a scenario-based project learning block. One of the goals of Connections, which meets once a week for 85 minutes, is to literally “connect” the curriculum, showing how each subject relates to the other, even if it doesn’t seem to do so on the surface.
On April 20, 2015, the BASIS.ed network celebrated what we consider to be one of the most salient validations of our academic programs we’ve been honored with as a community to date: The Washington Post’s 2015 Ranking of America’s Most Challenging High Schools featured BASIS.ed schools prominently at the top:
Last year, the New York Times published an article about parent teacher conferences in New York City. These conferences, which one interviewed parent describes as akin to the "running of the bulls" in Pamplona, are worth really considering. Is the way most schools hold these conferences in the best interests of all involved? Here's the BASIS Independent take below:
BASIS Independent Schools do not hold formal Parent /Teacher Conference days. This practice can surprise some parents. What parent does not want the opportunity to talk with their child’s teachers about their progress, challenges and victories? What teacher does not want to reassure parents that their children are in safe hands?
It seems so simple: set aside a day and let the adults talk. But there, embedded in that brief injunction, lie the two major problems with Parent / Teacher Conference days.
Because of the reputation of our program and the national results and international recognition we have attained, it is only natural that families are curious for our take on balancing high expectations and support at BASIS Independent. Read on for my take below:
Schools with very high academic expectations can easily become dystopian, highly engineered obstacle courses that lay waste to childhood. “Childhood” can signify quite different meanings to us all depending upon culture and personal experience. For me, when I think about “childhood,” I do not dwell too long on notions of innocence, but more on a hungry openness to new experiences and a capacity to feel and think with an intensity that weakens with the passing of the years.
One of my favorite statements about learning was made by the Russian writer, Alexander Herzen: “We think the purpose of a child is to grow up because it does grow up. But its purpose is to play, to enjoy itself, to be a child. If we merely look at the end of the process, the purpose of life is death.”
Herzen is invoking here a conception of play as a profoundly empowering human activity, and warning us that if we do not learn the joy and force of such play as children, our adult lives will be the less for it. Play, not as distraction from more important tasks, but as an activity that involves a total engagement in the complexity and revelations of the moment, a mind and an imagination supremely preoccupied by the invention at hand.
Inspired by the blissful feeling of uncovering connections, our blog Eureka! Fremont is about sharing moments that capture the essence of what it is to be a BASIS Independent student, teacher, administrator, or family.