In planning for a new school year, there is one task that feels especially important to our Head of School, Mr. Toby Walker. Choosing themes for the upcoming year is done carefully, with a lot of focus placed on the needs of our Bobcats. Themes in recent years have included continual improvement, community engagement, and well-roundedness.
Here, Mr. Walker shares insight into this process, as well as the three established themes for the 2019-2020 academic year at BASIS Independent Silicon Valley.
At the start of each academic year I work with the school leadership team to identify themes for the year. I find it helps to focus our approach and pay attention to specific areas for growth and improvement in our school. As many of you will know, the themes set out for this year are threefold: research skills and methods, inclusivity of diverse opinions, and a renewed focus on promoting academic honesty. I would like to take some time to discuss all three and to encourage faculty, staff, parents, and students to do the same.
Research Skills and Methods
It is no secret that my absolute favorite event of the school year is the Senior Project Showcase. To me, it is an illustration of the incredible work that our senior class and faculty are doing here at the school. The richness and diversity of the projects, combined with the high level of academic research and inquiry, is staggeringly impressive.
One of the great aspects of our curriculum is that it does equip students with the skills to conduct research at a high level. This is particularly true of the senior year where the Capstone classes and senior Project dovetail nicely with exposure to, and practice in, research. Some of our students are also taking on the prestigious AP Capstone program and achieving remarkable success in terms of both content and results.
The aim this year is to foster and develop these skills throughout the curriculum – from 5th grade onwards. I have challenged teachers to incorporate age appropriate exposure to research in their classes. We know from employers and universities that research and critical thinking skills are seen to be lacking in today’s High School graduates. To that sentiment I can strongly reply – not BASIS Independent Silicon Valley graduates!
Inclusivity of Ideas
In all of our classes at BISV we expect students to be able to engage with difficult ideas and concepts. We support students in developing the skills to critically assess the validity of different forms of argumentation and to analyze evidence-based arguments from different sources.
Like any group of intellectually curious individuals, the student body at BISV exhibits a diversity of opinions and a plurality of ideas. That is something to be celebrated. We have a very open and inclusive community. Over the next year we will look to both celebrate and preserve that inclusive nature.
In the build up to a major election I have noticed that our students are not shy to debate, to champion, and to discredit political ideas. Again, this is something that we should be proud of. It is important that all students feel that their opinions can be heard in class. It is equally important that all students feel able to challenge ideas and critically appraise them. Inclusivity of ideas is a part of our culture. This is a year to recognize and cherish that fact.
Academic Honesty and Integrity
As a school, we place great importance on academic honesty. Our students need to know what it means to be honest academically and also what the expectations are for them in classwork, in assignments, and in assessments. All of our teachers are addressing this crucial issue in their classrooms and our Student Affairs Team are reinforcing best practices.
We have introduced a new honor code to the school this year. As educators we have a professional responsibility to demystify the expectations for academic honesty and integrity. Both in school, and in their daily lives, BISV students are upstanding individuals of good character.
BASIS Independent Silicon Valley is a grades 5-12 private middle and high school based in San Jose, California, providing students an internationally benchmarked liberal arts and sciences curriculum
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