THE FWSU STORY: Teaching Young Children Self-Regulation for Resilience

For young learners, it is important to take a break and relax during the school day.


Children in Miss Sweet’s class take 3 minutes each school day to lay down, relax their muscles and practice breathing in through their noses and out through their mouths.  It sounds simple but it requires practice! Many children try to pant or do quick breaths, those are not relaxing breaths.


These children are doing the Drain Breath.


Ask your children about the different breaths they’ve learned to create calm and balance in their busy day of learning. And it’s not just for children – adults can benefit from these techniques as well.


Self-Regulation is an important skill for young learners as a tool for maintaining social-emotional awareness and resilience.

Stay connected with all that is happening by visiting the Georgia Elementary Preschool Program blog

BFA Students Return From China Learning Experience

Students and teachers are settling back in to daily life at BFA Fairfax after returning from a whirlwind week in China. It’s hard to imagine that just last week we were on the other side of the world.


We were graciously invited by Spiral International to be ambassadors for international exchange in which we visited six schools in three cities in five days. We were even able to reunite briefly with students in Chongqing and Chengdu who had previously participated in our summer cultural exchange program.  


Students and staff were very warmly welcomed to each school. We were invited to participate in  round table discussions with administration, morning exercises, flag raising and traditional fan dance ceremonies, dance lessons, paper cutting, kung fu, and a friendly basketball match all before lunch on Monday! We were treated to lessons in leaf pressing, calligraphy, and we are still humming the tune we learned about the kapok tree (in Mandarin). Students shadowed classes in physics, politics, psychology, mathematics, and of course English.

Though our days were full, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to explore numerous museums, the famous Giant Panda Breeding Research Base, and downtowns Chongqing, Chengdu, and Guangzhou.

Our students made BFA proud. They were adventurous eaters, resilient travelers, and cultural ambassadors who reminded us constantly of the human connections which we all share.

Global Goal 17: Partnership for the Goals #teachSDGs


Fletcher Students Celebrate International Education Week with Cultural Read-Aloud

A collaboration between the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education, International Education Week aims to promote the exchange of learning world-wide, promote programs that prepare Americans for the global environment, and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn and exchange experiences.
Fletcher’s school-based leadership team members each selected a children’s book that reflects an international theme. Some of the books celebrated education specifically, while others shared cultural experiences. At a whole-school gathering, each reader presented a one-minute “book talk” about their chosen story and students then selected the book they wanted to hear. Following the read-aloud, the books each became available to students and staff in the school library.
“We came together to celebrate and appreciate our similarities and differences and learn about others,” instructional coach and leadership team member Denette Locke said. “In this small way, our world became just a little bit smaller for our students.”
“Every time I learn something new about a different place or different people I feel like I know them a little better and get more and interested in how things are different in other places,” sixth grader Monica King said. “I also learned that even though we do a lot of things differently around the world we are mostly the same.”
Fletcher’s cultural read-aloud was a registered event with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Exchange Programs. The books that were read included, Waiting on the Biblioburrothe story of how library books are delivered by donkey in another country, as well as Tikki Tikki Temboa playful tale of Chinese culture, among others.
“Our school’s leadership team understands that we are a small, rural school. At the same time we provide a tremendous amount of individual attention, we also recognize that our size and geographic location can be culturally isolating for our students. We have a responsibility to bring the world to students in an effort to help them understand, respect and problem-solve with others,” special educator and leadership team member Sarah Tucker said.
“In addition to the cultural aspects, ” Tucker said, “this type of literacy-based learning also reminds our students that they can easily learn about, and connect with, people and places around the world through the great literature they have at their fingertips at school. It’s a good reminder that you can visit people and places across the globe without leaving Fletcher.”
International Education week takes place simultaneously with American Education week.
GOAL 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.






Chris and Jackson

Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon

The FWSU Story: Friday…November…

Each day on the FWSU Story we try to communicate exciting news and information about our schools and students. This has been our goal every day for the past seven years.  But what really make our schools dynamic are the day-to-day learning opportunities and interactions that occur without much fanfare.  They are the heart of our schools.IMG_3450

It could be students listening to their teacher read a story…IMG_3451

It could be a team of educators planning for the next “big thing,”…IMG_3453

)r a group of friends enjoying lunch together… IMG_3454

Or a physical education class learning basketball skills…IMG_3456

Or getting ready for recess…IMG_3457

Or checking out the daily assignment on Schoology… IMG_3458

Or tinkering with circuits in an Innovation Lab…IMG_3459

Or collaborating on a project…


These opportunities and interactions are what make our schools special.

THE FWSU STORY: Rising Practices that Converge to Transform Education

When I was an English major in college, one of my favorite authors was Flannery O’Connor. Toward the end of her life, she wrote a collection of short stories entitled Everything That Rises Must Converge. I loved that book of stories and remember thinking about what the title meant in relationship to each of the characters in those nine stories. But more than anything, what stuck with me was that title, which seemed so loaded with meaning that I have rolled it over and over in my mind perennially. Long after my undergraduate days, I learned that “Everything that rises must converge” was actually a quote from a French philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. As I dug more deeply into de Chardin’s work, it helped to shift my thinking about education and how it evolves, moves forward, and had the potential to rise up.

Copy of GEMS TEACHER (1)

So, if you follow me on Twitter, you know my handle is @Educate4ward. One of the ways I have always aspired to lead is by being a forward thinker, “moving ever upward toward greater consciousness,”  understanding, and meaning. At the same time, I continually try to work out how seemingly disparate educational ideas or goals can converge into something coherent, important, and worthy of rising up to capture our professional attention, collective wisdom, and energy as educators.


If “everything that rises must converge,” then are potential convergences actually the “bright spots” in the areas of implementation that can sometimes feel overwhelming to educators? Is “convergence” the key to maintaining “a belief in what is possible?”

Last Monday, October 29, various personnel who support teachers and students presented to our FWSU New Teachers at Professional Practice Forum. One of those teachers, Harold Vance, is our high school’s Flexible Pathways Coordinator. Harold shared the following graphic, which inspired lots of follow-up discussion on what the progression of areas of flexible pathways looked like from elementary to middle to high school. Some of that follow-up discussion included questions about enlarging experiences in innovation labs, Farm to School, and Project-based Learning and Service Learning with community partners, which would include a more intentional approach using these rising practices to carve out flexible pathways to ensure students’ authentic opportunities for voice and agency in the curriculum.

Could the convergence of some of these authentic experiences our students are having in elementary and middle school establish the progression of flexible pathways? What could the intentional approach to this progression look like? What “rising practices” are possible?


Over the weekend, a Curriculum Director and blogger I admire greatly, Michael Berry, shared that he had just finished the book The Art of Possibility. I had forgotten about that book and was able to pull it out again and remember why the ideas resonated.


The book is truly about “a belief in what is possible” and how the convergence of the personal and the professional can inspire energy, creativity, and forward thinking in our life and work. One of the taglines in the book that stuck with me was “It’s all invented.” My takeaway from the book was to look for the connectedness in what was disconnected and move the ideas forward, converging their value to invent a new, coherent version of something that seemed unrelated: rising practices.

Copy of GEMS TEACHER (2)

Copy of GEMS TEACHER (3)

By converging seemingly divergent ideas and goals into connected and coherent possibilities and then practices, are we better positioned to improve learning and reduce initiative fatigue?

Finally, this year Superintendent Kirsch kicked off  our school year by asking us to make the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) our “why.” By encouraging us to put the SDGs into action in every classroom, the convergence of student leadership and proficiency-based personalized learning becomes another set of rising practices connected to an authentic, meaningful purpose: “Act locally, think globally.”  The Sustainable Development Goals as the center of student-centered learning represent an opportunity for further important convergence– the convergence of the four FWSU Vision Targets: proficiency-based, personalized learning, student-centered leadership, flexible learning, and engaged community partners.


If we were to include a K-12 “flexible pathways” progression using the SDGs as a vehicle, could the convergence of newly synthesized “rising practices” including proficiency-based learning, personalization, project-based and service learning, student voice and agency, flexible learning environments, and engaging our community partners in the global goals work actually shift the entire learning landscape of public education? Is convergence the key to transformation?


The ultimate convergence — staccato initiatives pulled together into a meaningful whole — can move education from a series of narrow views to an expansive horizon of the possible. As we deepen our learning about the student-centered practices discussed in this post, we do raise their value to our learners. Convergence of rising ideas, goals, practices, and initiatives is vital to improving student learning and to making progress in education. But most importantly, convergence could create real transformation in education. moving it forward and upward to better and greater outcomes for our learners.

Linda Keating

Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum at FWSU. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward


THE #FWSU STORY: Students Explore 3D Design in GEMS Innovation Lab

The GEMS Innovation Lab and Art Program have created a combined offering for seventh and eighth-grade students in 3D design.

Student collaborate with 3D art projects

Students have started out with a rotation that involves using 3D computer technologies with Mrs. Payne, creating sculptures out of repurposed materials with Mrs. Wolfson, and creating ping pong ball tracks out of cardboard with Mr. Hadd.  These activities have allowed students to practice some skills and build some understanding of 3D design principles.

Students refine their 3D designs

Soon the class will shift toward learning more about the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  These 17 goals are a plan for solving a variety of global problems by 2030.  The goals are written for citizen participation and students, in particular, can play a vital role.

Students create in the GEMS innovation lab

The connection between 3D design and the SDGs will be forged when students complete a final project of their own design that is targeted toward raising awareness of a global problem and what actions others can take to address it.  Students may also use 3D design principles to invent or model a potential solution for a global problem.

SDG The UN Global Goals for Sustainability on display in the school hallway

The collaboration between Art and the Innovation Lab along with the SDG work is giving students an opportunity to make an impact and see how citizenship connects all their experiences.

SDG UN Global Goals for Sustainability

THE #FWSU STORY: Celebrating National Principals Month!

October National Principals Month and I want to thank all of our building principals for their work. It’s no secret that the key to student success is a great school, and the key to a great school is a great principal.

Students pose with Principal John Tague and Assistant Principal Geri Witalec-Krupa

BFA Fairfax Secondary Principal John Tague and Assistant Principal/Athletic Director Geri Witalec-Krupa

The great thing about being is a principal is that each day, sometimes each hour, is a new and different experience. An “ordinary” work day is nothing but a dream and most days, no matter what the plan is, that plan is always subject to change. It makes each day fun and every day a challenge.

Principal Christopher Dodge pictured with two Fletcher Elementary students

Fletcher Elementary Principal Chris Dodge

Our principals set high standards for their schools and work tirelessly with students and teachers to make everything work. They are at home observing and evaluating classrooms as they are supervising a lunchroom filled with students, putting on a band aid or just having fun at bus time.

Georgia Elementary Principal Steve Emery smiles as student stands by

GEMS Elementary Principal Steve Emery

Our principals care about each and every one of our students. They want them all to be successful not only in school but in every facet of life. They are there to support students when asked and sometimes when they aren’t – they just know.

BFA Fairfax Secondary Principal John Tague

BFA Fairfax Middle/High Principal John Tague

I know our principal’s worry in private and lose sleep over issues that occur in school. But each morning they arrive and push everything else aside to find new ways to get things done. Most times, principals smile and nod although the to-do list of tasks seem endless.

Ultimately the most important attribute that all of our principals share is the love and trust they have in the schools in which they work. Our schools are so fortunate to have amazing school leaders!

BFA Fairfax Elementary Principal Tom Walsh poses with classroom of students

BFA Fairfax Elementary Principal Thomas Walsh

Thank you Steve, Frank, Geri, Chris, Tom, and John.

UN SDG Global Goal 4: Quality Education

Ned Kirsch Superintendent

Ned Kirsch is the Superintendent of Schools at Franklin West Supervisory Union. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter at @betavt.