Unification News for April and May 2000

The Principled Academy

by Myrna Lapres—San Leandro, CA

We honor each child’s future as our sacred trust

What do reading a favorite book, shaking a ziplock bag full of milk, and measuring the length of a dinosaur have in common? These are all part of cooperative learning, mentoring and relationship building that is going on at The Principled Academy, located in San Leandro, CA. Each of the older grades pair up with a younger grade to do a variety of activities throughout the year. Older students are reading buddies to younger students and get together once a week to read. This gives the older student practice in reading, patience and responsibility while the younger student develops respect and a relationship with the older one. The Kindergarten and 3rd buddies made ice cream in ziplock bags, enjoying science, relationship and a great treat, all at the same time.

Some class buddies go on field trips together. Recently, the 7th/8th grade class did a great job serving as "older brothers" (only boys in this class) for the 1st graders at the exciting Dinosaur Exhibit at the Lawrence Hall of Science. Students visited stations at the exhibit. Older students recorded which of the dinosaurs the younger students were able to reach, the baby dinosaurs that were larger and smaller than a modern cat, how tall a baby and adult Tyrannosaurus were and how many steps the first graders took to walk the length of various dinosaurs. The older students took great care of the first graders and the first graders grew in their respect and appreciation toward their "older brothers."

The concept of "reading buddies" and older/younger mentoring grew out of the age-old question, "How do we help children become good people?" As part of Principled Character Education, it is the role of the religious school to work as partners with the home and the church. It is our everyday challenge to teach values through the curriculum and the give and take between teachers and students as well as amongst the students. Virtues such as compassion, forgiveness, generosity, honesty, responsibility, respect, patience, humility and perseverance can be heard about through literature, stories, history lessons, personal stories and movies. However, it is through the practical act of caring for a younger student or receiving from an older student, while working through a conflict or sharing experiences and knowledge with each other that students learn to live these virtues.

William Bennett in his recent book, "The Educated Child," said, "Parents often attach the most importance to higher education, yet elementary school has a far greater impact. Except for family and church, no institution is so influential. We ask elementary schools to help shape our students’ first and lasting ideas about themselves, their country, and the world. We expect them to teach basic knowledge and nourish the appetite for learning. In the K-8 years, children gain-or fail to gain-skills they will need throughout their education and careers. They develop habits and values they will carry the rest of their days. Elementary school is our invitation and encouragement to a fulfilled life. In educational significance, its mission dwarfs all others."

The task of helping to shape the character and moral makeup of each student is one that our teachers and staff take very seriously. Weekly planning meetings find us wrestling with how to create a moral culture in our classrooms and how to create a school culture where everyone can learn and grow, correct mistakes and work through conflicts. Our teachers strive each day to show by example that they are religious people dedicated to noble ideals. Although the path is sometimes rocky and the task seems enormous, the effort is rewarding and the investment is inspiring. A small plaque that hangs in my office seems to sum it all up: I touch the future-I teach!


Openings for credential/experienced teachers for the fall. Send resume to:

The Principled Academy, c/o Brenna Iredale, 2305-A Washington Ave., San Leandro, CA 94577.

Student openings in preschool-3rd grade. Excellent active church community in which to raise a family. Call (510)351-6400 for more information. 

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