Snapshots of Life on the Hilltop

October 02, 2016
By Thomas McLaughlin

Are you aware of all the great things that happen each day on the hilltop?  St. Luke's is so lively and dynamic, it can be a challenge to keep your finger on our pulse.  As a school, we use a variety of means to communicate.   Some of these instruments - like the weekly Glance - are predictable and convey operational details.  Other news may be featured in a fuller story on our website or in local periodicals. 

One of the best ways to see snapshots of daily campus life is to follow our social media posts.  Are you a regular user of Facebook & Instagram?  Would you consider opening accounts to follow and share our posts?  If not, you can still view these brief, image-rich updates through the social media tabs on the bottom of our website.  You don't even have to be a registered user - simply click the tab (Instagram may be the easiest) and click each image.  

October opens with Episcopal Schools Celebration week. Throughout the month, we will "celebrate" a different dimension of St. Luke's each day with at least one social media post.  If you enjoy these posts, "like" them and share them with others who might want to learn more about our school.  Additionally, invite friends and acquaintences to come see SLES for themselves during our Admission Preview on October 26th.  

We are grateful for all the ways that the families and friends of St. Luke's support and build up our vibrant community.  We are blessed to partner with you in forming confident and faithful scholars, citizens and leaders. 

The Challenges of Contemporary Culture

January 14, 2016
By Thomas McLaughlin

The recent death a young man with many ties to our St. Luke’s community has undoubtedly led all of us to reflect on the gift of life and the complexity of human interactions in the modern world. As a parent and an educator, I frequently ponder how various social institutions, especially families, schools and faith communities, can better equip young people with the virtues, habits and skills they need to navigate the challenges of the 21st century.

The integration of technology into so many facets of our lives is a unique challenge of contemporary culture.  In the midst of figuring out how to appropriately use various social media, we - as adults - are expected to show our children the way. All too often, their exposure and use exceeds our own grasp; we trail hopelessly behind them in adopting these various means of communication. Though we strive to guide them toward responsible use, we cannot entirely control these interactions. Unfortunately, their “virtual” interactions can be problematic and/or destructive, particularly when they transpire without adequate oversight. These tools have fundamentally altered school discussions about how our students interact. We need to work together to equip our students with the skills of responsible digital citizenship.

This work triggers numerous questions:  How can we appropriately monitor them? Are they using these methods to build others up?  How does the St. Luke’s Way influence their interactions with peers, not just while they are on campus and in classrooms? 

Like you, we want to form young people who are eminently respectful in all dimensions of their lives. We need to walk this challenging road together. To advance our partnership, I want to inform you about several opportunities for parent/community education that we have planned. 

  • Wednesday, January 20th at 6:00pm – In partnership with our parish, we will host a panel discussion on how faithful families can nourish the social-emotional health of children and steer them through moments of crisis. The panel will include Fr. David Read and local therapists.
  • Tuesday, February 2nd at 8:15am – In partnership with the Parent Council, we will host highly-regarded San Antonio psychologist Dr. Madeleine Reichert (who was with us for last month’s parent forum) for a presentation and Q&A on being an engaged parent.

Reflecting on this tragedy has deepened my appreciation for many of the real, but easily overlooked, benefits of our school. In addition to a vigorous academic program, St. Luke’s offers a nurturing environment, a culture of kindness, and a web of relationships that wrap your children in steady arms and observant eyes. At St. Luke’s, every child is known by name and is genuinely loved; these community assets and their positive impact on your children cannot not be overestimated. In such a place, children can invest their energies into developing their mastery of various subjects, exploring their interests, and becoming the people God made them to be. I urge you to engage with your children in developmentally appropriate conversations about these issues. Take advantage of the family dinner table or gatherings around a fire as essential classrooms for life lessons. Let’s deepen our resolve to showing our children how to live in a respectful and compassionate manner. We treasure the opportunity to make this journey with your family.

When Will My Child Learn to Read?

October 27, 2015
By Sherrye Macha

Some helpful hints for parents from a veteran educator

One of the most frequently asked questions in early childhood and elementary classrooms is “When will my child learn to read?” I wish I had a single answer.  Hundreds of books and research studies have been written on the topic. Ultimately, reading remains a mysterious and magical phenomenon. There are no secret formulas to make a young child read. Some children put everything together so quickly that it’s nearly impossible to see how they do it! Other children need guidance and months of skill building before they unlock the process.

Research has proven that literacy begins in infancy and continues to grow and develop in early childhood. We know conclusively that opportunities to “play” are critical to literacy development. Print-rich environments, both at home and school, inspire children to explore pictures and words.

At St. Luke’s Episcopal School, we have long employed the Spalding method of language arts instruction to teach children reading, spelling and writing. This method is child-centered and sets high expectations for all learners. Students are taught 45 speech sounds that are represented by 70 symbols, called phonograms. Consistent oral and written reviews require students to actively engage in learning. St. Luke’s early childhood teachers and learning specialists introduce Spalding to our youngest students in prekindergarten 3. Continuing in PK4, students are exposed to the sounds and formation of the first phonograms, with the goal of mastering the single sound phonograms. During this time beginning handwriting skills are also emphasized. Students are exposed to all 70 phonograms in kindergarten and are expected to master the first 26. In first grade, students are expected to master all 70 phonograms and apply them in spelling, reading and writing.  This method allows teachers to continually monitor student progress and adjust individual instruction to meet specific needs.

Many parents try to reinforce the Spalding method by using the phonogram app or purchasing flashcards.  We strongly advise parents to allow our certified Spalding teachers to reinforce this method during daily classroom instruction.  At home, parents are encouraged to reinforce skills in the following ways:

Read to your child!
Research has proven that children who are read to discover that printed words have meaning quicker than their peers. The more children are read to, the more they become intrigued to understand the printed page.

Select books that are predictable.
Look for books with large print and large spaces between words. Find stories with one or two lines of print per page. Illustrations should provide clues and support the story. Find books with repeating phrases and familiar experiences, so that children can relate to the story.  Ask teachers and librarians for book recommendations.

Illustrations provide context.
Pictures give the reader important clues. Encourage your child to study the pictures. This is one of the first ways children use printed text. Refer to illustrations to help your reader get the beginning sound of the word.

Memorizing text is important.
Memorizing is an integral part of the process. Beginning readers match their speech to the printed words in a familiar pattern.

Track the text.
Emerging readers are encouraged to use a finger to follow words. This helps them focus on the text and reinforces the left to right concept. The reader can focus on predictable lines and notice parts of words or known vocabulary.

Some words are recognized by sight.
We all know that some English words are difficult to decode. The Spalding method allows students to decode any English word, no matter how difficult. Some words become more recognizable, and students remember them by sight.

Teachers have key phrases they routinely use when helping students learn to read. Try using these expressions at home with your child.

  • “Get the word started.” Readers will focus on the initial sound of a word. If they just get the word started, context and picture clues can help pull the word together.
  • “Stretch it out.” Children must see that words are connected sounds made of letters. When encouraged to stretch the first few letters, the word will come to them.
  • “Does that make sense?” If your child reads something incorrectly, or it doesn’t make sense, redirect them to go back and check it. Using context allows children to check what they are reading. Once kids see the necessity of doing this, they will begin to self-check.

The ultimate answer to this essential question is that your child will learn to read on a truly individual timeline. At St. Luke’s, we are committed to establishing fundamental skills that lead children to a lifelong engagement with literature and encourage them to become confident readers, writers and speakers.

SLES Alum Making A Difference

October 08, 2015
By Thomas McLaughlin

Each month during this school year, we are recognizing men and women who have been moved by their faith to make a difference in the world.  This week, as we Celebrate Episcopal Schools and homecoming, we are pleased to honor Cookie Harris '05.  We are so proud of her ongoing ministry in Haiti.  I encourage you to take the time  to watch this video. 

In a letter to our community since she could not be with us in person, Cookie challenged our community this way:

"I am here indefinitely and cannot wait to see what God has in store.  We are all called to 'go' and this looks different for every single person.  My challenge to you is to go and live outside of your comfort zone, even within the school.  Go and love your classmates, teammates and friends.  Love the people who might not be the most popular or the friendliest.  Love the people who are hard to love.  That is when you get to be more like Jesus and when others will see Jesus living through you."

We are proud of the way in which Cookie continues to live out the St. Luke's Way!

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