A Program of Schools for Children

Deanne’s Notebook

Periodically throughout the school year, Lesley Ellis’ head of school Deanne Benson informally shares her thoughts and insights about the Lesley Ellis experience and educational trends and topics. Check this space frequently for her latest blog.

June 1, 2020

The death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer and the passionate reaction in cities across our country once again underscores the rampant racism in our country.

Imagine. If we had embraced Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest and paid attention to the issue he was trying to address.”

“Imagine. We could be working toward change instead of witnessing the chaos, anger and violence in our streets.”

“Imagine. Because this was exactly what Kaepernick was protesting. Not the anthem. Not the flag. Not the military. But unchecked police brutality against people of color like George Floyd in our country.”

(Houston Chronicle, May 31, 2020)

As a white person, I wear my white privilege every day. My experiences are not those of my black friends. A few years ago, a black friend arrived late to a meeting in Waltham we were both attending. Driving through Belmont she had been stopped by the police. She wasn’t speeding. She didn’t go through a red light. It seemed her offense was the color of her skin. Two weeks ago, a black friend asked me, “What’s the first thing you hear if the police pull you over?” My response, “May I see your registration and driver’s license.” The first thing he hears—“Is this your car?”

Cell phones and body cams now document some of what our black friends have experienced their entire lives—systemic racism that is built into all aspects of our society. It’s not just the police. At Lesley Ellis School we “prepare and inspire children to help make their world a better place” in all that we do, but most particularly through our anti-bias curriculum throughout the year. This link to 31 children’s books to support conversations on race, racism and resistance from the website EmbraceRace offers selections you will find helpful when talking with your children. In this time of COVID-19 we are not physically together, but we can and must be together in speaking up and speaking out against racism.

We must do this.

Deanne’s Notebook Archives

The following pieces appeared in Deanne’s Notebook beginning in 2018.

Emergency COVID-19 Fund

June 2, 2020

For about 70 years, our school has been committed to providing an quality progressive education to students and families in Arlington and surrounding cities and towns. Our founders imagined a school that would be reflective of the world, and that would serve a diverse population of students. In order to strengthen and sustain our commitment to families and to socio-economic diversity, we offer a need-based tuition assistance program that our community raises money for every year. This program allows families to apply for reduced tuition that is right for their family’s financial situation. This helps make a Lesley Ellis education affordable to many qualified students who could not otherwise be able to join our school community. As a result, our students represent a broad range of socio-economic backgrounds, enhancing the learning experience for our whole community and strengthening and sustaining our commitment to families and socio-economic diversity.

This year, annual fundraising programs at Lesley Ellis such as the Gently Used Clothing Sale and the Annual Spring Party have had to be postpoted due to COVID-1 At the same time several families in our community are experiencing financial hardship for the first time ever as a result of the virus, business closures, and furloughs. We have pledged that no family will have to leave our school as a result of this temporary hardship. There are a number of ways that Schools for Children and Lesley Ellis are working together to solve this essential need. Our community is one piece of that puzzle. In the next couple of weeks, you will have a chance to donate to our Emergency COVID-19 Fund, helping us insure that every Lesley Ellis student remains a part of our Lesley Ellis family.

You know why. We are Lesley Ellis. We can do this.


Masks and Morals

May 26, 2020

The pandemic has been a great time to read books and watch old movies. Some of you have told me about things you are watching and reading. I have heard Schindler’s List, Dead Poet’s Society, The Help, Life Is Beautiful, Good Will Hunting, Lion King and The Giver among many others. I have been struck by the messages of morality woven throughout our community’s film watching. I think I know why. Most of the time we don’t get the chance to make big moral decisions. Few of us will have a chance to save people like Mr. Schindler did. It is rather the small moral choices we make every day that define our character. Sometimes the thing we know we should do goes against our own self interests. Is what is best for my neighborhood, school, or workplace and what is best for me? That’s when the rubber hits the road, as my grandmother used to say.

The pandemic has brought our values into stark relief. If you are talking to friends who are being much more conservative than your family in their managing of the virus they might seem overly cautious. Likewise, if you speak to someone who is doing anything less than you are, they might seem rash or even reckless. The virus is a lens through which we see reflected both our values and our worries.

Today we are being asked to wear masks to protect others. It seems like a simple thing and yet who we are becomes more in this small matter. Our school has been preparing for a masked graduation. And you know what? Every single family cheerfully showed up to be filmed fully masked. And you could still very clearly see their smiles behind their masks. I loved everything about that.

We are Lesley Ellis. We can definitely do this …


Kids' Perspective

May 12, 2020

In the midst of our adult angst and concerns about COVID-19 and what is happening in our world, our kids of all ages know the world has changed. They also have amazing kid perspective on what is important in this moment.

Parents of an elementary student shared a recent family conversation in which one of the parents remarked that the silver lining of this “stay at home” time was they get to spend more time together, to which their child earnestly responded, “No, Mom, it’s not a silver lining, it’s a gold lining.”

A parent of a middle school student related that her husband and the kids were building a fort in the back yard. It had been a dream on the drawing board for a while, but now that everyone is home it has become a fun project they spend hours happily working on together.

Another family had a dinner time conversation about their “stay at home” situation listing the positives about it, when their elementary student observed, “Adults say yes a lot more.”

Yesterday at dinner time my 4-year-old granddaughter said to her parents, “Let’s call Grammy.” So they Facetimed me and I heard all the details of her skinned knee from earlier that day.

The time spent building (your family’s version) of that fort is definitely a gold lining. All adults are most likely saying “yes” a lot more, and it’s perfectly acceptable to relax the rules a bit these days. And until suppertime yesterday, I was not aware that the most important event of the day was a skinned knee. We can do this.


Re-Entry Planning

May 5, 2020

The journey is as important as the destination. Learning isn’t something we do to reach a goal. It’s something we do because it’s fun and it’s part of who we are. At Lesley Ellis learning is fun. Even now.

Last week in addition to fractions, Ancient Greece, and science experiments, we listened to chapters of Harry Potter together, we baked brownies, and we danced. The joy doesn’t stop just because we aren’t at Winter Street. Still, we cannot wait until we can all be together again. And so we have begun to plan.

The Coronavirus situation evolves daily. Sometimes even hourly. We are all eager to make the “right” decisions and so far, I think we have. Our community is healthy, and we intend to stay that way.

We have a Re-Entry Task Force that will make recommendations our school will adopt this summer and next year. We are beginning now to formulate plans for the health and safety of all when we return. Although we await the release of official re-entry guidelines for schools and summer programs, we are in conversation and meetings with other schools and the Department of Public Health, as well as gathering information from areas where schools are back in session. We will be ready to re-enter with health and safety as a top priority when that time comes.

At Lesley Ellis we give a nod to Ralph Waldo Emerson when we say the journey is as important as the destination. And we feel strongly that the journey should be joyful. Now it will also be about staying safe and well and calm. We will do this.


Grammy Camp Re-Envisioned

April 28, 2020

My 4-year old granddaughter, Carolyn, and I have a tradition we call Grammy Camp. Basically it just means we do fun stuff together– like you do at camp, only it’s just the two of us. Sometimes it’s an overnight stay and sometimes it’s a day adventure. Needless to say, in person Grammy Camp has been on hold these days, that is until last week when my daughter called and asked if I could meet her at a parking garage and have “Social Distance Grammy Camp” with  Carolyn. My daughter had to go in for a quick medical appointment. Her plan was to park next to each other and Carolyn remains in their car and me in my car while she went in for her appointment. Of course I said yes, not 100% sure this would be successful. But, it was! Talking to each other from my driver’s side and she on the passenger side in their car, we read stories, gave each other “drawing directions” (an activity I got from PreK distance learning), and she ate snacks…lots of snacks. Most challenging was when she wanted to hold a book for me to read!

Grammy Camp is still officially on hold (and Carolyn has told me of a playspace she wants to go to “after Coronavirus”). And we will do that … eventually. Many aspects of our lives are on hold. It’s difficult to make plans. We have varying degrees of anxiety about the future. And in the midst of our uncertainty, I hope you take moments to find time for pleasure with your family each day and even friends, albeit remotely. We may not be able to do exactly what we did before COVID-19, but it’s important to keep pleasurable experiences part of our lives.

Grammy Camp isn’t in session right now as it was before COVID-19, but I will never forget that 90 minute (yep, the brief appointment required an unexpected test) Grammy Camp re-envisioned.


Still Lesley Ellis

April 14, 2020

Distance learning. Remote school. Online learning. Whatever you call it there is a new normal all over the country.  You probably have relatives or friends who are still getting online assignments but not yet meeting as a class. It is not as if we flipped a switch and everyone everywhere changed to doing this the same way on the same day. So school experiences may be more wildly different at this moment than at practically any other time in our history.

At Lesley Ellis we shifted right away to synchronized learning. We all knew this was probably coming, and our teachers began planning and working in the two weeks before we moved to distance learning. We understood that students would need connection and interaction, and our teachers have been working tirelessly to continue our individuated approach.

You know how school looks like for your child(ren), but let me tell you a little about how it looks all over our school. In middle school students are writing their own Shakespearean style sonnets and calculating the volume of three-dimensional shapes. The middle school science fair was robust and exciting, and our middle school scientists will share with grade 3/4 this week. We’ve got poetry journals in kindergarten and students in early grades engaged in outdoor alphabet hunts. At a Lesley Ellis Live! event, Rob had kids enjoying a rockin’ good time singing songs and playing musical games that introduced a variety of musical concepts. In elementary we’ve got mad libs, poetry, and fractions.

It has been my pleasure to log onto to Zoom classrooms and get to hear a readers’ theater during a Grade 1/2 reading group. In another Zoom class I saw maps of ancient Greece and in another, students showing off examples of the U.S. industrial revolution from their own family collections. I even get to read to early childhood classrooms, just like when we’re in the building.

We don’t know exactly how long this might last, and we can’t wait to all be able to gather together again. But in the meantime while our school building is on pause, you may rest assured our learning remains as creative, social, and robust as ever. Because no matter what, we are still … Lesley Ellis.



What's In A Name?

April 7, 2020

At Lesley Ellis School, my title may be Head of School, but I am not known as Ms. Benson. Instead, the students call me by my first name, Deanne. The same is true for all adults in our community, from teachers to our administrators—we are all on a first name basis with our students and families.

Why? Well, we believe that titles don’t automatically act to earn respect or trust from a student. Respect and trust are earned through strong relationships, a dynamic that is at the heart of a Lesley Ellis education. Relationships matter, and it’s important for us as adults to make connections with children so they are known, loved, want to learn, and view us as partners in their learning journey.

The use of first names increases the level of approachability a student has with adults in the building, eliminating the invisible barriers that can be created with titles. This allows our students to have meaningful conversations and relationships, which we know lead to greater trust and learning in a warm and collaborative environment.

At Lesley Ellis, the use of our first names indicate a level of trust and connection we share with one another. This has never mattered more. Our bonds are what will get us through this challenging time. We can do this.

So, what’s in a name? At Lesley Ellis, it’s a whole lot.


Tips for Families

March 31, 2020

It seems like we are on the “all virus all the time” channel now. As workplaces go remote, parents everywhere are working to keep children healthy, cheerful and busy. If you’re wondering about how best to nurture and manage kids through this crisis — often juggling work obligations at the same time — you’re in good (virtual) company.

Here are tips from parents and schools around the country to help calm fears, manage stress and keep the peace.

Keep Reliable Routines

The experts all agree that setting and sticking to a regular schedule is key, even when you’re all at home all day. Kids should get up, eat and go to bed at their normal times. Consistency and structure are calming during times of stress. We all benefit from knowing what’s going to happen and when.

Create New Activities

Incorporate new activities into your routine. You might bake your way through a favorite dessert cookbook together. Or perhaps read an old favorite book aloud as a family. Rereading can be a great stress reducer. Perhaps you could start a family mural on butcher paper. (Amazon will ship it right to your door.) Build in activities that help everyone get some exercise too (without contact with other kids or things touched by other kids, like playground equipment). Take a daily family walk or bike ride or do yoga — great ways to let kids burn off energy and make sure everyone is staying active.

Manage News Consumption

Staying informed is super important, but so is managing consumption of news and social media that has the potential to feed anxiety. Turn the TV off and mute or unfollow friends or co-workers who are prone to sharing panic-inducing posts. Ask everyone in your family to find social media accounts that share content that take your mind off the crisis, whether it’s about nature, art, baking or crafts.

Stay in Touch … Virtually

Socializing plays an important role in regulating mood and helping us stay grounded.  Let kids use FaceTime to stay connected to peers and grandparents and aunts and uncles even if they aren’t usually allowed to do so. Communication can help kids feel less alone and mitigate some of the stress that comes from being away from friends.

Make Plans

Predicting the future helps us manage stress. Adults are good at this but kids have less practice and can learn from us. Think up things you can look forward to doing. Movie night this weekend? Let the kids plan menus for Sunday brunch. Making plans helps you visualize the future.

I am visualizing the happy future where we are all together again. But for now we need to be creative and stay flexible. Do you have any cool tips or ideas you’d like to share about how your family is managing this time? Send them to me and I will share them with our community.  Meanwhile stay healthy.


COVID Creativity

March 17, 2020

I am writing this from my couch, which is unusual. Social distancing is a difficult adjustment, but it can also be a time of great productivity. The Washington Post had an article last week that talked about the social distancing that took place in 1665 when the plague hit London. Human beings have been using this tool for hundreds of years to save lives. There is nothing new under the sun after all.

This can be a hard time, but also one of great productivity and creativity. Most young kids will remember how their homes and families felt during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 more than anything specific about the virus itself. Our kids are watching us and learning  how to respond to stress and uncertainty. Let’s think about limiting social media and television just like we did after 9/11. The constant flow of new information is not a calming experience for adults. Imagine how it must be for children. Let’s work together to help equip our kids for resilience not panic.

Let’s show our children how we use our time wisely. Let’s create together. Put art supplies on the table with supper. Play music. Have books open in every room. Start a journal. How about a family Haiku every day? Do you have old electronics that you can let your kids take apart? Do you have seeds somewhere? March is a great time to start garden plants in pots, too, and kids love to watch things grow. (What a lovely metaphor that growth might be right now.)

None of this is easy, but COVID-19 might be hiding some surprising wonders for us, too. I can’t wait to hear about the things our families invent and write and create in the coming weeks.

We can do this.

Band Magic!

March 2, 2002

Many of us have been to conferences and workshops and recognize the importance of those to our own growth—either professional or personal. Most often we leave the conference reenergized with new ideas, techniques, and practices thanks to motivating keynote addresses and high quality, accomplished presenters.

In a couple of days, the Massachusetts Music Educators Association holds their annual conference in Boston. This conference is a chance for music educators from around the state to come together to share ideas, promote positive teaching techniques, and most of all lead others into the future with inspired presentations. Every year hundreds of proposals are submitted in hopes of presenting at this statewide event: this year 129 were accepted.

One of the presentations is entitled, “Growing Your Beginning Band by Numbers and Abilities One Day at a Time.” And, you guessed it, our very own Rob Lesley is the presenter. We’ve all seen the “band magic” he has worked with our students since he first arrived 17 months ago, and he’ll be sharing that formula with other music professionals at the conference! We are very share with other professionals so more children can experience what our students experience.

Spring....It Won't Be Long!

February 25, 2020

I was in a coffee shop the other day where a sign indicated that there were only four more weeks ‘til spring. That may have been optimistic (although Sunday and Monday were pretty spectacular!) but one thing is true—it won’t be long now. In the dark of winter our outdoor classroom is fairly quiet. But soon it will be filled with buds and muddy boots.

The outdoor classroom mirrors and extends the learning that happens in our early childhood classrooms. Children are able to literally touch nature, sometimes with friends and sometimes individually. Wood shavings, mud pies, pine needles, and river stones—all simple natural materials—guarantee the use of imagination and creativity. There’s a well-stocked mud kitchen, a science center with a cascading water table and a building area with natural building materials such as stone, bark, sticks and hollow blocks. Our outdoor classroom is a place of YES! There are no constraints around the use of materials. Children are encouraged to get dirty, explore, and be creative.

If you haven’t been to the outdoor classroom take a walk around and imagine what else you would like to see there. If you have an idea or a project you’d like to implement—let’s talk. Because this is how we do it at Lesley Ellis … together.

Outside Time

February 3, 2020

In schools all around the nation recess is being cut to make more time for learning. You may have heard about some of these cuts at schools right here in our local towns. But the data says that when kids have relaxation time built into their day they are more calm, attentive and creative. Outdoor time and nature-based learning, along with exercise, makes kids more available to learn. John Ratey, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain says, “Exercise is medicine. What makes it so powerful is that it’s our evolutionary method of generating the spark. It lights a fire on every level of your brain, from stoking up the neurons’ metabolic furnaces to forging the very structures that transmit information from one synapse to the next. It reduces anxiety every single time. Add in nature and it’s a perfect cocktail of good nutrients for our brains.”

At Lesley Ellis our kids go outside every single day for at least a half hour. Some classes are held outside too. It is also our custom to take a relaxing half hour for lunch. We don’t have the long lines that cut into that sacred time either. We want our kids to experience the restorative calm of sharing a meal, with good conversation, in a relaxing supportive community. Add in PE a couple of other times every week and our values are clear. The American Academy of pediatrics, the CDC and The New England Journal of Medicine all agree with Lesley Ellis. Relaxed well-nourished kids who move their bodies, and who are not rushed through their days, make better creative problem solvers. Their brains are more capable of higher-level critical thinking. So, when you hear about schools cutting recess or rushing students through lunch, don’t worry. At Lesley Ellis we follow the science.

Pass It On

February 3, 2020

At Lesley Ellis joyful learning is what we’re all about. One of the first things new parents notice when they walk through our hallways is the energy teachers and students bring to the classroom. This isn’t a new tag line or something we say. There really is joyful learning happening here – Lesley Ellis is a fun place to be. The kids are happy to be here, the teachers are happy to be here, and it shows.

Part of this daily “joy factor” comes from our focus on social-emotional learning – developing a student’s capacity to manage emotions, practice empathy, solve problems, make responsible decisions and maintain healthy relationships. This intentional focus benefits our whole community.

How does our entire adult community enter in? We ask not only our teachers but also our parents, really everyone who is part of this learning community, to consider how each of us can promote our joyful learning environment. Because it isn’t only what happens in the classrooms. Our students are always watching us, and they are learning.

Empathy is not so much taught as it is caught. We know that we are all interconnected and we need to take care of one another. We know that fostering community means creating a universally warm and welcoming place where everyone feels safe and comfortable. And that’s how we keep this whole joy thing going. We pass it on. What are you passing on?


Spring Fundraiser

January 28, 2020

It’s that time of year again when Lesley Ellis parents and teachers get ready to party. Yes, you read that correctly. Parents and teachers. Only. As in, no kids! As in, book your babysitters. As in, a night out with other adults. Okay, so if you are an introvert, we realize we’re not selling this very well. We promise there are some really quiet corners to hang out in. But that’s the point…we go all out! Something for everyone. There’s a DJ, dancing, drinking, food, a live and silent auction (See. Silent auction. We got your back introverts J.) And, all the money we raise goes towards financial assistance at Lesley Ellis!

What else do you need to know? There’s a theme and it’s a fun one! Our Spring Party and Auction this year is That 70’s Gala! We welcome you to dress the part. Because what’s more fun than hanging out with fellow parents and LES staff? The answer—hanging out with fellow parents and LES staff while wearing sequins, bell bottoms, Go Go boots and jumpsuits! We have the disco ball ready to be hung and many other preparations underway as we work to turn the gym into a party! We also have a pretty rad video floating around on YouTube. It looks like a few teachers (*cough cough* Liam, Robin, Tiffany, Jen, Gina and Jeanette) have been hustling to brush up on their dance moves for the big night out.

Join us as we celebrate with all of the Lesley Ellis community on Saturday evening, March 14th. Tickets go on sale soon!


Everyone is Going Gaga at Lesley Ellis

January 20, 2020

What is Gaga? Is it the feeling you have when you see your beloved? The sound a newborn makes? Or maybe it’s how you feel when you first smell and then taste a warm chocolate chip cookie. Gaga is all of those things. But to most children Gaga, which literally means ‘touch-touch’ in Hebrew, is a fun outdoor game similar to dodgeball played in an octagonal “pit” formed by wooden boards. It’s a very fast paced game that combines dodging, striking, running, and jumping, and kids (and adults!) love to play.

Lesley Ellis now has its very own Gaga pit and it’s already getting plenty of action! Every recess it is the “go to” activity for many students. If you haven’t already seen our new Gaga pit, take a look on the field near the parking lot … and you are also welcome to try it out!

Our heartfelt thanks to Jamie Braman (Harris, Grade 5), Mimir Reynisson (Magnus Agatstein, TK and Inara Agatstein, Grade 7), and our facility manager, Patrick Richards, who were all instrumental in getting the Gaga pit build and ready for action. Jamie and Patrick constructed the pit and Mimir created the lion logo on the wood sides.

Let’s play Gaga!

(Warning to adult players—a good chance you will be sore the next day!)

Smaller is Better

January 13, 2020

The most foundational aspect of a small learning community like Lesley Ellis is that teachers have a significant and meaningful impact on the success of their students. This is often a strong motivating factor for teachers—to be a part of a learning environment that allows them to positively influence students in creative and engaging ways.

Collaboration among teachers and even administrators is a hallmark of a Lesley Ellis education. In addition, teachers see their students in a variety of different settings throughout the day which, over time, allows for a strong bond to develop between students and teachers. Students begin to see their teachers in a variety of different settings, interacting with them not just in the classroom but on the field, in the theater, and as mentors on projects and activities.

Small learning communities also ensure that every student is seen, heard, and supported.  Every child’s learning style and opinion is valued and respected at Lesley Ellis. Through frequent collaboration and sharing opportunities both students and faculty get to know one another in rich and substantial ways. Each person at Lesley Ellis is known, supported, and accountable.

In a small school like Lesley Ellis, there are various opportunities to lead and to be uniquely connected to the school community. There are an assortment of roles and responsibilities for everyone.

At Lesley Ellis we are an intentionally small learning community. And now you know why we always will be ….

Babysitters R Us

January 6, 2020

How long has it been since you sat across a candlelit table from your beloved? Or treated yourself to some “me” time? Can you even remember the last time you hung out in a coffee shop or a bookstore with no kids in tow?

If those kinds of experiences feel hazy and distant, the Lesley Ellis Babysitters’ Club is here to help. Students interested in babysitting are in the process of completing a rigorous training program in which they are learning how to keep kids safe and engaged. Babysitting requires skills in creativity, adventure, and play. But a good babysitter needs to know what to do when a child has a playground tumble or how to address a 2-year-old’s temper. There are myriad possibilities of issues to deal with as a babysitter, and our 4H Certificate-Based Training Program is preparing students to become expert and effective babysitters

Some of our Grade 6 – 8 students are deep into their 4H babysitting coursework. They are learning the skills and tricks needed to become successful babysitters. Safety comes first, of course, but they will also be armed with fun activities for all aged children.

Are you’re ready for a night out or a cup of coffee and a good book? Or maybe you’d prefer a quiet walk in nature or a chance to connect with a friend or neighbor. No matter what you’d like to do with a little “me” time, check in with Tricia Moran and she will connect you with one of our babysitters. Start planning…Lesley Ellis Babysitters’ Club is ready to help!



December 17, 2019

I write this sitting in my parents’ home with my feet up on the coffee table. Mom is asleep on the loveseat. And the couch where I had my last conversation with my dad is empty. As many of you know, he died on December 8. He would have been 94 on Saturday. I am grateful for the life he lived and the time I had with him.

Dad was always interested in Lesley Ellis and particularly excited when we moved into our current building—before retirement he was a building materials/construction guy. He was much more interested in the bricks and mortar than what was actually happening in the classrooms at Lesley Ellis. He loved hearing about the renovation a couple years ago, and it made his day this fall when I told him we were getting a new roof!

But here’s the interesting thing—this past week no one talked about the “bricks and mortar” dad, but rather the “inside the classroom” dad.

 “He always made me feel welcome.”
 “He was a very caring man.”
“I’ve known your dad all my life and treasure his kindness to me.”
 “He spoke softly, but when he spoke to you, you listened because what he had to say was important and worthy of consideration.”
“I observed his integrity.”
 “He was one of the nicest, most gentle, down to earth, and gracious human beings I ever had the pleasure of meeting.”

Even though “bricks and mortar” dad was excited about the new roof at Lesley Ellis, the legacy he leaves is “inside the classroom” dad … welcoming, caring, kind, integrity, gracious.

Giving Tuesday

December 3, 2019

Today is #GivingTuesday

Join us in the foyer from 8:00 – 8:45 a.m. for #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday is celebrated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. It was originally a response to the hyper-consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Unlike those days, #GivingTuesday is about, you guessed it, giving! It’s about charity and supporting activities and causes that are meaningful and make a difference. It’s easy to participate. Here’s how it works: on #GivingTuesday people choose a charity they want to help and find the best way to support that charity. At Lesley Ellis your gift helps keep our orange doors wide open to a wide variety of deserving students. Your generosity also makes possible the transformational experiences that happen in our classrooms every day.

#whydowegive? We give so Lesley Ellis students have exceptional experiences that tuition alone does not cover. We give to buy ukuleles, to tune pianos, to introduce robotics, to buy gallons of paint, to provide assistance to kids who otherwise would not be able to afford a Lesley Ellis education.

#whydowegive? Because through our students, we want to share our special brand of curiosity, inclusion, and community with the world. #GivingTuesday. Stop by todat. Have some cider. Make a pledge or gift and know that your investment in Lesley Ellis is an investment in the future.


November 25, 2019

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I especially love it because it is a holiday centered around being thankful.

We have much to be thankful for at Lesley Ellis. When I get to read to our preschoolers and see their sweet expectant faces, I am always deeply grateful. Grateful for the families who send us their children trusting that we will encourage their curiosity, cultivate their creativity, and cherish their spirits.

Our families are a reason to be thankful too. You often come as young parents with your first child who we all watch learn to ride a tricycle, who then leave us as teenagers dreaming about driving a car! We all come together first with a shared sense of what learning can be. We believe in kindness and dignity and respect. We open our orange doors and parents who are scientists come in right next to parents who are musicians and artists and carpenters. We have writers and computer programmers and financial thinkers. We have architects and mechanics, lawyers and doctors. Our families play a key role, too, in creating this vibrant learning environment. You are a dedicated and committed resource, and I’m grateful for all you do to support the school. Indeed, we are a rich collection of experience and talent coming together to raise up these children. We bring our best selves, right alongside our messiest selves. We trust and tend to one another, and the children reap the benefits of this wonderful loving community we make together.

We are abundant in all the ways that matter most, and I am grateful beyond measure for all of you. Happy Thanksgiving everybody. See you next week…


Kermit Had It Wrong

November 18, 2019

It’s easy to be green and it’s also lots of fun.

“Green Week” launched yesterday! During Green Week, we are encouraging every Lesley Ellis family to make a small commitment to do something greener in their lives. During Green Week, stop by the table in the foyer, tell us what your new commitment will be, and you will be entered in our drawing for an hour in the Makerspace, an indoor herb garden, or your name in 3-D made by Kate James. The more ideas you want to try, the more times you get entered in the drawing! Three winners will be drawn at the December 4th assembly.

LES is going green with our annual giving appeals this year, too. You will get your favorite letter of the year in your inbox as we work toward paperless administration. Watch for it.

Want some more ideas to try? Use reusable water bottles instead of plastic disposable ones. Bring your own bags to the grocery store. Walk to school one day per week. Replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs. Turn the water off when you brush your teeth. There are lots of ways you and your family can go green.

Check out the bulletin board in the main hallway during Green Week to see what other LES families are doing. And let’s change Kermit’s song … it’s easy being green!

Fall Sports at Lesely Ellis

November 12, 2019

There are snow flurries in the forecast so that must mean it’s time to put away the soccer balls and get out the basketballs. We had another terrific season of healthy competition, grit, and fun. What more can you ask for during a soccer season? Lesley Ellis is proud to offer many opportunities for our students to utilize their bodily kinesthetic intelligence through athletics. We strive to give level playing time to each athlete, and good sportsmanship is our most important priority.

Sports are one of the ways we nurture bodily kinesthetic learning, which at its heart is using one’s body to communicate and solve problems. Over half of our middle school students participate in an after school sport (and after a record number of soccer players this fall, we’re planning on two teams next year!), and that’s just the playing part. Many of our students have cheered at a game alongside teachers and families, nurturing their interpersonal skills along the way.

At Lesley Ellis learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom. It happens on the field or in the gym. It happens in the art studio and at lunch. We are a community of learning and our sports program is just one more way of sustaining

LES Under Construction

November 4, 2019

You may hear some banging or see workers with tool belts around Lesley Ellis over the next few days and weeks. Our school is getting some important infrastructure upgrades. Old buildings are wonderful and have lots of character, but they also need tender loving care. Our tender loving care is coming by way of a brand new boiler and roof!

These may not be as fun and glamorous as our makerspace or the den up in the middle school, but they are absolutely essential. The new roof and heating system are thanks to the generosity of friends and family who made gifts to our recent capital campaign. This is how we make all of our hopes and dreams come true at Lesley Ellis. We all roll up our sleeves, pitch in, and make it happen.

That is the story of this building and all of the tremendous strides we have made as a community over the last few years. As a result, we not only continue to have a dynamic, evolving program, we also have a building that is growing and developing, too.

If your children are wondering about the racket you can reassure them that it is going to result in a wonderful new roof and heating system that will keep them warm and dry for years to come. Because that’s how we do it at Lesley Ellis … together!

Early Release Day

October 6, 2019

Throughout the year we have several Early Release Days scheduled. Last Wednesday was our second Early Release Day for professional development. These afternoons are designed to expose our faculty to opportunities to learn and grow in areas that are not only of interest to them, but allow them to bring back to their classrooms and their students new ideas, insights, and practices.

Over the summer, elementary and middle school teachers read Differentiated Instructional Strategies, by Gayle H Gregory, as a precursor to this year’s focus on the topic. On Wednesday afternoon, the group worked in small, mixed-grade teams and thoughtfully planned ways to differentiate various aspects of both instruction and assessment. Written reflection based on something each individual tried in the two weeks prior was used as a jumping off point for these continued conversations. On November 1, Pamela Penna from the Park School will join elementary and middle school faculty to facilitate their “deep dive” into this essential work.

Early childhood teachers spent the afternoon talking about strategies for working with varied behaviors in the classroom, as well as looking closely at their classroom environments and how the classroom environment impacts their students’ learning.

Many faculty and staff met in committees at the end of the afternoon. For example, Anti-bias Committee members previewed work for the year as they considered how they will support and challenge faculty members to deepen their understanding of and practice around anti-bias work, how they will share what happens in our classrooms with the greater community, and the ways in which they personally want to explore issues of bias.

Professional development is crucial to our continued growth as educators. Time set aside to collectively focus on various aspects of educational practice enhances classroom teaching. Teachers return to their classroom invigorated and inspired. And as a result, so, too, are our students.


September 30, 2019

Lesley Ellis Community Read is a chance every year for our community to join in conversation and collaboration as we have the shared experience of reading the same book. This year we chose a book that was aimed at our core values. Lesley Ellis is a school with a deep-seated belief in the importance of antibias education. We believe that bias is learned. Children receive messages about their identity and the identities of the people around them. Cultural messages are often subtle and learned unconsciously—from family, friends, school and the media—but they can have a lasting impact on our worldview. Our antibias curriculum is meant to challenge those biases.

Implicit Association. Hidden Bias. Prejudice. Stereotypes. Blindspots.

We all have them and now with Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, we have a way to uncover our biases, talk about them, and better align our behavior with our intentions. Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald have given us a blueprint with evidence-based quizzes meant to test our own assumptions and possibly even counteract them.

Lesley Ellis Antibias Week is almost here, and on Monday, October 21 at 7:00 pm we will come together as a community for a discussion led by Mariya Timkovski and Sue Smith about this important book. The book sharpened my understanding of my own biases and has hones my thinking about my unconscious prejudices.

There’s still time to read this lay friendly book. Whether you’ve read it or not, please join us for our discussion during Antibias Week. In the best tradition of Lesley Ellis, I can promise you will not go away unchallenged


September 16, 2019

At our event last week for new parents, I talked a lot about community. And there was a reason for that. Over the years when parents have identified what is most important to them about Lesley Ellis, community is always in the top three.

Some of our students start here when they are not even three years old. They spend practically their entire childhood here. They learn how to read and learn new phrases in Spanish. They experience many firsts while at Lesley Ellis. It doesn’t matter if children begin their Lesley Ellis journey at three or eleven, this is the place where they are encouraged, supported, and nurtured. This is the place that children begin to develop into young adults. We celebrate all kinds of firsts here—every single day of every single week. But here’s the secret—Lesley Ellis parents experience their own firsts, too. There is a wonderful camaraderie in shared experience and a bonding with other parents on this journey that is deeply genuine. Lesley Ellis is a place where all families fit in. It’s what I love most about our school—it’s a communal sense of home where we all belong.

There are many ways you can get involved in our community. There are committees like the Gently Used Clothing Sale and Book Fair that need volunteers. You can also come to events like Curriculum Night, the Fun Fair, Evening of the Arts or Book Club. The list is long and varied, and I hope you will make our calendar a priority on yours.

Because Lesley Ellis isn’t just a school. It’s a place to belong.

Lesley Ellis Rides

September 9, 2019

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round to Lesley Ellis.

A ride to Lesley Ellis is available at last! For years we have heard the laments of parents who spend too much time on the road between school and work. Together we have worked to find solutions for our families, and this year we solved the puzzle at last. Our primary goals in our pilot bus program in Cambridge/Somerville are reliability and simplicity.

The result is our exciting partnership with C & W Transportation. They are experts in student transportation and are experienced at routing, planning, and scheduling. Most importantly, they pledge a happy ride! Early results are in. Andy Stratford, who set up the program over the summer, was in my office beaming on Friday. “Our families love the ease of the Lesley Ellis Rides. Parents are even able to leave work earlier as a result of their shortened morning commutes! This is a big win for Lesley Ellis.”

At Lesley Ellis teaching students about fractions and pronouns is just part of what we do. So, too, is also creating a warm, welcoming community where our kids, staff, teachers, and families feel a sense of belonging. Lesley Ellis Rides is just one more link in the chain that connects us all.

(Questions and inquiries about Lesley Ellis Rides may be directed to Andy).

The Gift of Time

June 11, 2019

Here at Lesley Ellis, we’ve known the secret for a while. Now, thanks to the Washington Post, everyone else knows, too.

Washington Post article

Transitional Kindergarten gives kids the gift of time.

Starting school is an exciting time for children and their families.  It signifies a new chapter in their lives and sets the tone for their educational future. Transitional Kindergarten provides a bridge between Prekindergarten and Kindergarten for younger students. It gives young learners a head start and provides them with an opportunity to learn and grow in an environment that is tailored to meet their academic and social needs.

We’re thrilled that the Washington Post recognized Lesley Ellis as a leader in progressive educational programs like Transitional Kindergarten. Giving children this added gift of time ultimately makes them more available to learn and creates a strong foundation for curious, engaged, and happy learners. At Lesley Ellis we recognize that the “journey is as important as the destination.” How that journey begins is vital to the success of each of our students and, for many, Transitional Kindergarten is a key step along the way.

It’s always nice to be recognized for things at which we excel, and I encourage you to share this article about our school with your friends and family!



une 4, 2019

“Kid, you’ll move mountains! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So get on your way!”
–Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

I have always loved Dr. Seuss and never more than this time of year. Our students have already moved mountains of course. Remember when your Lesley Ellis journey first began?

Some of you had three year olds who had just learned to talk a year or so earlier. Now they were coming to an early elementary school. It must have been dizzying. Some of your kids were older and you were looking for a more progressive education than what you had experienced before. But all of you had one thing in common: you loved your children and wanted the best possible education for them. You came to Lesley Ellis with high hopes and even higher expectations.

Now the school year is almost over and group of emerging young adults who have worked hard and dreamed big are graduating from Lesley Ellis on Tuesday June 11, at 9 o’clock in the morning. Our graduates will go to their next schools with optimism and confidence provided to them thanks to their Lesley Ellis education. They have developed confidence and self-awareness that comes from hard work and a community committed to supporting every aspect of their developmental journey. They came here as children and will leave as teenagers, proud and accomplished and ready for adventure and challenge. In addition, we will cheer on our fourth graders as they mark their own milestone—moving up to Middle School. All of our choirs—DOCLE, RISE, and CANTO—will contribute to the celebration. It’s going to be beautiful, and I can hardly wait! Oh, the places they will go … indeed.

Everyone is invited to this celebratory event… I hope to see you there!

Love is Love

May 28, 2019
“Pride,” also known as Gay Pride or LGBTQ+ Pride, generally refers to the annual celebration of LGBTQ+ history. The tradition began to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots, which is considered to be the start of the LGBTQ+ rights movement. Pride refers to our ability to have pride in ourselves and in our identities, and to stand for the rights of everyone to express their love and sexuality. Most major U.S. cities hold Pride celebrations in June in collaboration with LGBTQ+ Pride Month. Pride is an important time of year for the LGBTQ+ community—it’s a time of celebration, acceptance, activism, and love. Pride is a place for LGBTQ+ folks of all expressions to feel safe, seen, and proud.

On Saturday afternoon, June 8, Lesley Ellis families will march in the Boston Pride Parade. Lesley Ellis is always an inclusive community. This is a chance to proudly show the world that Lesley Ellis stands with the LGBTQ+ community. So please join us. Because at Lesley Ellis we know that love is love.

Email Tricia Moran (tmoran@lesleyellis.org) or sign up in the foyer for details.

Teacher Appreciation

May 19, 2019
We are right in the middle of Teacher Appreciation Week at Lesley Ellis. So today, instead of me writing about our teachers, I thought I’d share some of the notes and emails that have come my way about our wonderful faculty!

“We’re convinced that our child’s teachers are the best teachers in the whole, wide world.”

“The teachers are outstanding and we couldn’t be more grateful to them.”

“It’s that the teachers are absolutely, palpably suffused with a belief in the innate goodness of humankind. Every employee I’ve met is comprised of that incredible optimism.”

“…teachers and staff who are nurturing, kind and know how to get children excited about learning.”

“We can’t say enough wonderful things about the teachers. They worked miracles and expended considerable effort helping our son control his emotions. They are both special people.”

“All of our daughter’s teachers have been great.”

“Our teacher embodies all that we were looking for in a teacher for our children: someone who is experienced but also creative; someone who tailors the broad curriculum to the individual child, and who believes that to be effective, learning should be fun.”

“I want to pass along our kudos for our child’s teachers for their impact on his behavior out of the classroom.”

            Sent to teachers and cc’d to me: “The magic you create for and with our kids is just incredible! It is really impressive and ultimately the joy they exude in performing is just amazing.”

Sent to teachers and cc’d to me: “We made absolutely the right decision to enroll our daughter at LES this year, and it has largely been your interaction with her that has made this such a terrific year.”

“We’ve seen a lot of changes over the 12 years we’ve been at LES. However, one constant has been the wonderful faculty that we have had the pleasure of getting to know. Every teacher has been patient, kind, caring and extremely knowledgeable. They are a very special group, and we are so fortunate that our children were lucky enough to benefit from their expertise. Our kids learned to respect differences in others and learned to be part of a community. They all LOVED going to school.”

And all our faculty LOVE interacting with and teaching your children. Thank you for sharing them with us every day.

Rites of Passage

May 12, 2019

Academic Triumphs

May 6, 2019
It’s been quite a spring for many of our middle schoolers as they participated in three different academic competitions: the Noetic Learning Math Contest, the National Spanish Examination, and the regional Massachusetts Science and Engineering Fair! The Noetic Learning Math Contest is conducted biannually and encourages students’ interest in math, develops their problem-solving skills, and inspires them to excel. Over 32,000 students participate. The National Spanish Exam recognizes achievement and promotes proficiency in Spanish. And finally, the Massachusetts Science and Engineering Fair gives students the chance to explore “real world” science and engineering discovery through actual hands-on experience.

In all three of these contests, our students did a spectacular job! Quite frankly, our students are pretty amazing. All of our eighth graders took the National Spanish Exam this year, and nine of the sixteen received awards ranging from honorable mention up through a gold medal, achieved by Miriam Stodolsky. The Noetic Learning Math Contest was optional for our students in grades 5-8, but many of them chose to participate in the contest. Immy Serifovic (grade 7), Jamie Broadhead (grade 7) and Ittai Nelkin-Regev (grade 8) were in the top 10% of all students participating in their respective grade levels nationwide and will receive “National Honor Roll” medals. At the regional Science and Engineering Fair, three of our students, Manasa Rajesh (grade 8), Asahel Putnam (grade 6), and Anna Augart-Welwood (grade 8), qualified to compete in the State Fair in Worcester on May 11. Of significant note for Anna, she was the first-place winner and judged to have the highest score in the competition!

I am so proud of all of the students who participated and received awards at these contests. And thank you to our teachers, Sandra Torello, Cristina Martinez, Chuck Claus, Max Utter, and Michel Ohly, who coordinated all of these events. Click here to see the full list of students!

Spanish at Lesley Ellis

April 29, 2019
In Spanish class recently….

Preschoolers read Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? in Spanish;
Grade 3/4 students, as part of a unit on house vocabulary, learned verb conjugations in order to say sentences like, “I cook in the kitchen” and “I read in the living room;”
One Grade 8 Spanish class read an opinion article from an Argentinean newspaper featuring the recent college admission scandal and were able to understand, retell, and discuss the article.
The above examples (taken from recent class newsletters) are typical activities in our Spanish classes. Learning another language has always been a high priority at Lesley Ellis, with students beginning that process in preschool. Research bears out the many cognitive benefits of learning languages. People who speak more than one language have improved memory, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, enhanced concentration, ability to multitask, and better listening skills.

Language is also the most direct connection to other cultures. Being able to communicate in another language exposes us to and fosters an appreciation for the traditions, religions, arts, and history of the people associated with that language. Greater understanding, in turn, promotes greater tolerance, empathy, and acceptance of others—with studies showing that children who have studied another language are more open toward and express more positive attitudes toward the culture associated with that language. (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages)

Learning Spanish at Lesley Ellis not only has many cognitive benefits, but also prepares our students “to make their world a better place.” (LES Vision Statement)

School Counselor

April 22, 2019

How kids feel about themselves; how they express their emotions; how they interact with their peers; and how they establish positive relationships…all are important in every child’s growth and development. At Lesley Ellis this is a big part of what our teachers do every day in our classrooms.

To further support this very important aspect of our students’ development, in addition to our teachers, we have a school counselor on our faculty. Pilar Tucker has been here since September fulfilling this role. Any particular day for Pilar might include—

observing a student or group of students in a classroom and then meeting with teachers to help develop needed strategies to support students’ interactions;
eating lunch with a small group of students and discussing a common topic;
checking in with an individual student regarding a current challenging experience;
joining teachers and parents at a conference to offer support and insight;
providing a safe space for students struggling with their emotions;
supporting students in identifying healthy solutions to managing challenges in their lives.
No two days are alike for Pilar. Her schedule is as varied as our students, and that’s as it should be. If you haven’t had a chance to meet Pilar, her office is on the second floor at the end of the hallway near the grade 5/6 homerooms. Stop by and say hello. She would love to meet you!

The List

April 9, 2019
The spring months bring a sense of renewal and rebirth. We begin to look forward, anticipating the end of school, completing final projects, and making summer plans. For our eighth graders and their families, spring is filled with both excitement and nervousness. Excitement at the prospect of graduation and nervousness about what comes next. Families, students, and the school together spend a great deal of time and research determining the next best educational step.

At Lesley Ellis we believe it is not about getting into THE school, but rather finding the RIGHT school. We help our students and their families make informed choices that consider what kind of learner the student is, and how all families bring different values to their choices. For some families a broad-based progressive education that heavily incorporates the arts is preferred. For others, schools with an especially robust science program rates high. And still others choose their public high school. There is no certain path.

Lesley Ellis strives to be a voice of hope and reason as we guide our families through the secondary school process. This year, just like every year, our students are headed out to a variety of schools. The list below includes independent school acceptances and area high schools our students will attend.

I want to share the list with all of you so you can not only see where some of our students are going next but also have a reminder of the quality of education and preparation that a Lesley Ellis education delivers. Our kids are well prepared and happy to make choices that best fit their personalities and the values of their families.

Congratulations to our graduating eighth graders. You all rock!

Arlington High School
Arlington Catholic
Beaver Country Day School
Boston University Academy
Cambridge Rindge and Latin
Commonwealth School
Concord Academy
Gann Academy
The Gunnery
International School of Boston
Lexington Christian Academy
Matignon High School
Medford High School
The Rivers School
Somerville High School
St. John’s Prep
Winchester High School

Science Friendly at Lesley Ellis

April 1, 2019
Parents sometimes ask how they can help foster scientific curiosity and exploration with their children, particularly those parents who consider themselves non-scientific!

Science is a unique way of seeing the world and every parent can help their child, even very young children, begin to develop their scientific muscles. Science is everywhere, so encourage children to observe and ask questions. Ask them what they see. If you are at the pond feeding the birds, ask them to describe to you what they see. Observation and reporting are science 101. Look for science in the news and start scientific conversations. New cancer treatments, exciting weather phenomena, space funding, or even better space shuttle news, can lead older children to see how science affects everyone. Make time for at least one science topic every week at suppertime. Do science. Every child loves to experiment and experiments with a parent can be just as fun as going to the park.

At Lesley Ellis, science is an important part of our program, from our very youngest students to our middle schoolers. This week, our middle school Science Fair is on display in the middle school hallway and den on Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, as well as Friday morning. I hope you can stop by and see the projects of our oldest students. You will be amazed!

Professional Practice

March 19, 2019
Faculty spend most of their days with your children but sprinkled throughout the year we have a couple of professional days and several early release days to have time to focus on various aspects of our professional practice.

At our most recent early release day two weeks ago, in an interactive session, our elementary and middle school math teachers focused on what it means to be a mathematician at any age. This was the first in a planned series of workshops dedicated to teaching math. Concurrently, early childhood teachers focused on how their classroom environments act as a third teacher. (In early childhood education, the physical environment is as important as a teacher when supporting a child’s learning, independence, social interactions, and self-regulation.) Teachers explored each other’s classrooms using our Early Childhood Best Practice document as a rubric for feedback to support professional learning.

For a portion of the afternoon all faculty came together as our Anti-bias Committee led us in a discussion of the Starz series “America to Me,” a 10-part documentary examining racial, economic and class issues in contemporary American education. After watching and then discussing excerpts from the series, we talked about concrete ways this applies to Lesley Ellis.

Having the opportunity throughout the year to pause like this and collectively focus on various aspects of our practice is important to our ongoing growth as educators. When our faculty is exposed to fresh ways of thinking and teaching and when they are given the opportunity to interact with new ideas and concepts, they return to the classroom energized, invigorated, and inspired. And as a result, so, too, are our students.

The Best of the Best

March 5, 2019
Often, but particularly this time of the year, you may find yourself getting calls from or in conversations with families considering Lesley Ellis for their child/ren. Here are the basics…

With a consistent focus on reading, writing and math, Lesley Ellis School’s comprehensive and challenging curriculum prepares children for success in their future academic endeavors. Specialist teachers include science, Spanish, library, performing arts, visual art, movement and music, a learning specialist, school counselor, makerspace, and physical education.

At Lesley Ellis, students at all levels develop independent thinking skills and are encouraged to problem solve and think critically. They learn that it is not enough to discover what happened, it’s equally important to understand how and why it happened. Students are also exposed to essential signature programs like anti-bias and arts education. Underpinning all aspects of the Lesley Ellis experience is our intentionally small, nurturing environment. The bonds that develop at Lesley Ellis are deep and strong and have a positive impact on the academic environment as well as the social and emotional health of our students.

For me, and I hope for you, easy to talk about when people ask about our school!

Outside the Box

February 4, 2019
A few years ago, there were many stories in the news about how creativity was being killed in the classroom. Yet in the 21st century, creative minds are in high demand; students need to think both creatively and critically. As technology continues to develop, and information is ubiquitous, it is our mission as educators to ensure that the next generation will be full of inventors, musicians, painters, and mathematicians who will inspire humanity to new heights.

In her book Unlocked: Assessment as the Key to Everyday Creativity in the Classroom, educator and author Katie White suggests there are four stages of creativity:

  1. exploration stage—a time when kids are asking questions and invited into learning experiences that create curiosity;
  2. elaboration stage—where students will spend time with their initial questions and their engagement with materials. They will deepen their understanding and their questions might shift a bit;
  3. expression stage—where kids and teachers decide together how to share their thinking with others; perhaps with parents or other students or just sitting beside a classmate and sharing a solution to a problem;
  4. reflection and response stage—is that really deep longitudinal thinking about creative processes and which strategies worked for kids, which environments made them more creative and how they’d like to apply it to their learning.

It’s as if Ms. White has been hanging out in the Lesley Ellis hallways. Whether in the math, history, English, or science classrooms, unlocking the fertile, creative minds of our students is happening every day as Lesley Ellis faculty help students discover how to think not what to think.

Lesley Ellis Went to Work!

January 28, 2019
What a great morning several of our 7th and 8th graders had last Thursday as they participated in our inaugural Lesley Ellis Goes to Work morning! From seeing plans and models (one out of LEGOs!) of how MIT envisions redeveloping much of Kendall Square over the next ten years to creating custom jewelry with a wax mold that will shape poured metal to observing a giant “makerspace” of 3-D printers and scale models at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, our students experienced first-hand opportunities to envision their possible future vocations and they loved it! The chatter in the van heading back to school emphasized that getting a taste of real-life work situations stretched their minds, stimulated their imaginations, and broadened their conversations about what work is and why it matters.

Our hope was to have a menu of possible options from which our students could choose based on their interests, and the Lesley Ellis parent community came through like gangbusters! Thanks to all of the Lesley Ellis parents who offered time at their workplace (even if you didn’t end up hosting a student this year). You all made it possible for us to offer this impactful and memorable experience for our students to connect with the Lesley Ellis community away from 34 Winter Street out in the work world!

Make a Joyful Noise

January 22, 2019
You hear a lot of music at Lesley Ellis. We hear the middle schoolers in CANTO singing sweet melodic tunes with multiple harmonies and most often a soloist in the mix—all thanks to Chuck Claus and his attention to detail in every measure. There is RISE, too, third and fourth graders who work with Andy Stratford and Rob Lesley, singing and maybe stomping and clapping all year long. And finally, all those first and second graders in DOLCE, the Grade 1/2 chorus, who combine their voices, under the direction of Rob, as their young voices go to the places they were born to go. Every age and each voice is lifted up and comes together to make beautiful music. Their music makes us laugh and sometimes cry, and their voices always make us glad.

We have been fortunate to have talented and creative music teachers at Lesley Ellis who work in collaboration with our amazing and musical classroom teachers! New talents take the place of old and in that way our tapestry of experience grows and is enhanced. This year Rob Lesley is in the music room daily, making music with students throughout our school. And if you walk by and listen at the right times, you will hear our familiar house rock bands rehearsing, or maybe middle schoolers playing wind instruments for the first time, or our new Grade 7/8 jazz ensemble.

At Lesley Ellis music is always a joyful collaboration. Tomorrow is our annual Evening of the Arts for Grades 1-8, where studio art displays unite with musical performances for one big celebration of arts at Lesley Ellis. I can’t wait and I hope to see you there!

Art Matters

January 14, 2019
At Lesley Ellis our arts program is central to who we are. The arts lift our spirits and bring us joy; help us to translate the world and makes us more tolerant and empathetic. That sounds like Lesley Ellis, doesn’t it?

The arts not only develop a child’s creativity, but they also have direct, positive impact on a child’s academic achievement. Studies bear this out showing that art-centered schools outscore non-art-centered schools in academic achievement scores. A 2017 report by Americans for the Arts states that young people who participate regularly in the arts (three days each week through one full year) are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair or to win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who do not participate. The arts strengthen problem solving and critical thinking skills. An integrated arts program builds perseverance and focus.

Mastery of any subject builds a student’s confidence, but there is something special about the arts. The performing arts, for instance, provides students the opportunity to step outside their comfort zones. We see this every day at school. As our students develop and see their own progress, their self-confidence blossoms.

Some of the world’s greatest achievements, from the Sistine Chapel to the enduring plays of Shakespeare, from the Bach Cantatas to Beyonce, from Da Vinci to O’Keefe have happened in the artistic realm. The arts ignite our imaginations and make us better human beings. And this is why at Lesley Ellis, the arts always have and always will matter.

Re-enrollment and Financial Aid

January 7, 2019
With our expanding enrollment, re-enrollment contract deadlines are more important than ever this year. So mark your calendars! Re-enrollment contracts come out in a couple of weeks and are due back February 5. Our goal is to ensure that our current students continue to have opportunity to be part of the rich, joyful learning experience that is Lesley Ellis. For that reason, our tuition covers the following at no additional cost to our families:

  • Books
  • Materials and supplies
  • Field trip transportation
  • Opportunity to work with resident artists
  • Opportunity to join our choruses and math club

At Lesley Ellis our intent is also to ensure that all ranges of socio-economic diversity are represented in our student body. We are sensitive to each family’s financial needs and strive to meet them whenever possible. Our financial assistance program is one of the most robust in the Boston metropolitan area. All of our students benefit from the range of diversity at Lesley Ellis, including our socio-economic diversity.

Our primary tool for attaining economic diversity is through need-based financial assistance. These awards help families afford the cost of tuition based on their individual income levels. Our goal each year is to provide as many families as possible with a robust educational experience. Tuition and financial combined allow us to do just that.

How much aid do our families receive?

  • 25% of our students receive assistance.
  • $17,000 is the average financial assistance award.
  • $868,000 was given in assistance in the 2018/2019 school year.

The financial assistance process begins now, and all forms must be completed by January 31, 2019. Contact Tricia Moran at tmoran@lesleyellis.org for all forms and questions.

Collaboration is the Way

December 17, 2018
“Involving two or more people working together for a special purpose.” When the authors of “The Cambridge English Dictionary wrote their definition for collaborative I bet they had no idea the “special purpose” was your child! But that’s how we do it here at Lesley Ellis. It’s one of our core values.

Friday morning before school in Pre-K Orange Robin and Patrick were setting up their room for the day as they discussed potential changes to the loft area. While the 1/2 Green kids were at chorus that same day, Maija and Ashley were in their room planning their next few engineering lessons. Today before school our specialists – Rob, Bex, Cha, Margaret, Sandra, Cristina, and Kate – met with 3/4 teachers to share information about students. This afternoon all of the 5/6 teachers have their weekly planning meeting.

It happens all the time. Whether your child is in one of our early childhood or elementary classrooms with a  teaching team or in middle school with a team of teachers, we work together for one special purpose–your child. Conversation, connection, and collaboration. It’s our way…the Lesley Ellis way.

Lesley Ellis Goes to Work

December 10, 2018
Lesley Ellis Goes to Work and WE NEED YOU!

On January 24th our 7th and 8th grade middle schoolers want to visit the work world. As educators, we encourage our students to dream big; to envision a future for themselves that is filled with opportunity and excitement. First-hand experiences are one of the most effective ways of inspiring them and broadening their perspective. Lesley Ellis Goes to Work is a two-hour learning experience that will provide our students with ideas about possible vocations. Being in a real-life work situation will stretch their minds, stimulate their imaginations, and broaden their conversations about what work is and why it matters.

We need a wide variety of work places where our students can spend two hours on Thursday, January 24th.  It could be an office, home (for those who work from home), school, college, construction site, theater, restaurant, hospital, studio, or shop. Any work site will do! If you are a Lesley Ellis parent who can donate two hours on January 24th we need to hear from you this week. Ideally, we’d like to offer dozens of possible opportunities from which our students may choose so that we can offer the widest possible range of experiences to them. If you teach in a school or run the business office of a company, if you are a veterinarian or a hospital nurse, if you are an artist or a pet groomer— we need two hours of your time to take these smart, savvy 7th and 8th graders to your workplace. We will provide you with a sample list of activities from a guided tour to inviting your student to interview you or a co-worker to a website exploration or even a roundtable discussion. We’ll make it fun and easy for you to participate.

Parents inquire frequently about how they can help or volunteer at Lesley Ellis. This is an enormously important way you can have a big impact with just a two-hour investment. Please email me this week if you can volunteer. We are all agents of influence in the lives of our students.

Moving Up

December 2, 2018
At Lesley Ellis we celebrate the excitement of learning every day in lots of ways. One thing we love to do every year is to help prepare our students and their parents for what’s coming just around the next corner.

Twice every year, once in the fall and again in the spring, our TK and PreK kids get to experience Kindergarten! Last spring rising kindergarteners made fairy houses which were then added to the Lesley Ellis garden. They worked with our expert kindergarten teachers and had the opportunity to explore the kindergarten room for the first time. We make that spring experience available to any Lesley Ellis student who will be joining us next year or whose family is still deciding what kindergarten program is right for their family.

This year we have added a late fall kindergarten experience as well, so that every Lesley Ellis rising kindergartner can get a taste of what a project-based Lesley Ellis Kindergarten day feels like. We also added an opportunity this year for Lesley Ellis kindergarteners to visit our first and second grade classrooms. They traveled upstairs to participate in a project with those students and their teachers.

These engaging “moving up” experiences help prepare students for the excitement of becoming one of the “big kids” at Lesley Ellis. There is also an opportunity for parents to have their own moving up experience. Moving Up Night at Lesley Ellis provides our parents a similar opportunity to experience what their child’s next school year will look and feel like. It’s an informal way to meet teachers and discuss curriculum. Because of our multi-grade classroom, parents often attend Moving Up Night when their child is in Preschool, PreK, TK or Kindergarten and on their child’s “even” (grade 2, grade 4, grade 6) year, but parents are always welcome to come check out higher grades at any time.

There’s so much learning going on behind these orange doors. Come on in this week on Thursday evening at 7:00 pm and find out what’s happening in that next grade. I’m quite confident you will be amazed!

Lesley Ellis Faculty Presents at NAEYC

November 26, 2018
At the recent (November 13 -17) National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) annual conference in Washington DC, which brings together early childhood educators from all over the country and world, one of the pre-conference all day workshops was “Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in Early Childhood.” And here’s the really big news—one of the co-presenters for this workshop was our very own preschool teacher, Ann Scalley!

This is an excerpt from the conference program book… “Embrace a mindset for making and tinkering through engaging, playful experiences. Together we will investigate how tinkering and making experiences support fundamental STEM thinking and learning for young children.”

As a practitioner who has actively embraced tinkering and making in the classroom, Ann was invited to present with the author of the book Making and Tinkering with STEM: Solving Design Challenges with Young Children, by Cate Heroman. Ann shared examples and stories of what tinkering and making look like in a classroom—a Lesley Ellis classroom—with 3- and 4-year old students. Participants in her workshop included educators from all over the world, including Singapore, Spain, India and China. I’m proud of the work all of our teachers do each day with our students, and it’s especially gratifying to see the great work we do at Lesley Ellis highlighted on a national and international stage!


Our Outdoor Classroom

November 12, 218
Most of you have probably noticed the beautiful wooden fence the went up over the summer on the side lawn near the admission parking spots. Perhaps you have also noticed that the elements of our outdoor classroom are beginning to take shape! In fact, just last week all of our early childhood classrooms had the opportunity to begin using our outdoor classroom. Although it remains a work in progress, it’s now also play in progress. If you’re a parent of an early childhood student, I’m sure you heard about your child’s experience. I spent a few days last week visiting the outdoor classroom and observing how are students are making use of the space. For those of you who haven’t had the benefit of a first-person report from your child, here’s some of what I heard from the students about what they were doing…

“making pretend campfires”

“stomping around on the stumps”

“building with the big blocks”

“building a machine that’s a ramp and the ball rolls down into a tub”

“playing with really cool big blocks”

“playing with all my friends in the wheelbarrow.”

It was such a highlight to observe our younger students so thoroughly engaged and engrossed in creative and collaborative play as they experimented with the various elements of our outdoor classroom. Stay tuned for further planned enhancements to our outdoor classroom!

Professional Days at Lesley Ellis

November 5, 2018
Last Friday, your kids weren’t at school. They were home with you or another caregiver.

What was happening at Lesley Ellis? What were the teachers doing, you might wonder? They were participating in one of our two professional development days that we have each year. The day is designed to expose our faculty to opportunities to learn and grow in areas that are not only of interest to them but allow them to bring back to their classrooms and their students, new ideas, insights, and exercises.

Jenn Young led all of our new faculty and staff in a series of anti-bias exercises. Individuals in the group shared aspects of their own culture, participated in simulations in which they experienced being in a dominating or excluded group, and had discussions based on a reading about anti-bias education. Finally, a panel of three veteran Lesley Ellis teachers, one from each of our divisions, shared how they approach our anti-bias curriculum in their classrooms. They shared a lesson that went well, one that didn’t go as planned, and they shared the learning take-aways from those experiences.

Early childhood teachers took a field trip to The Wonder of Learning exhibit at Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development and spent much of the day in the exhibit, discussing and exploring possible applications for our school. The exhibit highlights the influence of Reggio Emilia schools on best practices in early childhood education. When viewing the exhibit, our teachers investigated some of the most effective approaches to teaching and learning for early childhood, and many came away with ideas and insights which could immediately be applied to their classrooms. The Wonder of Learning exhibit travels throughout the world, so having it available on our doorstep is an incredible opportunity and gift.

Elementary and middle school faculty met to delve deeper into our summer reading book, Choice Words. (If you recall, this book is about the language we use with students to further their learning). They highlighted questions and comments that are directly applicable and in support of how our students learn. Almost all of their examples proved to be transferable across subject and grade levels.

Professional development days are crucial to our ongoing growth in the field of education. These days provide an opportunity for us to pause and collectively focus on various aspects of our practice. When our faculty is exposed to fresh ways of thinking and teaching and when they are given the opportunity to interact with new ideas and concepts, they return to the classroom energized, invigorated, and inspired. And as a result, so, too, are our students.