What’s in a Name?

As many of you know, I ask students to refer to me as David. Some do, but some are uncomfortable with it and use Mr. David or Mr.O’Connell. Either is fine, but I let them know I prefer David. This choice is intentional and built around an approach to working with children that leverages positive relationships.

For some, dropping titles is a bright red line that children should not cross. The argument against dropping titles often revolves around the concept that using the title implies respect, and dropping the title is a sign of disrespect. But that is a false dichotomy.  Respect is built around the entirety of actions, words, and tone. Daily, the messages students receive from us are about positive behavior and treating everyone with consideration. 

Pedagogically, students learn better when teachers get on their level. When we talk to a student at a desk, we are much more effective if we crouch down, get eye to eye and have a conversation about what they are struggling with. Standing over them to have that same conversation does not feel collaborative. It feels top-down. When we are on their level, our interest in their ideas and concerns feels more genuine. Leveling the playing field between teacher and student builds respect between the two. 

In my experience of going by David over the past ten years, the name has never been used disrespectfully. If anything, it has fostered respect, inclusivity, and belonging with students. They see me more as a whole person with interests and a life that transcends being Head of School. It removes some of the anxiety of talking with me and enhances the opportunities for me to partner with students in their learning journey. Partner does not mean equals; students understand I am the senior partner and do not need a title that asserts power over students. Respect and authority come from my daily interactions and positive relationships.  

Using a teacher’s first name is not the magic pill to building positive relationships; it is one of many ingredients. We also know that just because a teacher uses a title doesn’t mean they lack strong positive relationships. But removing a title is one small way to build those relationships. 

This past Monday, I talked with the Saklan teachers about my experience and preference for using first names. We discussed the pros and cons of making the change and also watched a video on the topic. At the end of our conversation, several teachers decided to drop their titles, and some did not. We have left it as a personal preference. With the students, it is the same. If a teacher states their preference to be called by their first name, students may still choose to use the title.

I respect tradition and think we should all be respectful to each other. That said, etiquette and respect are not the same. Nor does following traditions or etiquette create an atmosphere where respect is authentic. As we like to say, respect is earned, not given. 

#HeadsCorner #SaklanConnected

Advancing Into the New Year

A long tradition of the Saklan Middle School has been to start the year with a three-day, two-night field experience called the “Advance.” We call it the Advance because we want to advance into the new school year in a positive, proactive way that helps these young adolescents flourish into self-confident young adults.  

During the Advance, students engage in different activities that build relationships between students and their teachers. Navigating ropes courses, completing blindfolded trust walks, and playing team-building games facilitate positive interactions and friendships. Students are asked to take risks together, creating bonds that will carry them through the school year. Not only does this help solidify their sense of belonging, but it also allows for better collaboration, trust, and academic focus. 

This afternoon,  the students and teachers will return from the Advance. They will come back as a slightly different group than when they left Wednesday morning. They will have formed or solidified friendships, built a new community, and have a renewed sense of confidence (as well as be a bit tired from all the fun and activities). But most importantly, students will return ready to thrive and grow during their middle school experience. 

#SaklanConnected #SaklanConfident

First CLAS of the Year

Thank you to all of our families who stayed to participate in our first CLAS of 2022-23! What a beautiful way to start the year together, welcoming new families, celebrating birthdays, giving out appreciations, and singing “This Little Light of Mine.” As is Saklan tradition, the 8th grade class ran around the group of students during the last verse of the song, shining their light around the world.

As you hopefully know, CLAS stands for Community, Learning, Appreciations, and Sharing. We look forward to seeing you at future CLAS assemblies, which will showcase more student presentations to the community.

CLAS will be held at 8:30 a.m. on the following Fridays:

  • September 9th
  • September 23rd – Parent Coffee to Follow
  • October 7th
  • October 21st – Parent Coffee to Follow
  • November 4th
  • November 18th – Parent Coffee to Follow
  • December 2nd – Parent Coffee to Follow
  • January 13th
  • January 27th
  • February 10th – Parent Coffee to Follow
  • February 24th
  • March 10th – Parent Coffee to Follow
  • March 24th
  • April 21st
  • May 12th – Parent Coffee to Follow
  • May 26th
  • June 2nd – Parent Coffee to Follow

We hope you can join us!

Back to School BBQ

Thank you to everyone who joined us on Monday for Saklan’s Back to School BBQ Social. We were delighted to host this beloved event once again!

It was so nice to see all the smiling faces and feel the positive energy of the 300+ attendees. This was the best attended BBQ to date, and a wonderful way to kick off the new year!

Thank you to the PA for setting up the Uniform Exchange, helping attendees make name tags, and helping us build community through volunteer opportunities. Additionally, thank you to everyone who volunteered to help with community events this year.


Saklan’s Fall Festival

The Saklan School’s Parent Association is hosting a Fall Festival on Sunday, October 2nd from 12:00 – 3:00 p.m., and all Saklan families are invited!

Join us in celebrating the fall season. Come for food, fun, and prizes! Food trucks, three-legged races, face painting, pie eating contests and more. We look forward to seeing you there!


%d bloggers like this: