Park School’s faculty is our greatest asset. Educators at Park prepare students to become responsible, active global citizens. Our dedicated teachers create extraordinary experiences in the classroom each and every day. Families come to Park because students receive an exceptional education. Park’s Faculty Spotlight series features insights from Park’s inspired and inspiring educators concerning the importance of tuition assistance, attracting and retaining talented teachers, and augmenting Park’s distinctive academic and co-curricular programming.
Faculty Spotlight #1: April 13, 2018
by SHAREN PULA, 5TH GRADE
Magical moments happen in the classroom every day. I have been teaching at Park for 40 years, and I can say with certainty that the breadth and depth of our program can only take place when children authentically experience multiple perspectives, starting with the diverse viewpoints and experiences of their classmates.
To have this wide array of perspectives in the classroom benefits every student, regardless of their background. Each individual contributes something meaningful, without which we could not do our work. Our tuition assistance program allows us to bring in a wide range of life experiences and perspectives, enabling us to deepen and enrich our understanding of our school community and the broader world.
Park students represent a diverse range of perspectives in terms of culture, race, religion, class, and family composition, as well as other categories. Regardless of the topic we are discussing, students will likely differ from one another in their perspectives. My class recently discussed a novel in which a character is born out of wedlock. Students shared thoughts about the composition of their own families: single-parent families, families with two parents of the same gender, intergenerational families, and adoptive families were all represented. A discussion of tolerance and intolerance evolved out of this conversation.
When students can react to a situation from a place of genuine knowledge and direct personal experience, it de-centers the teacher and enables the students to take on the role of the expert. Earlier this year, during a service learning trip, my students encountered graffiti on a city playground. A student who lives in that neighborhood was able to give firsthand perspective and pose questions that prompted the entire class to engage in research about the history of graffiti and its many purposes, including political and artistic expression.
Diversity of perspectives and experiences naturally breeds diversity of interests, and students grow from exposure to one another’s passions and projects. Last year, an African American student in my class was studying Saint Mark’s Cathedral, and was determined to find someone who looked like him in the landscape of medieval Venice. He conducted independent research and uncovered information about the lives of black gondoliers in medieval Venice. He discovered that many North Africans were brought to Venice as slaves, but typically ended their lives free; working as a gondolier provided a way to transition into free society after enslavement. The entire class became involved in this student’s scholarship, and it opened the door to a more comprehensive study of slavery in the medieval world.
Without bringing these multiple perspectives together, the range of individuals in terms of their experiences would be incredibly limited.
Please consider supporting Park’s mission to create and maintain a community of diverse perspectives and experiences through a donation to the Annual Fund.