Meet Mr. Court

  •  Mr. Court  

    Gary Court, Angell Principal

    court@aaps.k12.mi.us 

    Welcome to James B. Angell Elementary School!  We are excited that you are reading about a fabulous community of learners.  Our school draws students from five Ann Arbor neighborhoods and over 40 countries of the world.  We have an exceptional staff and are fortunate to have a distinct enrichment program for all students. 

    Our school was named after the longest serving president of the University of Michigan.  He said that he wanted to “provide an uncommon education for the common man.”  We try to fulfill that statement at Angell by challenging students to excel, develop skills for self-advocacy and problem-solving. 

    We celebrate mistakes.  Learning essentially comes from the modeling of others and our errors.  A feature of the school is the promotion of student autonomy.  When students are given choices, they learn to make decisions for themselves and also learn that they must live with the consequences of their selections.   We hope that each Angell graduate develops the capacity to be assertive and assume leadership when opportunities exist.

     Life is a series of relationships.  We take our responsibility to develop a warm, caring school environment very seriously.   Attention is paid to both vertical relationships (between adults and students) and horizontal relationships (student to student and adult to adult).  The culture of school will determine how students feel about coming to school each day.  Our goal – happy, successful students. 

     A local software firm uses the outcomes of the Kindergarten report card for criteria when hiring new employees.  We endorse them as well.  They make perfect sense because they describe essential characteristics on how we are to live our lives with each other:

     

    +  Attends to the task at hand

    +  Listens attentively

    +  Works cooperatively with others

    +  Solves problems constructively

    +  Complete tasks independently

    +  Follows directions

    +  Perseveres even when tasks are difficult

     

  • How to Talk with Your Child About School Shootings

    Posted by Gary Court on 3/15/2018 8:00:00 AM

    Very few events hit home for children and families like a school shooting. When children see such an event on television or on the internet news, it is natural for them to worry about their own school and their own safety, especially if the violence occurred nearby.

    Many psychologists say it's normal for parents to feel some anxiety as we digest the news of recent school shootings.  It is important to be in touch with our own worries and concerns and be cognizant that we do not transmit those to our children.  It is normal to think about the safety of our children at school.  And, do not be afraid to talk with friends and family about how we are feeling and ways to overcome our fears or insecurities.  

     

    Advice on how to talk with your children:

     

    Psychologists suggest the troubling news of school shootings can be an opportunity to talk and listen to children.  Remember, the conversation about the news should vary based on the age of your child.  Think about the analogy about a conversation of where do babies come from.  A conversation with an elementary student will be very different than someone older.  Many of our students are not aware of school shootings and it may not be appropriate at all to engage them in a discussion.  

     

    Suggestions about how to talk with our elementary-age children if they raise the issue or your perceive that there is a need to address the issue:

    • Focus on the fact that many people are working to keep them safe. Point out specific ways Angell School is practicing safety (ex. exits are locked, intercom system to alert if there is a problem, all visitors go through the office, safety drills we practice, always follow school adults’ directions).
    • Allow your child to talk about fears. Help him or her with using "feeling" language so they can express themselves and be understood. Talking about fears is healthy. Being able to talk about how to manage fears is also healthy.
    • Ask your child questions to make it OK to talk about, "What would you do if you didn't feel safe in your school,"  (talk with your teacher, go to the office, find an adult and tell him or her)
    • Limit exposure to news coverage. Acknowledge the news coverage, allow it in a small dose (depending on the age and emotional maturity of the child), and then turn it off and talk openly as a family to make it OK.
    • Keep routine and typical plans to help your child feel they are functioning and that the world is still what they know. Focus on normal and predictable activities.

    This short article may prove to be helpful:

    https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/explaining-the-news-to-our-kids

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  • The Lost Art of Listening

    Posted by Gary Court on 2/28/2018 8:00:00 AM

     

    Listening is rapidly becoming a lost art. When we are an attentive listener, the other person is usually surprised. One of the best Tedtalks I listened to recently is entitled “10 ways to have a better conversation” by Celeste Headlee. She says that when your job hinges on how well you talk to people, you learn a lot about how to have conversations -- and that most of us don't converse very well. And she knows the ingredients of a great conversation: Honesty, brevity, clarity and a healthy amount of listening In her Tedtalk, she shares 10 useful rules for having better conversations. "Go out, talk to people, listen to people," she says. "And, most importantly, be prepared to be amazed."

     

    https://www.ted.com/talks/celeste_headlee_10_ways_to_have_a_better_conversation

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  • Transition to Angell Elementary School

    Posted by Gary Court on 8/1/2017 8:00:00 AM

    It will not be long before elementary students begin thinking about school starting. We are so excited each fall when our students return to start a fresh, new, year of learning, growing and leading.

    There are some ways for parents to prepare and help transition their children as summer winds up:

    - Maintain routines such as family meals and household chores.

    -  Expect your child to read (or for younger students – to be read to) 30 minutes a

    day.

    -  Limit television, internet surfing, social media and video games. Screen time tends to isolate children from one another.

    -  Establish the same expectations for behavior at home that they will face at school. (listen without interrupting, take turns, share, wait patiently, follow directions)

    -  Provide choices – give your child the opportunity to make a decision and live with the consequence of that choice. (red pants or blue pants, peas or carrots, brush upper teeth or lower teeth first, carry your coat or wear your coat, set the table or wash the dishes)

    -  Encourage lots of physical activity. Research shows that children sleep better and are better learners and listeners when they engage in regular, gross motor exercise and play.

    -  Find opportunities to serve others. Helping people in our community increases one’s self of purpose and shifts the focus from self to others. Doing something positive often results in experiencing joy and satisfaction.

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  • The Value of An International School

    Posted by Gary Court on 2/1/2017 8:00:00 AM

    We are really fortunate to have a school community which is diverse. It is a privilege to work and teach in a school with lots of different kinds of people. It is somewhat of a rarity. David Brooks write in The Atlantic, “Maybe it's time to admit the obvious. We don't really care about diversity all that much in America, even though we talk about it a great deal.” 

    Most of us gravitate toward homogeneity. We fear that which is unfamiliar.   We like to associate with people who reaffirm our viewpoints, lifestyles, values, education, wealth, etc.

    In a school environment where 40 countries of the world are represented in the student body, we can become an interdependent community of people. We can learn from one another if we are intentional and eager to listen to voices that may express ideas unfamiliar or unlike our own.

    As students get older and move to middle school, high school and beyond, I have watched “sameness” exert its powerful attraction and appeal. I hope that we can help the Angell students enjoy the rich variety they experience with the hope that sustaining that is worthwhile.

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  • Why Reading Is So Important

    Posted by Gary Court on 12/1/2016 8:00:00 AM

    An article in the Chicago Tribune caught my attention.  It cited a story from Renaissance Learning, an educational analytics company about reading patterns among students.  Students who read 30 minutes a day will encounter 13.5 million words by the time they finish high school.  Students who read less than 15 minutes a day will encounter only 1.5 million words by the time they graduate from high school.  "High exposure to words is crucial in developing vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, writing and higher-order thinking skills," the report says.

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  • Angell School Culture

    Posted by Gary Court on 11/1/2016 8:00:00 AM

    In addition to earning the title, National Blue Ribbon School  in 2015, we are by all estimates, a counter-culture school. 

    By this I mean, that our principles, beliefs and practices are in stark contrast to the popular culture around us.  For at least a decade, probably more, our media, entertainment, music and popular culture has not exuded the core values that we promote at school; care, nurture, encouragement, support, forgiveness, gratitude, honesty, patience, kindness. 

    I had the opportunity to talk with a parent and shared that we pride ourselves in having discussions where opposing voices are heard, and where dissent occurs all in a spirit of forbearance.  We endeavor to teach skills such as listening for understanding and giving each other the benefit of the doubt.   We are clearly not perfect at disagreeing in love, but that is our goal.

    At Angell, we dignify respect and civility and will work toward that end even when voices, images and musical lyrics say otherwise.

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  • Delayed Gratification ~ The Marshmallow Experiment

    Posted by Gary Court on 3/1/2016 8:00:00 AM

    Dr. Walter Mischel, Stanford University conducted an experiment with young children, at the Bing Nursery School at Stanford, in the nineteen-sixties.

    During his experiments, Mischel and his team tested hundreds of children — most of them around the ages of 4 and 5 years old — and revealed what is now believed to be one of the most important characteristics for success in health, work, and life.

    The experiment began by bringing each child into a private room, sitting them down in a chair, and placing a marshmallow on the table in front of him or her. 

    At this point, the researcher offered a deal to the child.

    The researcher told the child that he was going to leave the room and that if  the child did not eat the marshmallow while he was away, then the child would be rewarded with a second marshmallow. However, if the child decided to eat the first one before the researcher came back, then he or she would not get a second marshmallow.

    So the choice was simple: one treat right now or two treats later.The researcher left the room for 15 minutes.

    As you can imagine, the footage of the children waiting alone in the room was rather entertaining.  (You can see these on youtube!)  Some kids jumped up and ate the first marshmallow as soon as the researcher closed the door. Others wiggled and bounced and scooted in their chairs as they tried to restrain themselves, but eventually gave in to temptation a few minutes later. And finally, a few of the children did manage to wait the entire time.

    The longer a child delayed gratification, Mischel found—that is, the longer she was able to wait—the better she would fare later in life at numerous measures of what we now call executive function. She would perform better academically, earn more money, and be healthier and happier. She would also be more likely to avoid a number of negative outcomes, including jail time, and drug use.  Those who delayed gratification had lower BMI scores and obesity rates, higher SAT scores, lower divorce rates. 

    Success usually comes down to choosing the pain of discipline over the ease of distraction. And that’s exactly what delayed gratification is all about.  If one can delay gratification one usually can sustain effort and deal with frustrations more easily than those who cannot demonstrate self-discipline.

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  • What We Want for Our Children

    Posted by Gary Court on 1/4/2016 8:00:00 AM

    Every day, I see Angell students who are making decisions for themselves that come from core values and that reflect their authentic selves. Sometimes the small decisions reveal a big heart and an awesome amount of empathy. The bulletin board outside the Angell School office represents examples of students who are eager to put others first. In addition, throughout the school year, groups of students sponsor food drives or bake sales to raise money from everything from cancer research to the local animal shelter. When temperatures drop, students are eager to help rake leaves, sweep the sidewalk and shovel snow. Students like to pitch in and see that their work results in tangible benefits. Students can contribute boldly and creatively to the common good. They often feel good when they are making a difference that is beyond focusing on themselves.

     

    At Angell, we want our students to have a voice, to have ideas and ambition and an assertive drive. When students come forward with a suggestion or an idea, we take them seriously. Our teachers and Enrichment program help our elementary students identify and develop their distinct qualities and passions. We are responsible along with parents, for developing nimble thinkers who will think big and live with authenticity and care.

     

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  • Narcissism in Children

    Posted by Gary Court on 4/1/2015 8:00:00 AM

    Origins of narcissism in children by Eddie Brumelman, Sander Thomaes, Srtefanie A. Nelemans, Bram Orobio de Castro and Geertjan Overbeek.  Proceedings of the National Academcy of Sciences. 

    There was a recent study of narcissism among 7-12 year olds when individual differences in narcissim begin to emerge. Narcissistic individuals feel superior to others, fantasize about personal successes, and believe they deserve special treatment. When they feel humiliated, they often lash out aggressively or even violently.

    Narcissism was predicted by parental overvaluation.  Children seem to acquire narcissism, in part, by internalizing parents’ inflated views of them (e.g.,”I am superior to others”  and “I am entitled to privileges.” )

    Narcissism is a growing problem in Western society. Since the1980s, Western society has become increasingly concerned with raising children’s self-esteem. In their attempts to raise self-esteem, parents often intuitively rely on lavishing children with praise, telling them that they are special and unique, and giving them exceptional treatment.  The results show that, rather than raising self-esteem, such overvaluing practices might inadvertently raise narcissism in children. 

     Professor Brummelman said the goal is to reduce narcissism levels in children and increase levels of self-esteem by "teaching parents to be warm and affectionate without telling children they are better than others and without conveying to children that they are more entitled than others."

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  • Mistakes Are Wonderful

    Posted by Gary Court on 3/2/2015 8:00:00 AM

    Some educators have asserted that most of us learn in two ways; through watching others (modeling) and through our own experiences. One of the most important ways we canlearn the most is through making errors. 


    The great thing about elementary students is the price they pay for most of their mistakes is very affordable. For example – forgetting one’s homework means staying in from recess to do it, forgetting a lunch at home means eating a hot lunch instead, choosing to not wear a coat at recess may result in becoming cold or not studying for a test may result in a poor grade. All of those are valuable experiences that we hope most of our students make at an early age so they will not rack up unaffordable mistakes later in life.

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