Ms. Kelly’s Blog
From the Lower School Principal, Betsy Kelly
I often hear parents say, “We plan to send our children to private
school when they’re older.” I understand their reasoning. Independent schools
are expensive, and an exemplary private school, like Bullis, is an investment that
can press young families to identify and prioritize their values and beliefs. Most
elementary school programs, both public and private, focus on the basics:
reading, writing, math and science, so what difference does waiting really
As an educator and a parent, I believe it is critically
important, in both tangible and intangible ways, to invest early
in a child’s education. Here are a few of the specific reasons why parents
choose the Bullis Lower School:
students wake up looking forward to school. Our teachers focus closely on our
students’ daily experiences. As a small division of 80 children, we get to know
each child individually. We know that
children learn best when routines are predictable, when supportive friends wait
to greet them each morning, and when caring adults take time to notice and
listen—and that is the case at Bullis. In our student enrichment block from
3:00-3:30 p.m. each day, children in
grades 2-5 participate in reading advisory, mathLabs, group music lessons and
clubs: chess, community service, newspaper, board games and puzzles, science
lab, student government and more. We take frequent field trips and are
fortunate to consider Washington, D.C., and the surrounding Chesapeake Bay as an
extension of our classrooms.
students learn from exemplary teachers. At a recent meeting, our Head of
School, Dr. Gerald Boarman, clearly outlined his expectation: “our students
must have warm, supportive teachers who run dynamic classrooms each and every
day.” Across the board, the Bullis Lower
School teachers are smart, innovative and curious. They individualize
instruction and incorporate new techniques in teaching and learning that support
our core academic values: creativity, communication, resourcefulness, critical
thinking and collaboration. For example our approach to the teaching of reading
is multi-faceted: we know each child’s reading level, what they like to read
and what their friends are reading. We even know how many words our students
are reading each week. Bullis kids choose the books they truly want to read and
they are expected—and encouraged—to read at least an hour per day.
students learn in small classes. Much has been written about the importance
of limiting class size. Here at Bullis we cap at 12 to16 students, depending on
grade (compare that to 23-25 at area public schools). It’s true that children
receive more direct instruction and individualized attention when classes are
small, especially when teachers group children appropriately.
students have unique opportunities in a 21st century curriculum.
Fifth graders work with our entrepreneurship coordinator to create small
businesses that are highlighted in an annual Entrepreneurship Fair. All
students have many opportunities to lead and speak publicly and are encouraged
to identify and advocate for what they believe.Student ambassadors greet and welcome visitors, and each child is
explicitly taught the social skills and manners they need to navigate the world
of peers and adults through the Responsive Classroom pedagogy.
students lead a balanced school life on our verdant 102-acre campus. In
addition to academics, our Lower School children can enjoy private music
lessons as well as band classes, acting and performing, and other arts experiences.
They have recess twice per day and physical education four times per week.
Walking across campus, visitors see children visiting the fishpond on the way
to the library, eating outdoors at café tables when the weather is nice, and
planting and harvesting vegetables in our community garden. They see small and
transformative events—like 4th graders, after reading A Long Walk to Water, carrying gallon jugs
of water along a mile of the rolling hills of our campus so they can closely identify
with the daily experiences of children in Sudan.
The reasons to enroll your child in independent school at an
early age, and Bullis in particular are numerous. I encourage you to visit our Lower School and
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