Our core values are what we believe. We exist for the success and happiness of our students, and our values guide us in developing students who:
- achieve the highest level of academic excellence that enables them to choose which competitive high school and college they wish to attend;
- become mindful, responsible, and contributing participants in their education, their community, and the diverse society in which we live; and
- apply in their daily life and continuous learning the discipline, joy, critical thinking, cultural engagement, and creativity gained through an arts-rich education.
Our Interactions and Relationships
Community members of the VOICE community enjoy a collaborative relationship that encourages participation, risk-taking, and creativity in the service of deeper learning. We feel safe to extend ourselves intellectually as we experience deep caring and courtesy, pride in the school community, recognition of our own worth, and a sense of joy. Although relationships across the community serve to enhance teaching and learning, they also embody the mutual respect with which community members treat one another -- as ends in themselves.
Students achieve academic success by developing a disciplined and consistent work ethic. All resources, procedures, and attitudes are oriented towards sustaining and modeling hard work. VOICE staff are mindful in negotiating the inherent tensions in our work: striking the right balance between experimentation and stability; encouraging ardent individual curiosity and maintaining the highly intentional and specific conformity that is needed to be part of a caring and cooperative community; supporting and challenging students in their learning; and progressively increasing students’ freedom and responsibility while ensuring their safety and success. At VOICE we value the ongoing process of our daily work: strengthening cooperative relationships as we confront these tensions and constantly transform good to great. Reinforcing our serious work ethic and strong sense of purpose are sincere feelings of enthusiasm and joy.
VOICE students and staff communicate regularly as part of the collaborative effort to advance learning. We give and receive precise feedback as a necessary part of improving skills and knowledge. VOICE staff model this behavior by holding themselves and one another personally accountable for doing their best, by ‘being the change we wish to see.’ We constantly communicate and reflect, both formally and informally, in order to improve as educators.
As with music, genuine engagement requires active listening. When VOICE students and staff speak, it is to add value; when we listen, it is to understand better and demonstrate that everyone’s voice should be heard. Effective communication, the foundation of our relationships in the VOICE community, is based on our mutual understanding, authenticity, and caring.
Our Approach to Discipline
Discipline at VOICE serves two main purposes: to promote students’ moral development and to create a safe environment where students are empowered to learn from their own behavior. In their moral development, VOICE students respect the authority of adults, value their interpersonal relationships, and gain an autonomous understanding of right and wrong that will enable them to make independent moral decisions as adults. Members of the VOICE community are mindful of the values that we wish to nurture. These values are taught, discussed, practiced, and articulated clearly because we believe that true success and strong character are inseparable.
We motivate students to take responsibility for and learn from their own behavior. As in academic areas, VOICE staff collaborate with students proactively to prevent challenges from becoming more severe problems requiring discipline. We are attuned to students’ challenges and collaboratively implement plans to help them adapt and learn.
At VOICE, discipline is proactive: students understand the expectations and rationales for behavior. By connecting content to prior learning, articulating teaching points, modeling what to do, and expressing the rationale for activities, we give students a sense of agency and purpose that discourages acting out.
Reactive discipline at VOICE (1) shows students what they have done, (2) gives them as much ownership of the problem as they can handle, (3) gives them options for solving the problem, (4) leaves their dignity intact, and (5) is implemented with consideration for the feelings of those affected by the behavior.
At VOICE, mistakes are forgiven and transformed into learning opportunities. Loving relationships, high expectations, and thoughtful procedures prevent mischief and diminish its effects on our learning community of children and adults. While mistakes and mischief are inevitable realities, the discipline system at VOICE helps to support a community of deep caring and thoughtfulness that precludes intentionally harmful acts of bullying and mayhem.
Parallel to increased academic and social responsibility, students enjoy greater leadership in enriching the school climate as they grow older. Self-monitoring, peer mediation, student initiatives in restorative justice, and independent projects on values demonstrate students’ ownership of their community’s discipline and learning environment.
Our Approach to Academics
At VOICE, every adult and child engages in the never-ending quest of getting better. For example, grade level and subject teams collaboratively adapt published curriculum to deliver high quality lessons daily. Planning these lessons is only the beginning of the learning process for teachers and students. Teacher teams assess the effectiveness of each lesson by analyzing student achievement data and deciding which lessons need to be retaught (and how) so that every child learns. When a teacher comes back to the class to try a lesson again, the repeated attempt is a lesson in itself for the children. Students internalize the attitudes and behaviors of their teachers as they develop their own love for the process of learning: music rehearsal leads to skillful performance (practicing a passage until the rhythm is accurate); scientific experimentation enables discovery (mistakes guide the process of elimination in testing a theory); daily writing practice yields published pieces (multiple drafts lead to richer writing); and daily independent reading improves reading skills.
We believe that reflection and communication are central elements of the learning process. Authentic assessment of student work, reviewing both student and teacher progress regularly, and communicating with precision allows us to design teaching and learning practices so that they are responsive to everyone’s needs. Students are attuned to their own thinking process: cognizant of when they don’t understand, active in taking the steps required to build understanding, and thoughtful about formulating the questions that explore levels of deeper meaning. VOICE students guide their own learning by evaluating the feedback they get from others, applying their background knowledge to new contexts, anticipating learning difficulties and apportioning time accordingly, and judging progress toward a goal.
At VOICE, we understand that intelligence is a set of problem solving and reasoning capabilities along with habits of mind that engage those capabilities regularly. It is equally a set of beliefs about our right and obligation to understand and make sense of the world, and our capacity to figure things out over time. By calling on students to use the skills of intelligent thinking — and by holding all members of the VOICE community responsible for doing so — we teach and learn intelligence daily.
Our School Environment
VOICE is a community of people united by a strong sense of values and purpose. We design our physical environment to reflect this unique culture: student accomplishments are displayed for widespread appreciation; standards, teaching points, objectives, and values are posted prominently; markers of organization and procedures are clearly visible; and our spaces appear bright, inviting, and joyful.