BBA President Mark Smith, founding partner of Laredo & Smith, shared the below reflection on his recent visit to the John D. Philbrick School in Roslindale as part of the Principal Partners Program:
The John D. Philbrick School in Roslindale is one of the smallest in the Boston Public Schools (BPS) system, but its staff and student body provided a big welcome when I visited the Monday after Thanksgiving as part of the Boston Plan for Excellence Principal Partners program.
I knew that the BBA president has the good fortune to shadow a BPS principal every year, and as a former teacher myself, I was excited to learn more about elementary education at the Philbrick and what makes the school tick. The answer, it turns out, is the same as when I taught: a dedicated and openhearted staff working extremely hard to ensure the best possible learning experience for each student all year long.
Principal Danladi Bobbitt, who stepped into the role just this year, leads this staff gracefully. During a tour of each classroom, Bobbitt shared as much as he could about each teacher’s background, demonstrating an appreciation of each instructor’s unique talents and expertise. I was especially impressed by the way these teachers commanded the attention of their students, who were sharply focused and on-task during the entirety of my visit. For students in kindergarten through fifth grade, that is no small feat.
I was impressed to learn that students in each grade level take specialty classes in science, music, physical education and art, giving them opportunities to engage in a variety of hands-on activities throughout the day and become well-rounded learners. A music class made up of kindergarteners rehearsed “Jingle Bells” in preparation for the Philbrick’s holiday pageant for us, which was one of the highlights of the day.
Once the tour concluded, alongside Discovering Justice Executive Director Jon Spack, Bobbitt told us more about the ins and outs of running a school. He said one of the best parts of helming the Philbrick is the high level engagement from the school community, including parents. A constant challenge, he said, is finding meaningful ways to talk to students about bullying. Their approach at the Philbrick focuses on encouraging students to express themselves in productive ways, rather than lashing out at classmates.
The Principal Partners event, a collaboration between Bank of America, BPS and Boston Plan for Excellence, is intended to foster a meaningful conversation about the critical role education plays in the quality of our society and the future of our economy. I am grateful to have had this experience, deepening my understanding of the great people in our schools and the incredible work they do.