One of the great ironies of the cyclical nature of the school year is the simple fact that the last day of school, a day which represents the moment of most familiarity and independence in a particular school year is followed by the first day of the following school year, a time during which so many things are new and the learning curve is the steepest. The autonomy with which students navigate their learning experiences by the end of the year is essential to the educative process. The journey between those two points is the work of the year, for teachers, students, and families. It is a truly miraculous process that is anchored in the efforts at the beginning of the school year.
The first six weeks of school represent an important and distinct period in the life of the classroom. This is a time of introduction and integration to the expectations that will shape the ways in which students will interact with each other and the adults in the community, with their physical environment, and with their learning all while delving ever more deeply into our progressive program. In essence, children are learning to care for themselves and for others, and teachers work with intention to make this happen. This care comes as a result of the time spent building connections to members of the community. If you were to walk into one of the classrooms over the past two days, you would hear the sounds of children greeting each other by name during Morning Meeting, playing a few rounds of “Just Like Me,” a game in which children stand when they have a connection to something a peer or teacher shared with the group, building cooperatively with found materials, offering advice to one another as they learn to set the cafeteria lunch tables for the first time, or practicing taking turns and listening to each other during a group discussion. Each of these moments, though seemingly small, represent a building block in the creation of a community of independent learners.
As partners in this work of the first six weeks of school, your questions and connections about the learning that your children are doing with respect to becoming engaged community members will reinforce the importance of this time for the children. In addition to asking your children what they learned in math or reading, it is important to also ask what they learned about the routines and responsibilities of their class, and what they learned about being a caring community member. A simple question such as, “How did you take care of the people (children and adults) in your class today?” can open up amazing conversations.
At a time during which connections among members of our national and global communities are fraying, we are constantly working toward purposeful community building in the service of developing authentic relationships with each other and a shared passion for learning. I look forward to engaging in this work with you.