As we begin our 102nd year of school at Baker, we are embarking on one of the least predictable years of school that we’ve had in the last century. We acknowledge the strain of the pandemic and the racial reckonings of this summer, as well as the deep promise of the new school year and what this means for students. As I shared with Baker teachers this past week, the month of August is full of possibility for all who work in schools. It is our New Year. It is our time of new beginnings. Even during this time, we feel the irrepressible surge of hope for the new year.
At Baker, we believe that the best schooling happens in partnership with you as parents, grandparents, and guardians. You are our essential partners, because you know your child deeply – you have insights into their disposition, their interests, their history, their areas of strength, and challenge. As a school, our expertise is in deeply understanding the developmental age of your child and the learning practices that make a difference in their growth and development.
We honor and value this partnership; and, together with you, we are committed to keeping our students at the center of our major decisions, our conversations, our work.
One of my rituals each year is to publish my own list of ideas under the theme of How to Have an Amazing Year.
The Other 17 Students. One of the most important parts of your child’s daily learning and growth are their interactions with other children, and this year, given the conditions of the pandemic, how children interact – on technology platforms and in socially distanced settings – creates both opportunities and challenges.
Consider this: Two children who are engaged in a conflict come away with widely different perspectives on the situation. Learning how to work through conflict to resolution and learning to articulate one’s needs is essential learning for young children who continue to refine this skill as they grow.
While your family can give your children many educational experiences, we provide them the chance to spend time with the diverse group of children. At Baker, we ensure that our students form connections with children who are both similar and different from them. The differences — in background, in approach to a situation, in interests — are the site of great learning for children. Fundamentally it is a developmental leap for children to realize that their peers have a different perspective than they do.
The Case for Laughter. If ever there was a year for your sense of humor to shine, for the relief that comes from a belly laugh and the mindset of flexibility that it allows, this is the year.
Your Diplomatic Mission. Parents need to hold a lot of perspectives since you are the person your child releases their emotions to. This is an important role parents play with their children. I encourage you to listen to what your child says with the natural empathy of a mother or father and the diplomacy of a high-stakes negotiator. Listen and notice. Reacting to each story of frustration can heighten anxiety and create a sense of helplessness. If you notice themes over time, don’t hesitate to reach out to share your observations with your child’s teacher or your child’s advisor.
The Reach- Out Process. With situations that inevitably come up in the life of the school, please contact your child’s teacher first. In moments of worry or anxiety, it is often tempting to, as one parent from years past said to me, “jump the chain.” Our faculty are the daily experts and know your child better than anyone else at school. If you have a middle school student, seek out your child’s teacher, or if your concern affects multiple classes, your child’s advisor.
This Will Not be Perfect. Our family and student needs and preferences during this time could be mapped on a spectrum. Inevitably, there will be many moments during the course of this year when something does not go well from your perspective; there will be a decision you don’t appreciate, there will be a moment when we have a difference of opinion, a regrettable lapse in responding to an email, a misunderstanding. What is most important during those moments is that we are here for our children and for each other. Together, we can navigate thoughtfully through this pandemic in order to understand each other’s perspectives and best support the student.
The Communication Invitation. Please keep your child’s teacher or advisor updated about any challenging issue happening at home – an ailing pet, a traveling parent, a loss in the family can have an impact on school. If a new area of interest, curiosity, or passion is emerging at home, let us know, so we can connect these threads of curiosity at school, too.
This Year will go Fast. The cliches are all true – our children morph before our very eyes. Before we know it, they’ve moved into their next stage of development; and, we are left boxing the clothes they have outgrown for the younger kids in our neighborhood. Together, let’s enjoy this year. It will go quickly. Let’s notice and celebrate these moments that speak to our children’s uniqueness at this particular age and stage.
Here’s to an amazing year.