On this first day of school, I walked through Baker classrooms where I observed a group of preschoolers busily creating a meal in the outdoor kitchen, while another group talked about the food they were making by rolling, cutting, and shaping clay. Our 4th graders were planning an afternoon exploration to the lake – complete with sand castle designs. I was equally inspired while listening to middle schoolers in advisory talking about their hopes and dreams for the coming year as they created an advisory coat of arms.
Today marks the beginning of many days to come where our faculty gets to engage with your children; and, one thing I do know is that they are so excited for the coming year. 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 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, we are committed to keeping our students at the center of our major decisions, our conversations, our work.
As we start this year, I’d like to share with you my own list of ideas under the theme of How to Have an Amazing Year. Ideas, both large and small, that I like to revisit each year as we begin together.
- The Other 17 students. One of the most important parts of your child’s daily learning and growth are their interactions with other children. While you can give your children many educational experiences, we provide them the chance to spend time with the diverse group of children in their classroom, on the playground, in buddy classes, at lunch, in advisory. 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. I encourage you to talk openly about what “difference” means to your family. There is much good that can come from these family conversations.
- The Value of the 3pm Snack. Our brains are all state-based organs. In order to thrive, children require the basics – sleep, food, water, a warm embrace. Students – from our younger preschoolers to our newly-minted eighth graders – have little reserves when they feel depleted. In light of this, I highly recommend not asking your child about their day until they have had a cheese stick, or your own high-protein snack equivalent, in their mouth on your ride home from school.
- The Importance of Perspective Taking. 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.
- The Reach out to the Teacher. 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.
- The Reminder that We Are in This Together. There will be a moment during the course of this year when something does not go well from your perspective; 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 difference 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.
- The Moments.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.