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From the Principal: January 2016

Dear Families,

When I was teaching, I spent one winter break building all new furniture for my classroom, with help from a well-tooled parent. It’s the kind of thing you do when you’re a new teacher. I finished work at around 4AM on Monday morning, only a few hours before students returned to school. The classroom was completely different, and I was sure my kindergartners were going to love the changes. When they arrived, their response was less enthusiastic than I had anticipated. One child’s reaction pretty much captured the collective sentiment. She walked through the door, burst into tears, and wailed, “But where are the pencils!?” And so began a month long conversation during which I tried to sell my students on the merits of their new, carefully designed and optimized classroom only to have them wax sentimental about how much better the old classroom had been. Even with only a few years of life behind them, nobody is more sentimental than a five year old.

Despite what they claim, children often dislike change. They thrive on predictability, stability, and routine, which isn’t to say that they enjoy boredom. For children, and for adults too, knowing the outlines of one’s life provides a steadying force, a foundation from which to explore and make exciting things happen. After seventy or so days of school, I had pulled the rug from under my students and robbed them of their autonomy. They had to relearn and re-master their environment, and until that happened, they felt disempowered and less able to make the kind of independent choices that drive most worthwhile learning.

I am always reminded of this incident when children transition back to school after longer breaks. As a parent, you can learn much about a school based on how well children slip between the routines of home and classroom. For some children, the transition will always be hard. Remember, children dislike change, and a week is just long enough to set new routines and habits. But children should walk into school like they own the place, like there are no surprises ahead. They should know where the pencils are and have a good idea about how they’re going to use them. And they should know what to expect from the adults who work with them.

On Monday, Jodie and I held the door as usual, and it was great to see our students strolling into school with confidence, purpose, and happiness, undeterred by the bitter cold between home and school. It’s a good sign for the months ahead.

Best,
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PS – On Monday, I also noticed that many children came to school without coats, hats, and other winter gear. It is very important that students come dressed for the weather every day. Thanks to our winter clothing drive, we have lots of winter clothes to give away. If you need some winter clothing, please let Lauren, Mildrid or Mrs. D know. Stay warm!