A Note from Principal Tony Byers: April 2018

Dear Families,

I may be tempting fate by saying this, but it seems like spring is finally here. Maybe this year’s winter was no worse than usual, but its bitter cold and snowy finale, followed by several unwelcome encores, contributed to a feeling of unending seasonal entrapment. Everybody is ready to get outdoors! And with this change, from inside to outside, comes an even more important psychological shift. During winter, we dart from one interior to the other, focused on challenges right in front of us. It’s an inward focused season. When spring arrives, it’s possible to slow down, step outside and take a more outward facing and inclusive perspective. In our neighborhoods, we begin to see each other more often, rebuilding community one front stoop or porch conversation at a time. And in this way, schools are like neighborhoods. Even though students continue to arrive at school every morning, the added strain of winter (Short days! Snow pants! The flu!), on both families and teachers, means a narrower focus on our own children and classrooms. But when the first crocuses emerge, like neighbors retuning to their stoops, our attention shifts once again to the broader community.

If you think about it, school communities are actually set up like neighborhoods in miniature. Individual households (classrooms) are clustered around shared municipal spaces (hallways, playground, cafeteria, etc.) with convenient access to specialized services, such as medical care (nurse’s office), social services (family liaisons and social workers), and public safety (one of the administration’s many functions). And, like real neighborhoods, schools draw their strength from the interconnected and interdependent lives of their inhabitants. In good neighborhoods and good schools, people take collective responsibility for each other, whether they like it or not. This is especially true for children who, up until recently, enjoyed more freedom to roam their neighborhoods than most of our children do today. But actually, this freedom was just a different kind of supervision. As a child, I had less direct supervision than my children do, but far more indirect supervision. In other words, neighbors and other community members were watching me and were empowered to intervene when I messed up (which rarely happened, of course). Everything I did got back to my mother, eventually, and I knew it.

Good schools work the same the way. Children have close relationships with a small number of adults, but all adults are empowered to look after them and to intervene when necessary. And like in a good neighborhood, word always gets back to the family, in this case, a child’s classroom teacher (or many times, a child’s actual family). This collective ownership of all children might annoy students sometimes, but it’s also what makes them feel safe and cared for. So as the warm weather of spring approaches, and students shake off the long winter, we expect them to spill into our neighborhood streets, or hallways, with a little more energy than usual. This spring, we’ve recommitted ourselves to a more neighborly approach to managing student behavior in the common spaces of our school. All adults will follow up with students' classroom teachers when they observe inappropriate or unsafe behavior, and then teachers may follow up with you. It’s a small thing, maybe, but it’s the small things that make a neighborhood work.


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