A new school year has begun! The quality of work we do in the first few weeks of school will lay the groundwork for a productive year of learning. We focus our attention on building connections between students, and between students and teachers, and fostering positive associations with the school environment. Every student in our diverse toddler through grade 8 community has at least one thing in common-  the need for a safe, responsive learning environment. Through intentional planning, children are supported in their desire for positive, reciprocal social interaction, and are provided opportunities to practice ways to be heard and respected while hearing and respecting others. Limits and expectations are made clear as we understand that building a safe nest within which to stretch their wings allows children the confidence to fly! Talk to your teachers about the first weeks of school, and ask how they inspire children in these critical first days to embrace their school experience and become agents in their own learning.

The early childhood classrooms are full of play as teachers observe and interact with our youngest students to build strong bonds of trust and friendship. Separation anxiety is a normal stage of development at this age, and saying goodbye is often as stressful (or more so!) for the parent as it is for the child. Early childhood teachers understand this, and arrange lots of opportunities for questions, explanations, visits to the classroom, and support. In these first school experiences good partnerships with parents are particularly vital, and attention is paid to nurturing these relationships as well as to the relationships fostered with children.

Inspired by Responsive Classroom, first and second grade teachers are focused on making every child feel welcomed and an important member of our classroom community. Morning Meeting conversations build a respectful, caring community by getting to know each other, feeling the connections built with shared experience, and generate excitement for the social and academic learning to come. Repeated opportunities to practice give children a clear understanding of classroom routines, and they take ownership by collaborating to develop classroom rules and brainstorming topics they might want to learn about this year.

In the Jessie Building, home to our seventh and eighth grade classrooms, students are busy composing a Class Constitution. Overheard as children discussed their shared values and how they might inform their work: "In order to value equality, we must value all other’s values as well as our own”; "If we respect each other we can all exist in an emotionally and physically safe space”; "It's important if your living and working in a space to feel like you belong there”.

Welcome back, children! You belong here.