I hope the beginning of the school year has gone smoothly at your home. As a parent I know how stressful it can be to get everyone back to school!
Our first week here at school went very well and it feels like we are settling into the routines. During these first weeks and days, our focus is on getting to know each other again after the long summer break. We also set about getting to know our new children, parents and staff. I always struggle a bit getting to know all the new names of students and parents. There are hundreds of names of children and parents that I've needed to learn now that I've been doing this for 28 years, and that's before I became a Director and all 150 students are in "my class".
Still, we know that name memorization and recollection is worth all the effort. Being able to greet each other by name as we move around our building is an essential component of our commitment to know all the children. Authentically greeting each other by name is a key building block in the formation of the many trusting relationships that are needed for learning to happen. So how do we set about learning the names of 150 children? This process is embedded in the social curriculum that takes place in the first weeks of school. During these first few weeks, in classroom Morning Meetings, teachers are focusing on building community within their classroom. Knowing each other's name is an essential component in that community building. Every morning during their meetings each child is greeted by name, using many different greetings that they learn throughout the year. All of our teachers, and many paras, have been trainied in using Responsive Classroom (RC). Morning Meeting is an essential component in RC. Building a strong community of respect, kindness and perseverance is an important part of everyone's classroom and when that is established we see those same attributes through the entire building. Over the coming weeks, children will learn the names of their friends in other classes in the school as the children are intentionally mixed together during games and play.
At our All School Meeting on September 12th, sped para Nicki Schaefer will present her Spotlight, using this year's Spotlight poster. She will be modelling for all of our students, what is expected on the day that they present their Spotlight to their own Homerooms. Next week in Homeroom classrooms teachers will model how to do a spotlight presentation. The last week of September is when students will begin giving their Spotlights. Teachers begin with Woodlands students that have the most experience doing their presentations. All of this modeling is well thought out, so that all of our students feel comfortable when their turn comes up. Our Spotlight program has been running for over 25 years, giving students opportunities to speak in public and to build connections in their Homerooms and throughout our school. It is a wonderful tradition, that every Tuesday in our Homerooms, one student is in the Spotlight and is able to share facts about themselves. When students leave Nerstrand they are given a DVD will all of the Spotlights they have done over the years. I know from personal experience (both my daughters went to Nerstrand) that this is a cherished keepsake of their time here.
Names matter, they help us to build our community. So, that work will continue and I will add learning the names of new parents to the list. Please forgive me if I struggle with names. I will get there eventually!