What's The Purpose of School

We completed our first set of conferences at Nerstrand.  This is an important point, where teachers, families and students sit down and reflect on the start of the year.  A couple of years ago we changed these beginning conferences and moved them to October.  This has been a good change for us.  Our focus during this first set of conferences was about how students have transitioned to a new year.  Yes, we include information about their first assessments of the school year, but more importantly, what are teachers seeing in their classrooms?  How are children adjusting?  What are their relationships with peers?  What early strengths and struggles are teachers seeing in their students?  
It's so easy for all of us to get so caught up in assessments, that we can forget about the importance of school in the social and emotional life of children.  Students will be surprised when I ask them, " Why do we go to school?"  They always say to learn.  I ask them , "What do you learn at school?"  Invariably they tell me that they are here to learn to read and understand math.  They are surprised when I say that just as important as their academics is their learning about relationships.  Recess is as meaningful as their time in small and large groups listening and learning in their classrooms.  
At Nerstrand School, we have children working together throughout their day.  With so  many technological distractions in our lives, these connections with other people, everyday, is even more necessary.  Classmates are an essential part of our learning.  I see students everyday learning how to negotiate, and compromise.  Showing empathy and encouragement to others.  There's so much emphasis on bullying and parents are fearful of how other children treat their children, but we forget how important contact with other children everyday is in learning to grow up to be a happy and balanced adult that is able to have healthy relationships.  Sometimes exchanges with peers can be messy, not all learning is easy, but it isn't something to be avoided.  It's important work that children are doing all the time. These interactions help them learn how to make friends, keep friends, work with people that are different from themselves and have experiences with others that will bring color and texture to their lives.  This also includes student's interactions with the adults in the building as well.  
At Nerstrand, we have always emphasized the importance of the whole child at our school.  Sometimes all the emphasis on testing and accountability can distract us from this part of our mission.  Conferences are an excellent time for all of us to remember that the students we teach are learning and growing in so many ways, and not all of that learning can be measured.  If we all think back on our time in elementary school, I don't think anyone would remember their favorite test.  We all remember the connections we had that resulted in wonderful learning.  Here's the holding onto the joy of learning in all areas of our lives!