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No matter how many times I’ve done this (and the years are certainly adding up), I experience equal measures of excitement and nervousness as I enter each new school year. Excited about each new student who steps into my room for the first time, as well as each familiar student who continues to unfold there. Nervous about whether I will find the needed insight, patience, and composure to meet the inevitable complexities along the way. Our students come with their own versions of excitement and nervousness as they enter a new grade, meet a new classmate, work with a new teacher, and re-establish themselves. And how about parents as they also bring their hopes, worries, and dreams into this new year? What a vibrant and intricate community we have here!
Now that we are two weeks into the school year, it is a good time for all of us adults to sit down with each other to begin and/or renew the process of sharing our hopes and dreams. Back to School Night really is just that, an invitation to begin our process of working together. Each of the four classroom sessions that evening is incredibly brief, so our goals as teachers are rather simple. We hope that by giving you a glimpse into this year’s curriculum, including the way we present it, that you will feel some of the excitement we hope to inspire in your children, and that you get a sense of how much we enjoy teaching and learning with your kids.
Now we can’t help but bring along our worries too, it’s just part of the deal that makes us such powerful advocates at times, and at other times makes it hard to truly listen. So the worries will be there, but I encourage you to listen and watch closely as you visit each classroom to see if those worries get some relief or not. If the latter proves to be true, then I respectfully ask you to set up a time with us later so that together we can explore ways to address those worries in the deep manner they deserve.
I also would like to encourage you to watch and listen for hints of Responsive Classroom practices as you visit each classroom. Last year, two teachers attended a level one workshop on this approach, and this year five teachers attended the workshops. We are very early on in weaving some of the specific strategies into our teaching practices, but when it comes to the core beliefs of both Bixby and the Responsive Classroom approach, they are remarkably similar. This is how RC articulates their basic tenets:
–The social and emotional curriculum is as important as the academic one
–How children learn is as important as what they learn
–Great cognitive growth occurs through social interaction
–To be successful academically and socially, children need to learn a set of social and emotional skills that include cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self-control
–Knowing the children we teach—individually, culturally, and developmentally—is as important as knowing the content we teach
–Knowing the families of the children we teach is as important as knowing the children we teach
–How we, the adults at school, work together is as important as our individual competence: Lasting change begins with the adult community.
If you have a chance, take a moment to look back over our core beliefs and you’ll see that Pat and Bart’s instincts and knowledge led them to many of the same conclusions. What a dynamic school they created, and what a privilege it is to be part of it today! I hope to see many of you next Tuesday evening…
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