I have only two questions: Back-to-School Night Remarks 2015

Last night I had the pleasure of addressing the parents of Early Elementary Division students.  I used both my educator and parent lenses to share what I think is most important about school and what I believe Trinity provides students.  I thought publishing these remarks would be an appropriate way to begin sharing my reflective practices as an administrator.

I come to you tonight as an administrator and a parent.  While my son is now a freshman in high school and my daughter is in the Sixth Grade leadership class, they both started attending Trinity in Pre-K and are stuck at that stage in my mind.  So, as I considered what to share with you tonight, I thought about the only two questions I have when I attend a school event for my own children.

First, are my children in a safe, nurturing place where they are known, loved and feel like they belong?

That’s the question I ask myself intuitively, without really thinking about the science behind why that is so important.  Beyond the obvious reasons of needing to be safe, how a person feels directly impacts their brain function.  Whether a person feels they are safe and has a sense of belonging, or not, impacts their decision making, memory, creativity, and communication.  So, what we are really looking for as parents is to know that our children can be their best selves, and that their ideas and efforts will be appreciated and cultivated.

Trinity is well known for its nurturing environment, and the joy in this place is evidenced in the smiles on both teachers’ and students’ faces.  But, the relationships and joy that are present are not happenstance.  They are the result of purposeful practices.

  • Teachers in the Early Elementary Division take time to know students by carefully observing and archiving student interests, strengths and growth over time in their My Learning portfolios; beautifully capturing student images, voices and thoughts.  This gift will follow students through their time here, allowing each teacher to share in the learning journey.
  • Teachers at Trinity make connections with students and they provide opportunities for students to get to know each other through experiences such as morning meeting.   Every morning students and teachers in each class gather together to practice warmly greeting each other by name, sharing something about themselves such as learning to ride their bike or a story about a family trip.  I often visit classrooms at this time to observe and participate, and I can attest to the impact morning meeting has on community building throughout the year.
  • Safety is also about having a space to stretch oneself, take risks, and try new things.  Trinity promotes an environment where the norm is one of a growth mindset that says anyone can grow and get better at anything when given a chance, support and practice.  At Trinity, we explicitly talk about the importance of trying, making mistakes and trying again – even when something is difficult.  When students have the love and support of their teachers and an environment that promotes true learning, they are free to be their best selves.

Once I am comfortable that my children have a healthy space to think and grow, my next question is…

Are they being prepared for the future?
This question means something different to each person.  For me, my first thought is of student empowerment.  I am looking for teaching practices that develop the capacity to apply knowledge such as creativity, communication skills, critical thinking, and cultural competence.  My husband is more interested in knowledge acquisition.  He wants the specifics of the curriculum such as the content and order of social studies and math so that he knows how to help our children outside of school.  The truth is, both student empowerment and knowledge acquisition are important.  At Trinity we are helping students build knowledge, skills, habits and attitudes because it takes all of that to be prepared for the future.

The foundation of a structure is not usually what is noticed or celebrated, but it is critical in the sustainability of that structure.  The same is often true of early childhood education.  In the Early Elementary Division, we are committed to providing a deep level of foundational skills in literacy and math that students will build upon throughout life; and exposure to social studies, arts and sciences that provides background knowledge and informs future learning.
  • It starts with our teachers.  Our teachers bring passion, professionalism and the highest level of skill to Trinity. This summer, nearly every lead teacher participated in literacy or math professional development at some of the best educational programs in the country.  One even traveled to Italy to learn about the student-centered teaching practice of Reggio Emilia in the town of Reggio Emilia.
  • And, we’ve welcomed a new member into our teaching community.  Becky Holden is the Early Elementary Division math specialist. She is coming to us with tremendous and unique experience in early math.  She is working directly with students to develop mathematical flexibility and practices while providing ongoing coaching to teachers about how to differentiate learning for students in the classroom.
  • Also important at Trinity are the experiential learning opportunities that allow students to explore, practice, collaborate and present.  These opportunities come in places such as the iHub and Idea Lab where students design, build and solve problems.  They happen in the classroom with show and tell, and in front of the entire school community with programs such as the Pre-K Olympics.
These are only a few examples of how Trinity nurtures and prepares students for the future.  As you visit classrooms tonight and listen to teacher presentations, you will see and hear many answers to my questions.  I believe you have faith in what happens at Trinity, or you wouldn’t be here.  I want you to know what happens at Trinity so you can be confident in it.  I am.  Thank you.
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