Our first day of school at Parker is deliberately constructed to make sure that every student feels welcomed. At many schools, students spend their first day listening– and teachers spend the first day talking at those students. What one sees at Parker is very different.
Students learn best when they feel connected– to their classmates and to the adults who teach them. Our students are fortunate in that our families have cultivated these feelings of connection in their homes– our students come to school ready to expand their connections to their school community.
Through the first days of school, teachers and students work in classrooms and, in the case of the middle school, with grades 6-8 together, to develop the language needed to describe the classroom norms that will promote learning best. When students get to create the guidelines and name the behaviors for themselves, they have ownership and agency which helps build community and a positive climate. What emerges is not a list of “do’s” and “don’ts,” but rather some ideals. Without cynicism, we can call them lofty. Some examples:
Listen to each other
Act with kindness
Let everyone play
No one expects perfection from every student, every moment of the year– learning would never happen if that were the case! But we need to imagine the ideal in order to aim high, and in order to promote conversations about what communities need in order to serve and include everyone.
We give students the opportunity to describe “the way we want our class to be,” so that they can then build that vision through the year. For adults, this inspires, and helps us to remember that we too, are building on a vision of the way “we want our world to be,” as we educate the next generation of adults.