Many Happy Returns…

The first week at Parker has flown by in a flurry of joyful reunions, warm new welcomes, and plenty of thoughtful foundation building for the year to come. Typically, our first week at Parker is spent building relationships and helping children to establish their identities, both individually and as a community. Parker students are engaged, inquisitive, nurturing, and thoughtful — and nowhere was that more apparent than watching the care and compassion they show for each other and their teachers as they navigated their first few days.
What would you see if you stopped by our classrooms this week? A deliberately constructed day designed to make sure every student feels welcome. Students engaged in exploring not only the question of “Who am I?”, but also, “How can I contribute to my classroom community?” Over the next few weeks, students will build the norms for their class communities, using their own language to outline behavior expectations that lead to care and respect, and a climate conducive to learning. Teachers are taking great care to connect with students, forging critical bonds that will build confidence and motivation for learning in the weeks and months ahead. And our students are doing what they do best: exploring, questioning, and building connections.  Here is a peek at what some of that work looked liked this week:
Lower school students got to flex their growing independence and motor skills as they explored during “Woods Recess” this week. Tree climbing is a right of passage here at Parker, and early in the year we develop community norms that thoughtfully balance safety with the developmental benefits of honoring children’s need to engage in risk play. These two boys worked together, experimenting with multiple ways to scale the limbless tree on the right before finally succeeding. The pride and surprised delight on their faces as each exclaimed “I did it!!!” remind us that even the smallest victories are huge when they are your first.
Fifth grade is the start of middle school here at Parker, and we are very intentional about holding space for the balance beam this age group walks between burgeoning maturity and carefree childhood. It is one of the many reasons we continue to schedule regular recess and time outdoors for our middle school students through 8th grade. Outdoor time gives our older students continued freedom to experiment, freedom to try on identities, and freedom to fail. This results in higher levels of creative thinking, problem solving, independence, and perseverance here in our classrooms.
The first days in our PreK 3 classrooms are surprisingly quiet as our littlest students are intently focused on learning how to be in a classroom together. They practice sitting in a circle, saying hello to friends, sharing spaces and materials, and taking turns. Over the next few weeks, we will delight in watching as their voices evolve and they learn to articulate their curiosities and joys with each other and their teachers. Our PreK 4s, meanwhile, jumped right back into doing what they do best: rolling up their sleeves and getting dirty. This week they enjoyed visiting their outdoor classroom, which they will work to personalize for their unique community in the coming weeks.
Parker prides itself on being a school where every child is known. This sense of belonging – of being accepted, valued, and celebrated – lays the foundation for confidence in digging into the challenging learning that happens in our classrooms. There was no shortage of academics this week, as teachers at every grade level got right to the substantial work of pursuing knowledge with their students. Pictured here, our Kindergarten teacher Julia works with her budding readers on identifying phonics and matching them to different words that make the same sound with an engaging game of bingo. Elsewhere in our halls, mathematicians learned bar modeling to solve equations, ELA students annotated and analyzed poetry, art students learned shading and color value, and scientists learned how experimentation (using building blocks) can help with problem-solving and refining hypotheses to generate a more successful outcome.