Welcome to Back-to-School Night for the 2009-10 year. As I considered what I wanted to say tonight, my thoughts kept returning to a talk I heard this summer by Harvard professor and author, Richard Weissbourd. Weissbourd’s article, “The Schools We Mean to Be,” was recently published in the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and is based on his book The Parents We Mean to Be. I highly recommend both.
Weissbourd’s work focuses on the parent-teacher relationship and how, together, we create a community and partnership that drives values clarification, as well as cultivating character and moral development in children. He stresses developing authentic interactions, based on real life issues, and, therefore, “raising a whole person and a good person.” [Listen to his talk, Well-Meaning, Bad Parent, on NPR.]
How lucky are we to be on this journey together at Inly. As parents and teachers in this partnership, it’s always great to understand that here, we are ahead of the curve. Weissbourd’s talk was engaging and challenging, but his message is one that has been the foundation of this school since a group of parents founded The Montessori COMMUNITY School 37 years ago. We have always understood that educating a child is the work of the student, the parent, and the teacher.
To maintain this standard of excellence, and to continue to build a strong parent/teacher partnership, we have to work together. In that vein, here is some of my advice for the year (some of it includes my pet peeves, some just things I’ve learned throughout my 35 years in education). Here goes:
Please attend our curriculum nights and parent meetings. Our teachers work very hard to help you understand what is going on in the classroom. Come to as many of our “Insight Events” as you possibly can!
Please come and hear our two guest author/speakers this year. The first of which is Michelle Nicholson, who will be speaking in October. Don’t miss her talk and, do read her new book, I Break for Meltdowns. In the spring, Diane Levin will be talking about her new book, So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and How Parents Can Protect Their Kids. She speaks around the world on the impact of violence, media and other societal issues on children, families and schools.
Please continue to spend time with your children. You should read to them every night—not the kind of reading where they read back to you to improve their skills, but reading where they can close their eyes, hear the beauty of language, and let their imaginations soar.
Please try to strike a balance. Whether it’s television/computer/electronic game time or scheduling piano, gymnastics, soccer and flag football games—give them unstructured time to create, dream and play. They need time to develop their own imaginations—not use images driven and designed commercially.
Please don’t solve all of your child’s problems. Give extra time in the mornings. Let them button their own coats, make their own lunches, and pack for their own field trips. Don’t solve their playground issues for them. Ask the right questions, support them, but give your children time to live, grow, make their own mistakes and learn from them.
Please get them to school rested and on time. They will be able to do their best work when they’re prepared for the precious few hours they’re with us. I also believe that starting the habit of being on time at a young age is a great one…And, if that argument doesn’t work, I can tell you that students who have fewer “tardies” or “absences” on their records get the deciding vote when they are applying for secondary schools.
Please remember that all learning is a process that takes time and practice. Give your children long periods of time to review what they’re learning and an opportunity to practice what they’ve learned. Take joy in their accomplishments and don’t add the stressors of adding more learning every minute of every day or of comparing them to the other children you know. Celebrate them for who they are.
Please support the teachers and the teaching staff. When your child comes home with a story, please consider that there are two sides to every story. Try to sort it out before calling me to lodge a complaint! In addition – I have asked the teachers to really watch their time online, on the phone, and in extra meetings with you. Please respect that. I want them to spend time with your children. They will only return phone calls before school and after school. If there is an emergency, or you have a change of plans for dismissal time, please call the office, and we’ll get the message out. Also, don’t be offended if they “ignore” you as a Facebook friend! I’ve asked them to balance their time, and, again, spend more time with your children.
Please don’t take away their pain. Small bumps in the road for a child are just that…small bumps in the road. However, when you take away that pain, and prevent those bumps, you child does not have the opportunity to practice—practice in creating strategies for themselves. They will need these skills to overcome the more difficult challenges in life.
Please don’t call groups of children “guys.” The research out of the Stone Center at Wellesley College tells us that girls most often think their lives would be better if they were boys, and that is based on years of the societal generalization “guys.” We don’t want our girls to feel that way!
Please don’t tell them that they are “awesome” all the time! Save the truly awesome comments for something that is truly awesome. Your children will soon discern what is truly their best work, and they will value your comments more when they honestly reflect their efforts.
Please know that we pay attention. We stay current with news, and work to understand what is happening with Swine flu, with emerging allergies in young children, and everything else that comes our way in this complicated world. We know that we are certainly not perfect, and our always open to advice.
Mostly, please enjoy your child’s childhood. You are giving them a great start and a terrific education. This time is a treasure—so, enjoy!
I look forward to a great year together.