An Inly Parent’s Perspective by Rachel Rich
In my former career I was a 7th and 8th grade history teacher at a charter school that practiced a concept known as “looping”. Looping was the idea that most students would have the same homeroom teacher, content teachers, and specialist teachers for a two year period. The school was divided into levels and students into cohorts to support this practice. From the standpoint of a teacher, I absolutely loved it. I had an entire year to get to know a child and an additional year to further develop the relationship and work with the individual child based on who they were as a learner. They got to know me as a teacher and as a person. It was a wonderful opportunity for both sides to capitalize on the extra time together to make the most out of the student’s middle school years.
Now, as a parent, I find incredible value in the placement of a child with the same teacher for multiple years. My husband and I have many reasons for sending our children to Inly. The mixed-age, multi-year classroom is one of them. Our oldest child has gone through one complete three-year cycle in the Children’s House program and has begun a second cycle in Lower Elementary. Our 4-year daughter is currently a second year in Children’s House. Our 3-year old is in her second year of Toddler House while our current youngest has just begun her first year in Toddler House. Our family has experienced first hand the benefits that come with placing a child at a school where they have the same teacher and the same classroom for several years.
Deeper, Stronger, & Valuable Teacher Relationships
Our son had some social challenges during his Kindergarten year. The kind that could have potentially ruined the fun of school and stripped the joy of learning from him for many of his formal schooling years. However, because of the relationship he had developed with his teacher over his first two years in Children’s House, the anxiety he developed around school was short-lived. His teacher knew who he was as a person. She understood not only his academic capabilities but his nature and his innate goodness. Without that knowledge, understanding, and support our child may have had a different resolution as he worked through his social struggles. Instead of a negative outcome, we now have a first grader who has many positive friendships, is always willing to help a younger child, and loves going to school. I know that the time put in by his teacher to get to know him over the course of those years made all the difference during that challenging period.
Time to Follow the Child and Provide Individualized Instruction
When my daughter was a first year, she was only interested in imaginary play that involved horses and farms. Works that supported this interest were made accessible to her. I saw pictures of her sorting farm animals. Papers taped together to create maps of horse and unicorn images came home several times. She was offered horse puzzle pieces to practice outlining and eventually drawing horses on her own. I loved that instead of forcing her into more concrete works and activities, her teachers used her imagination and creative play to help her shift. When she was ready, we began to see the more focused concentration and concrete learning. Today we hear stories of her working diligently on handwriting, pin-punching, and cutting. Yet, she still has that imagination, but it has evolved. She now can be found making books where she draws intricate scenes (usually of horses, unicorns, and rainbows) from her mind and attempts to put words with them. To me, this is what learning and development looks like. I believe that because her teachers met her where she was and guided her through her growth, she was allowed to be herself. As a result she has kept that beautiful creativity and imagination that could have easily been lost in a different type of educational environment. When she comes home from school, she almost always goes immediately to her horses, and fairies, and the little people, engaging in very deep imaginative play. I’m so thankful for that and know that the ability of the teachers to provide individualized and intentional instruction over multiple years has had a direct impact.
By having the same teacher for a two-three year cycle, my children develop a personal connection with them, feel safe to take risks, and look forward to seeing them each Monday. They learn and are taught in a way that is best suited to them, with room for adjustment, observation, and time.
Youngest, Middle, and Oldest Opportunities
My three year old is a September baby. She is currently in her 2nd year of Toddler House, but could easily function as a 1st year in Children’s House. She is also the third child out of four, soon to be five, children and the second girl out of four. It is not uncommon for her to get lost in the oldest child personalities of our first two children. I resisted the temptation of having her start Children’s House early (but yet not really that early) because we felt that she needed the chance to be the oldest child. It was the right decision. She is thriving with the opportunity to be a nurturing and helping friend to her little sister and classmates. It is helping her develop her own identify and learn her strengths and capabilities. She has the opportunity to help younger children learn to complete an entire work cycle, wash their hands and clear their plates after community snack, and demonstrate for them the popular toddler coat-flip. She has found friends that she can interact with on her level and she is quick to look out for those younger.
This year, I watched as my son immediately gravitated towards the older students in his class Even though he sometimes comes home with new content (usually bathroom jokes) I’m not always quite ready for, his attention to the behaviors, etiquette, and abilities of the older children are clearly influencing him by shaping him into a more mature and respectful young man. I am really grateful for this positive influence. What makes the opportunity for children to be the youngest, middle, and oldest child in a communal setting even better, is that as the teachers get to deeply know the children they are able to help facilitate these relationships and interactions when necessary so that the transfer of knowledge and skills is for the most part what we as parents are hoping for!
I am loving the mixed-aged, multi-year classroom experience. I see how all of my children are benefiting from it daily and have really seen how a full cycle has made a difference in the educational experience of my oldest. By having the same teacher for a two-three year cycle, my children develop a personal connection with them, feel safe to take risks, and look forward to seeing them each Monday. They learn and are taught in a way that is best suited to them, with room for adjustment, observation, and time. They also get to have a chance to play the role of the youngest, middle, and oldest child which I find invaluable when we are all permanently slotted to a specific position in our own family makeup! It is a beautiful component of the Montessori Method that makes perfect sense to me.
About Rachel Rich
Rachel Rich is a Content Writer, Educator, and Inly parent of four children. She possesses a K-12 Reading Specialist license, 5-12 History and ESL teaching license, and a Master of Arts in Special Education. She currently works as an Education, Child Development, and Parenting Content Writer out of her home in Scituate while caring for her four children. This school year, her children span Toddler House through Lower Elementary. Her fifth child is due in late January of 2020! She enjoys reading, writing, yoga, and being a mother and wife.