In a typical year… Under normal circumstances… In years gone by…
These opening lines just do not fit the moment we find ourselves in. And words like “unprecedented” or “unusual” can no longer describe a third school year that is being impacted by this global pandemic. As we move into the start of this school year, we find ourselves (yet again) revisiting, reconfiguring, reimagining to meet this moment; a moment that I am referring to as our “for now normal”. Things are not the same as they were pre-Covid; things are not the same as they were in lockdown, last September or even in June. Instead for now normal seems to be a state of constant fluidity and ambiguity. So how do we meet the complexity of this unique moment? At Greenhouse we meet the moment by centering what we always center – what is best for young children.
When we keep kids at the center of our problem solving, we find that there is a lot that feels familiar in this for now normal. A new school year is always filled with equal parts excitement, anticipation and worry. In any school year – there is the thrill of seeing your child grow and develop into a school kid, with the quiet longing to hold on to that sweet little baby a little longer. There is the deep yearning for the stability provided by a predictable routine, mixed with a feeling of dread at having to get everyone up and out of the house each morning! There is the fear and worry of separation and glee in the prospect of a morning cup of coffee, sitting alone on a bench, in the sunshine…This are just a few of the inherent contradictions found in any new school year. But in this moment – in this, for now normal – all of that can get compounded by the unknown, invisible viruses, possible quarantines and too many other potential scenarios to even think about!
But if we stop, take a breath and step back from that and instead keep our focus on what is best for our kids, we gain clarity and a sense of purpose that allows us to move forward with intention.
At Greenhouse, we know that giving kids the opportunity to be inside of warm, trusting relationships with other people is fundamental to their learning and growth. We know that relationships provide the very foundation for human development. For now normal must include time, space and intention for building relationships with other people. Those relationships have already started with Zoom calls, outdoor visits and classroom visits.
The teacher – child relationship is key to a child’s school life. The teachers will work to build a strong, trusting bond with each individual child through warm, responsive, interactions.
Teachers will help to build strong relationships with the children by providing a rich, stimulating learning environment that fosters wonder, delight and joy. Teachers will facilitate meaningful conversations about your child’s personal life story and family. They may ask your children reflective questions like “I wonder…” or “Did you try…” to help move a child’s thinking forward. Eventually that trusting bond will include the sharing of delicious snacks, good stories and warm hugs. Each of these interactions shows children that teachers are kind, predictable and trustworthy. In for now normal, these close, warm, supportive relationships between your children and their teachers are core to school success.
Equally important – especially in for now normal — are the relationships children will make with each other. If there is a lesson to be learned by our experience in this pandemic, it is that human beings are wired to be in social relationships with others. We need it. Our kids need it. That said, being in a social relationship with another person is hard work! Making a friend is challenging and keep a friend is even more challenging. The skills of communication, cooperation, empathy and impulse control needed to make and keep a friend are essential skills children need to practice and school is the just right place to practice them. Being in a relationship with another person is intense work (even for adults!) and it is especially true for children—who are just at the beginning of learning what it means to be in a relationship. They will require time and practice. This is not something that happens once and done. Some days? They will forget some of the things they they learned. Some days will be harder than others. But we know and expect that, as it is part of the learning process. Learning how to be in a relationship is an ongoing process— one that begins in nursery school and easily lasts throughout your lifetime.
At Greenhouse, we also know that it is best for kids if we build a strong relationship to you – the most important grownups in their life! While for now normal makes this a challenge, it is one we are up for! We’ve found great success using technology as a tool to communicate with parents. Whether it is our regular blogs, virtual class curriculum meetings, or sharing Google photo folders, the teachers have been very creative in finding ways to share information about your child’s learning and development. In addition to sharing information, we are finding ways to connect and build community. My virtual Parent Group meetings are a great way for you to meet other parents and commiserate about the challenges found in parenting!
Our active and dynamic Parent Association is another great way to get connected. The PA is spearheaded by our Co-Chairs Katie Baker and Marissa Zalk, along with an assigned Class Rep from each of your classes. The PA is already planning for ways for parents to connect and build community outside of school. If there is one thing that I know to be true – in for now normal or normal normal – these people in the Zoom boxes next to you are some of the kindest, most generous people I have ever met! Take advantage of that – make some friends yourself! You will not regret it! There really isn’t another group of people that I’d want to spend my for now normal with than Greenhouse people! Greenhouse people have a shared understanding of what is best for kids — specifically a strong connection and relationship with one another. As a community – Greenhouse has a proven history of its commitment to protecting young children’s early childhood years – even through the unimaginable — and giving them a safe, healthy, rich, magical, joyful educational beginning. And I am thrilled to find ourselves at the beginning of another such year. And welcoming each of you to the Greenhouse community.