February 19, 2015

Is This The Secret Sauce?

Three of our preschool teachers: Christie, Caroline, & Hetta
Parents and visitors often ask me what is it about Friends’ School that makes us such a strong community?  What do we do that gives us such a great reputation for fostering social and emotional growth in children?

There are many ways to answer these crucial questions, but there is no doubt that a huge part of the answer is the quality of the people who come to work here every day.

Before school started in January, our teachers and staff spent the day together addressing several issues.  The most important one was: How can we become a stronger community?

Our staff participated in a workshop, presented by two long-time employees, 2nd grade teacher Diane Bramble and Teacher Preparation Program co-director Shelby Pawlina, on how we, as adults, can improve our communication with each other:

- how we can connect more?
- how we can create the time to get to know each other and have fun and laugh    together?
- how can we take care of ourselves and each other?
- how can we treat each other in ways that are kind, respectful, and positive?

With everyone on staff being so busy and giving 100% of their time and energy to their work, you can imagine that it’s not always easy to find time to do these things well.

In the weeks since we gathered as a whole staff, fascinating things have been happening.

Our Friends' School staff knows how to have a good time!
We have found that by paying attention to our words and our actions, we are more present and more caring with one another.  We are being mindful of our meeting times and using them more efficiently.  We are finding times to connect with other staff members with whom we do not work closely – on walks, during social happy hours, inviting each other to attend events together outside of school, carpooling, and sharing lunch together. I arrived at my car after one snowy school day to discover that one of our teachers had brushed off all the snow.

This week, our teaching staff gathered again to explore further these same issues. What’s working is good – how can we continue to do this even better?  Teachers gathered in teams to explore how we can do an even better job of learning from each other, communicating with each other, being open to our changes and mistakes, taking care of one another.

We generated more ideas! We have a commitment to read The Four Agreements as an entire staff, to create book clubs, to bring in crockpot lunches to share, to find common goals and learning opportunities, to organize movie nights and barbecues, to spend more time in each other’s classrooms, and to continue to commit to communicating in ways that are kind, respectful, and positive.

With a group of educators and administrators like this, who want to treat each other this way, and who entered this profession because of their love of children and desire to support children’s growth, it’s no wonder that they ask the same of their students. 

It’s no wonder that they expect that children treat each other with kindness and respect – and they give their students the tools and skills to be able to do this.  It’s no wonder our classrooms are places where children laugh while they learn.  It’s no wonder parents tell us daily how much their children are excited to come to school.  And it’s no wonder that our playgrounds are filled with children, parents, and caregivers every afternoon because the kids just don’t want to leave.

It is an honor, a privilege and a joy to work alongside our staff and teachers every day.

Is this the secret sauce?  Can we bottle it?

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