January 25, 2018

A Community Like No Other

Rayback was rocking with Friends School families on Friday night of last week!

With more than 300 people at our school’s 30th Birthday Party, we all had a fantastic time!  Kids and parents from different classes connected well; parents got to know teachers and staff they often don’t socialize with; several of our alumni students, parents and staff became re-acquainted with old friends; Bev Cole, one of our school’s founding parents enjoyed herself immensely; and we had all three of our Heads of Schools in the same place at the same time.

This really is an extraordinary school community!

Three heads in one: Steve, Polly & Honor
There are dozens of articles online, including one I wrote back in 2014, that highlight the enormous advantages of an independent school education.  One can find many common themes in all our schools: mission-driven education, individual attention, small class sizes, excellent teachers who go the extra mile, whole child education, and more.

In an article on the website of the National Association of Independent Schools, entitled “The Independent School Advantage”, one of the key benefits is listed as this:

“A community of parents who actively participate in their children’s education. Independent schools promote regular communication among students, parents, and teachers to ensure everyone is working toward the same goals. As a parent, you can actively engage in your student’s education, because the staff and teachers want and value your participation.”

When parents connect – with each other, with their child’s teacher, with the wider school community, and when we connect with parents - children feel it.  When parents are involved directly with their child’s educational experiences, children succeed.

Jessie Vanden Hogen, Bev Cole, Meg Hansen
At Friends, we have many ways for you to formally connect with the school – and this week’s

parent-teacher conferences in the elementary and middle schools are a prime example of that.

However, we see our parents connecting in so many other ways. The party at Rayback was one example. A brunch at one family’s home to welcome our incoming head, Honor Taft, this past weekend was another.  But we also see our preschool parents hanging out together, and even reading books to each others’ children, as they wait for the preschool doors to open in the morning.

We see parents talking in the hallways and parking lots after dropping their children off. We have class potlucks and socials sprinkled throughout the year.  Last week, several parents attended a marvelous parent education event on mindfulness with 3rd grade teacher Krysten Fort-Catanese. We host many parent events like that during the year.  Coming up on January 31 is a film we are showing at our North Campus, called Finding Kind, which will help parents and teachers to understand girl-on-girl bullying.

In our middle school, I see how often our administrative staff connect with our 6th and 7th grade students.  Sometimes helping them with a project, sometimes being the subject of their projects, sometimes just eating lunch together, as students, teachers and staff collaborate together.

In a recent online review, one of our middle school parents wrote (among other very positive things)

Several of our teachers and staff getting ready to party!
“For the first time in years, our son enjoys school and learning again. He gets up in the morning excited to go, and says his day was great when we pick him up. You couldn’t ask for a more caring, present, insightful, focused team of teachers! ….There is such a diverse, kind, beautiful group of individuals in the middle school right now and I’ve heard from teachers and kids alike that they jive and work as a team so well…. Given the small size, our son has gotten more attention than ever….He has thrived at Friends this year in large part because he receives the attention that makes him care, try his hardest and feel good.

Community and real connection are more important than ever, in this era which is so divisive nationally, and in which our children can be drawn into online worlds so easily and for such long periods of time. Friends School strives to keep community and connection at the forefront in a changing world where these virtues can easily slip away. 

So thank you for making the connections and for being part of our community.  My wife, daughter and I had a wonderful time at the 30th Birthday Party and it was a lovely occasion for my Denver-based family to get to know many of you on a personal level.

This really is a community like no other. Thank you for being part of it 

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