By Dawn Isaacs,
Head of Beginning and Lower School
To contribute and find success in the world, we know our children will need to be able to listen to others, appreciate different perspectives, and work together to solve problems. A primary goal of the Beginning School is to help students become an intentional community of learners. It is big work—and a lifelong journey—to be able to successfully learn, work, and play as part of a larger group. In the Beginning School Beehive, teachers begin by forming strong relationships with the children and families; as these bonds are formed, they foster friendships and thought partners between the children.
The work starts well before the preschoolers arrive on campus. Our preschool teachers visit each child’s home to begin to build a relationship with the entire family. Family members work together to create family books the children look at in class and use to get to know the families of their classmates. Kindergarten teachers meet with parents, and begin to form partnerships between the family and school during September “Tell Us” conferences. The connections formed between teachers and families are essential to cultivating and supporting relationships between the children of the Beehive.
Success in relationships begins with knowing yourself well. Teachers work to help children become more self-aware and able to recognize their emotions and reactions. Visit a classroom and you might overhear children remarking on the level of their “engine” as they come in from recess: “My engine is really high right now because I was running around so much! I need to slow it down for story.” This self-awareness leads to an ability to regulate thoughts and emotions. Throughout the day we weave in habits of mindfulness, and often you’ll see our students doing a couple “volcano breaths” to help get their energy levels to the just-right levels.
Children who are self-aware and able to self-regulate are be better equipped to form relationships with others. Our teachers are keen observers of children and honor the variety of personalities found in a classroom.
Through purposeful groupings and partnerships, teachers work to foster relationships between the children. Even a small moment of the day, such as deciding where children will sit for lunch, is an intentional decision by a teacher to help cultivate a friendship or provide a child with a new perspective.
We also build relationships through songs, traditions, and rituals. Most Fridays during the school year, families and children gather in the Beginning School Well to sing and experience the joy of each other’s company. Morning and Closing meetings provide times throughout the day for the community of students to come together, share news, celebrate successes, and solve problems.
Sometimes children need explicit lessons on how to solve problems as they arise. Through story telling, picture books, role play, and group discussions, students develop a tool box of skills to use when managing relationships with others.
Beehive students capitalize on their relationships to learn with and from each other. Kindergarteners form study groups created by students all interested in the same topic. During their Explorations time they gather as a study group to learn together. Preschoolers, acting out a story in the playhouse, add complexity and nuance to their stories through the contributions of their classmates.
The benefits of the strong relationships formed in the Beehive are vast and varied—from lifelong friendships, to the ability to negotiate a conflict with a peer, to knowing how to work with a group to accomplish a goal. We value the work of building relationships so highly, and give it such prominence in our curriculum, because we know it will endure and benefit the denizens of the Beehive long after they have left the Beginning School.