At the end of week two, we reflect on what it means to “build community.” This week, families of children in grades 1-5 had their September family/teacher conferences, an important BNS tradition to start the year. These essential conversations set the stage for the year to come, and we hope you found time and space to share reflections of your child’s prior school experience, what you know about your children as learners, and perhaps even goals, hopes, and dreams for your children. We know, too, that many conversations also centered around your lives during the pandemic, the impacts on your children’s learning and your families, and what continues to swirl around us. In these conversations, some of those foundational blocks of our community were built.
And while that took place, your children were in the care of our mental health and wellness team (Dalisa, Carrie H, Joseph, Brandon, Victor, Irelis, Monique, Kana and Armando) as well as our specialty teachers (also called clusters – David, Sarah, Taura, Karen) and many of our long-term substitute teachers, who helped us stay afloat last year. In groups, they played games to practice each other’s names, they exercised their bodies and their minds with stretches and poses, playtime and cooperative games. They talked, shared, and got to know each other: some more blocks in place, more community built. BNS is a network of helpers, connections, and learning.
We dedicated another window of time during these sessions to Town Halls – an annual tradition of gathering by grade (this year, outdoors, in smaller groups) to review important rules and routines for “the times we all move around”: arrivals, breakfast, lunch, recess, dismissal, and busing. We talked about how we play safely, look out for each other, and take care of our shared spaces. We reviewed the MOST important rules of all (“always sit on the bus!” “Say goodbye to your teacher at dismissal!” “Water fountains are for filling water bottles, not drinking from because of COVID.”) – all in your children’s words, with some guiding questions from us, Diane and Malika. We closed each session with some words from our special guests, the Helping the Environment Team (HET).
Four years ago, two third graders with a passion for environmental protection started the HET, leading to events like No Trash Day, neighborhood clean up, and fundraisers for animal habitat protection. In June 2021, they graduated, but not without a legacy plan. They shared their ways with third graders, now in fourth, who take the reigns and lead the work forward. With a new sister-group for second graders focusing on animal conservation (EAS – Endangered Animal Survival) and renewed HET energy (including a new events chairperson, Donovan!), the HET spoke at the second, third, and fourth grade town halls to encourage membership.
These leaders made their vision clear: “Imagine your ice cream cone, melting on your hand in the summer. Annoying, right? Well imagine you’re a polar bear and your house was made of melting ice cream. That’s what’s happening because of global warming. Join HET to learn more and help make a difference.”
And just as the children gathered outside for their community building, so did our families, for our first in-person PTA meeting / Families as Learning partners on-site since March 2020. Families heard updates about the important goings-on of the Fall at BNS, and they participated in some community building of their own, my mixing and mingling into groups of 2, 3, and 5 to make connections and share their experience of the last two school years.
When we carve out the time and put in the energy to get to know each other, we build steadier ground for the work that’s to come. We know we will have lots to talk about this year, and beyond. We look forward to continuing the conversation.
Diane & Malika
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