How does the old saying go? “Well begun is half done?”
Our doors opened yesterday to begin our 8th year at Little Owl. Our new and returning families, along with their children, lit up our whole school with laughter, tears, play, and the kind of chatty hopefulness that always accompanies the start of a school year. This new beginning feels especially emotional for me because, after spending 7 years as a teacher on the Green Side, I have been given a new title…and a new sense of purpose.
I am stepping into the role of Parent Educator/Family Resource.
Words can’t really describe how elated I am to be taking on this new position, I have been pursuing it internally for a while, and I’ve been very vocal about the reasons why I feel like it’s such an important asset to our community. Somewhere in the middle of last year I had reached such a critical point in my career (and life, really) that I felt compelled to write a letter about how I was feeling and share it with Linda, our director. Here is the analogy that I came up with to describe my predicament:
I am a tree who has outgrown it’s pot.
Let me be clear and say that the desire to move out of the classroom was never about getting away from the kids. I adore being with children and have grown personally and professionally in innumerable ways while working in a classroom with them. I imagined myself as a tree who was planted in fresh soil when I first got hired here 9 years ago. Over these years I have been watered, nurtured and been given lots of room for my roots to go deep, and they certainly did. This job has afforded me the time and perfect environment to reach my potential as an educator, and the fruits of my labor have been the connections I’ve made. My thinking has been so positively impacted by the other extremely dedicated educators I have worked with, my understanding of our collective philosophy has strengthened, and every year I’ve worked on projects I felt truly proud of.
When I became a Mama myself in 2012, this foundation of knowledge I had accumulated over my years of teaching was simultaneously challenged and broadened. I saw everything from a new perspective. I gained so much empathy for sleep deprived parents, and understood their motivations more than I ever had before. I had so many a-ha! moments, and found such delight in being a new mother, but I also realized how daunting it can be to feel such uncertainty at times, not to mention how overwhelming it can be to look for answers in this (too much) information age.
I devoured articles, went to classes, and even hosted mini in-house workshops for my parents who were caring for my daughter while I went back to work. I absolutely reveled in talking with parents once I was back, something I felt I was never really good at before. I started feeling more confident as a teacher and my commitment to child advocacy was renewed. Talking with parents about child development, theories and practices was all I wanted to do. I had found a new path that I wanted to travel down, I felt like I had discovered a new calling. I was ready for a bigger pot and more fertile soil so I could branch out even further. To say that I’m grateful for the opportunity now, to support families and young children at the school where I have taught for so long, is an understatement.
It is bittersweet of course, and I will miss so many things about being a part of the incredible teaching team we have here. I will miss spending my days barefoot and singing with the children. I will serve them in a different way now, a little less directly I suppose, but what shines through all my sadness about this is the fact that I still value them so deeply and wholly. I believe in them and their ideas so thoroughly; I only want them to thrive and flourish. We all do, it’s what makes this place such a haven.
Our Summer at Little Owl was spent vigorously retooling and rethinking our values as a school. It was an intense and extremely meaningful process. After what felt like ages, we had distilled our many notes and conversations down to a collective statement, a declaration about who we are and what we believe as a community of learners. When we finished making the final edits there was a palpable sense of elation, relief, and astounding emotion. I can’t read through it without getting chills. These are our core values, and at the core of it all is our children. They are at the heart of everything we do, they always will be.
This place is for the child.
These are the values that guide us:
We value mindful consideration of each other and the environment.
We value each person’s presence, feelings, and unique voice.
We value the innate abilities of children. We see them as artists, risk-takers, dreamers, observers, builders, and critical thinkers.
We value challenges that ignite our sense of wonder and push us to grow.
We value the connection between child, family, school, and community as essential to our collective sense of well-being.
We come together to honor and support every child just where they are. We work to cultivate a sense of belonging and purpose for all.
I look forward to upholding these values this year. And I’m so thrilled to get the chance to get to know our families in a different way than I’m used to. The sun is definitely shining on me.