Thursday, December 17, 2009

Calm, happy and wonderful.

With experience growing, organizing family events at school is becoming increasingly enjoyable and less stressful. On Tuesday we had our first Holiday Picnic and children's performance at school. Because we have children of multiple religious denominations, we kept the Christmas aspect of it more low key and focused more on the end of the year and a time together before the holiday break coming up.

Early in the day, the children helped to put all of our classroom tables and chairs outside under the trees. We laid out a couple of picnic blankets as well in shady areas of the garden and invited the parents to come to the school at lunch time.

The children had come dressed out of uniform that morning which already lent things a very celebratory air. We had practiced a set of songs and poems for a couple of weeks that the children were going to present to the parents. We chose songs in English, Dutch, and one in Spanish to reflect the languages of the school. And each of the oldest children had memorized a poem (with the help of their parents) and presented them individually after each song. It was a short and happy performance, very relaxed.

Parents each brought a dish to share for the picnic and the spread was amazing. After the performance everyone went outside with plates of food to eat in the nice weather. And after lunch, families went home.

I loved this gathering because it reflected a communal effort (parents bringing food, helping oldest children prepare their poems) and a really calm and happy get together. The children and adults enjoyed it equally.

I'd never before wanted to organize something at this time of the year feeling that families were hectic enough with the holidays coming up, but after this year's event, we will surely repeat next year.

Community gift

This year, with the idea of community in mind, as the gift for the parents for the holidays we made family portrait refrigerator magnets. We traced 2 inch circles on cardstock, and each child got one circle for each member in their family. For a couple of days, we set a table with a pencil and color pencils for drawing a portrait of each family member in the circles.

I cut out the circles and laminated them, and then glued a small magnet behind each one.

We had our Holiday Picnic on Tuesday morning, and instead of wrapping the little portrait magnets, on our big whiteboard we outlined all of the family trees of the children in our class. It looked so full and pretty!

Each child has such a unique drawing style and the magnets were a success.

Last years gift was a silhouette of each child, and they were beautiful as well. But entirely teacher made. It's nice to give a gift that the children have really made themselves.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I've been reflecting on the importance of inspiring a sense of community and responsibility towards the group in the children at school. I'm interested in presenting or bringing to the children's attention a grace and courtesy lesson, book or true story daily that meditates on some aspect of life as part of a group. Or finding further ways of incorporating this idea into our daily routine.

I often feel like I'd like to emphasize the ideas of helpfulness/community/respect/generosity/kindness, but sometimes find the topics too daunting or too vague to approach practically.

Specific activities we do already to inspire a sense of community:

- We have times during the week when we all sit together and children have the opportunity to share something they brought from home or tell a story about something related to their home.

- At some point in the mornings we come together as a group and sing a song and recognize the absence of whoever is not at school that day. (To emphasize that even though you are not there, you are still a part of the group)

- At lunch we join hands and sing a "Community Song" before we eat.

- We have a set of "Community cards" that have a picture and the name of all the children and staff members of our school. We use them on special occasions (birthdays, important gatherings) and they are available for the children to look at individually as well. (They live on the peace shelf)

Things I'd like to do more of:

- Involve the children as a group in problem solving or decision making related to our life together in the classroom.

- Find books, and tell true stories related to life together as a group.

- Reflect back to the children verbally more of what I see that is positive about our day together in the classroom.

- Start a "heart journal" where anyone can write something positive that happened to them that day and read the entries at the end of the week.

I'd greatly appreciate any ideas/feedback on further ways of incorporating a sense of community in our daily routine!