kim spears picThe beginning of the school year has always been an exciting time for me.  My family likes to tell the story of my older sister’s first day of kindergarten.  My parents made sure to get me a backpack and lunchbox so that I didn’t feel left out. Teaching allows me to enjoy that “back-to-school” feeling over and over again.

When most people think about starting school, they imagine teachers giving hours of lectures about rules and regulations. To be honest, we spend a fair amount of time setting high expectations for the year, but that’s certainly not all.

At City Neighbors, we embrace the fact that much of the students are reuniting for the first time in months. September is a very social time during which students have the opportunity to share about their summers, play team building games, create art together, focus on social and emotional learning, and transition back into school routines. There is special time set aside for making new connections and strengthening old ones. Some teachers and students are getting to know one another for the first time and other teachers and students are getting to know one another in new and deeper ways.

Something that I hear from a lot of parents is, “Whenever I ask my child about their day, they say ‘It was good’ or ‘It was fine.’” My colleagues and I usually laugh and feel the need to fill everyone in on all of the acting, singing, painting, dancing, reading, and writing that happens all over the building. There are many great articles online about questions that families can ask their children after school. Here is a list of ten conversation starters from Scholastic.com:

  1. Tell me about the best part of your day.
  2. What was the hardest thing you had to do today?
  3. Did any of your classmates do anything funny?
  4. Tell me about what you read in class.
  5. Who did you play with today? What did you play?
  6. Do you think math [or any subject] is too easy or too hard?
  7. What’s the biggest difference between this year and last year?
  8. What rules are different at school than our rules at home? Do you think they’re fair?
  9. Who do you sit with at lunch?
  10. Can you show me something you learned [or did] today at school?

Going back to school can bring up many different emotions for different people, but teachers and staff work together to help students start strong. The beauty of a new year is a chance to start fresh and set new goals. It’s been a long time since I was that toddler standing in the front yard, clutching my school supplies.  But I’ve managed to hold onto that same feeling of joy and anticipation. It is my deep hope that the City Neighbors community will continue to be a place that sparks that same joy in the students who walk through our doors.

~Kim Spears, 4th and 5th Grade Literacy and Social Studies Teacher, City Neighbors Charter School~

shyla picWhen Ralphie turned in his masterpiece, “What I Want for Christmas” theme essay in the 1983 film, A Christmas Story, he envisioned his teacher, Miss Shields, clutching his essay to her chest and exclaiming “

Oh! The theme I’ve been waiting for all my life. Listen to this sentence: ‘A Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time.’ Poetry! Sheer poetry, Ralph! An A+! He daydreamed of his classmates carrying him around on their shoulders, celebrating his enormous accomplishment.

Ralphie was seeking, as all students do, validation for his personal vision, hard work, and desires from his teacher.  Unfortunately, Raphie’s vision was met with both a C+ and a discouraging postscript from Miss Shields, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” The angelic Miss Shields suddenly became the Wicked Witch of the West in his mind, and he went home feeling dejected.

On the first day of school this year, I held back tears as each student was given a flower upon entering City Neighbors Hamilton–a tradition at all three City Neighbors schools–that was added to a vase in each classroom, becoming part of a large class bouquet. This moment was the inaugural moment of the new school year as well as the culmination of a summer’s worth of preparation and planning.

Just a week prior, teachers sat in a circle engaged in a critical discussion of the value and possible danger of the typical question, “What did you do this this summer?”  Just as Ralphie felt rejected for his honest desires and experiences in his essay, teachers worried about the student who looked forward to school marking the end of a difficult summer or the student who experienced personal traumas that couldn’t be penned in an essay. Instead, teachers brainstormed alternative back-to-school questions such as “What do you look forward to this year?” or “What did you do to take care of yourself over the summer?” Our teachers recognize that each bouquet is made up of individual flowers, some may need tending and some may need to be left alone—but all add unique beauty to the bunch.

~Shyla Rao, Principal, City Neighbors Hamilton~

farrah howard

Hello, City Neighbors students and parents! As we journey into this upcoming school year, let’s make an effort to come back together! We all have busy lives with work, chores, kids, shopping, social events, and all the other daily activities that consume our time.  However, let’s take time to regroup with one another. Try putting in place a “communication time” where we, as parents, get an update on our child’s day and let our kids know how we’re doing, as well.

It’s never too late and your child is never too old–especially high schoolers–to ask them about homework, school activities, and friendships. Our tasks sometimes take over and we don’t find the time to know what’s going on in school.  But if we set up a system of knowing when, where, who, and what, then we can help our kids succeed and have a great school year!

We all chose to send our kids to a City Neighbors school because of the type of learning environment we want our kids to be in, but teachers can’t do it alone.  Ask yourself if you know a parent of three of your child’s friends.  Perhaps create a parent buddy system when, if you’re working late, your child could get a ride and maybe stay with them until you get home. Then return the favor when and if you can.

None of us want to relive elementary, middle, or high school. But if we all walk through the doors on September 4–hand in hand–then I know we’ll have a prosperous school year, full of knowledge and caring.  Like a family.

Farrah Howard, Board President, City Neighbors High School

 

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