School as Neighborhood

I grew up in a neighborhood in New Jersey where everything I needed was within walking distance: I walked to school, I walked to church, I walked to the corner market for a quart of milk for my mother, I walked to my friends’ houses and they walked to mine.

My four brothers and I always knew when it was time to come home no matter where we were in the neighborhood. Our father would simply whistle; if we were mid-sentence or midair on the swings, it did not matter. We just ran home. That’s it. It worked. (And we were not the von Trapp family, either!)

I think it is safe to say that times have changed. Those neighborhoods are not so easy to find. This is not how we live now. So for many of our Tuxedo Park School families, this school is the neighborhood for you and for your children. You can grab coffee in the morning, join your children for lunch, swing by for a performance or a game. You can sign your child up for our new extended day program and have your children here, safe, supervised and hopefully relaxed, whether they are playing a game of Scrabble or chess, jumping on the playground, or getting a jump on their homework. And like my old neighborhood, you can check in with other parents and get feedback on your children and their day, their week, and their development.

So as we begin this year talking about community and communication, remember, this is home to your children, but it is also home to your family. Use it that way. Parents do meet for coffee at drop off, come to school to discuss questions or raise issues and compare notes. Sometimes they are looking for parenting advice. Sometimes they just want to know what other parents think, what they struggle with, or how they make their parenting decisions.

As we settle a bit more into the school year, we will be hosting some “neighborhood chats” to facilitate communication “between and among parents” and between home and school. This is a very potent recipe: when all the adults are working on behalf of children and communicating well (not necessarily agreeing with each other all the time, but that is not the point of clear communication!), we can create an open space for parents to discuss their worries and concerns and continue to create the safe, nurturing environment that allows students to grow in developmentally appropriate ways. As parents think about what you want to discuss in your neighborhood, whether here at school or where you live, please email topics to me so we can start our collaboration together.

You may have noticed that each week, I am adding a link to a site, article or Ted talk that you might find interesting. This week, I offer a talk about “choice.” This is a speaker I heard at the NAIS Annual Conference in February 2011 in Maryland. Her research about children and choice is very interesting. Please click here to enjoy.

Let’s keep the conversation going.

About Kathleen McNamara Head's Up!

an educator in Independent Schools for over 28 years
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