I was asked to share my talk from Back-to-School Night with you and I am happy to…
In the fall of 2005, I was out at recess at my former school, Vail Mountain School, it was a beautiful autumn day. The kindergarten and first grade children were running with great force, bumping into one another and yelling, “Hurry. Get away…run!” I watched closer and saw them twirling and hitting each other with such force that they fell to the ground. “What are you playing?” I ask. “Katrina,” they reply.
I was immediately reminded of the power of play and the opportunity it allows children to work through complex concepts and, as often, their fears, emotions, and the troubling images they are exposed to in contemporary society. By ‘playing Katrina’ the children were able to make at least some sense of the them by their new friends: several displaced children from New Orleans who, with their families has been taken in by the school and wider Vail Valley community.
As an educator, a huge part of my day is spent paying attention.
Also, in Vail I was becoming more and more aware of the rising divorce rate within the school. This phenomenon led me to collaborate with our consulting school psychologist to plan and implement a support group for children experiencing divorce. After a few sessions of our group meetings, I observed the children on the playground. A brother and sister from the divorce group were playing with a half dozen other children. I was keenly aware that all were involved in a heated discussion. As I listened in, I heard the young girl assigning roles by saying, “You are the judge, and you are the mom, and you are the dad, and you are the brother, and you are the sister. Don’t cry too much because you only have one week to make your final decision.”
Does make believe play help children understand, and even navigate reality? Many researchers support this notion by expressing that play is a window through which we can see how children develop and represent meaning.
Fast forward to September 2019….
So, why Paddington? Why are we all here?
We believe in PLAY—We believe in an environment that encourages creativity, caring, collaboration, vocabulary building, joy, kindness, books, appropriate risk taking, questioning, working together, blocks, childhood, building resilience, perspective taking, reflection, discovery, singing, being curious, sharing, laughing, imagining, learning how to be a friend, helping, empathy, life-long learning, taking turns, celebrating likenesses and differences, and pretending.
We believe in teachers---their warmth, understanding of child development, their role of facilitator in play, and their daily inspiration.
We believe in families---all types of families and families that partner with the school to celebrate childhood.
We believe PLAY isn’t a luxury---it’s a necessity .
In the months to come, you will receive our new strategic plan, Invest in Play, that will guide the work at Paddington for the next five years. We are so happy you are on this journey with us and together we can, ---- Invest in Play --- for all future generations of children, families, staff and teachers at Paddington.
We are off to an amazing start at Paddington! Our friends are making new friends, children are discovering the fun of our ever-changing choice tables and exploring the outdoor classroom.
A big focus at Paddington throughout the year is the strength of our community. This is especially true at the beginning of the school year as each classroom establishes their community within their classroom and then to the school as a whole. The Peter Rabbit classroom shared the following which we know is true, at an age appropriate level, for each classroom:
"Building friendships and creating our classroom community will be our focus for the first few weeks of the year. We do this by spending a lot of our time sharing about ourselves, reading stories, singing, and creating art that reflects who we are. As we get to know each other better, we can begin to understand who our classmates are and where our classmates come from. The more we learn about one another, the more empathy, compassion, and understanding will be present in our classroom community. We then work to establish what matters to us as a group and how we want to treat each other when we are together in our classroom space. No two classes are the same and our environment and rules should reflect our unique group."
We encourage you to share classroom blogs with your children. We've already seen and heard that with the aid of the blog pictures, children have a great tool to spark more conversations about school, new friends and what is going on in the classroom. We look forward to all the fun, learning and PLAY that will be happening this year!