Advantages of A Small School
Angell has about 300 students and we are considered a small elementary school. There are distinct advantages to being a small school. Our students do not have to expend time and energy trying to be noticed or become the top dog. In a small school, no one can hide. Every student has a front-row seat and can be seen for who she or he is. At Angell, every teacher knows every student, at least to say hello, to ask a question, to have a short conversation. And most teachers know many students extremely well-how they approach a new book or a problem, how they organize ideas, what kind of encouragement works best. Small means being know by other students and having meaningful relationships that help the student connect with others. Our students have the opportunity to be heard, recognized and acknowledged for who they are. In a small school, the children learn that their participation and contribution make a difference. Students feel free to suggest ideas that will improve their school environment. We focus on each student’s strengths. Building on what is works creates positive energy. We may be small but our students’ feel that they are significant.
This past Monday evening, I gave a presentation to about 30 Angell parents about how to improve our parenting. Most of my thoughts are based on Jim Fay and Foster Cline’s book, Parenting with Love and Logic. I attended their training and became an independent facilitator and I teach parenting courses. I suggested that it is important for us to think about our parenting with an outcome in mind. Imagine dropping your 18 year old son or daughter off at college and driving away. What kind of person do you want him or her to be at that point? Train and guide your child with that vivid picture intact.
It is not healthy to rescue, hover or protect our children from the normal consequences of everyday decisions. “Helicopter” parents convey the message that “you are fragile and you cannot make it without me.” The ‘drill sergeant” orders, directs and commands and they send the message that “you can’t think; you are not capable of making it in life and I need to do your thinking for you.” Instead, we want to parent our children so they become responsible and respectful people.
One way to prepare our children for life at 18 years of age is to give them the opportunity to make lots of choices when they are young. They will develop the capacity to make decisions and then live with their selections. The authors suggest that parents give their children two choices (the parents can live with either) and after about 3-5 seconds, if a choice has not been made, the parent makes the decision. Example – Do you want to wear your coat or carry it? Do you want to have corn or peas for dinner? Would you rather clean up your room on Saturday or Sunday? Are you going to put your pajamas on first or brush your teeth first? Would you prefer to go to bed now or would you like to wait 10 minutes? Reminder: never give a choice on an issue that might cause a problem for you or someone else. Only give choices that fit your value system.
More tips to come!