by Julie Schlossinger, Lower School Director
As I sit here at my desk, on the last day of Lower School Parent/Teacher Conferences, I am mindful of the need to reflect on the closing of the first quarter of the new school year. And while I cannot deny that there have been some challenges and bumps in the road, my thoughts and reflections keep coming back to an enormous sense of pride—pride in our faculty, a group I am so very privileged to work with at this incredibly special school. I can concede that, to some degree, I may be biased, however, the genesis of this feeling is the effusive parent praise for our teachers that I hear on a daily basis.
Recently, an email to a lower school teaching team read, “Thank you for the wonderful conference today...Most of all, we are in awe of how well you know our son and are serving him as teachers. He is a lucky boy to have your team cheering him on, coaching him, and preparing him as a student each and every day at VMS.”
I am proud that lower school teachers strive to know their students at a deep level. I see evidence every day that indeed, they do. They are cheerleaders. They are surrogate parents. They hold high standards for their students. And they are not afraid to have hard conversations. They consistently dedicate so much of their time and energy to supporting the “whole” child. Both research and best practice affirm that a whole-child approach develops and prepares students for the challenges and opportunities in their future by addressing students' comprehensive needs, which include health, safety, engagement, support, and challenge.
Another parent recently called me to share how thrilled they are to have their children at VMS. This parent reflected on conversations with their neighbors whose children attend other schools and have had experiences very different than the individualized experiences that this parent’s children are having at VMS.
I am proud that lower school teachers view each student as an individual. They know every student has strengths and areas of challenge, and that children develop in their own time. They also understand that social-emotional well-being is inextricably tied to growth. Brain researchers at Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child have found that “Cognitive, emotional, and social capacities are inextricably intertwined. Emotional well-being and social competence provide a strong foundation for emerging cognitive abilities, and together they are the bricks and mortar of brain architecture. The emotional and physical health, social skills, and cognitive-linguistic capacities must all be supported a high level and under varying timelines.”
Finally, another parent stopped by my office and explicitly said that “Paying for tuition makes sense after having a meeting with his child’s teaching team.” He relayed how incredibly grateful he was to have this team looking out for his child.
I am proud that lower school teachers work in collaborative teams as experts in their respective crafts. Having teachers focused on distinct areas (much like middle school, upper school, and college) has proven successful not only in supporting students, but also in allowing our teachers to focus on a specific content area to develop real depth and expertise through professional development. Additionally, the structured approach where second through fifth grade students loop for two consecutive years with the same teaching team supports rapport, continuity, and ultimately, our goal to truly know each child.
VMS lower school teachers have just completed writing report cards, organizing plans for substitute teachers, and three full days of back-to-back conferences. Yet, despite long days, they walk around our building smiling with their heads held high, ready to greet the next quarter and the aspirations of their students and our lower school families. Our children are in excellent hands. Thank you lower school teachers—I am proud.