Building Community at Crestmont

Building Community at Crestmont

by Dianne Driscoll, Head of School

The early weeks of school are all about creating community, both in the classroom and in the school as a whole. There is a strong relationship between academic success and social emotional learning. I had an experience recently at Crestmont that reinforced how having a safe community is integral to growth.

The teachers and I wanted to create a meaningful opening ceremony for the school year, one that welcomed the students and families back to school and set the mood for the year to come. We decided to start with a version of our Community Sing, which we do weekly, singing together to create connections across age and grade levels.  One of the teachers suggested that we sing a song as a staff to the families and students. We all seemed game to try this, and our music teacher, Mama Vida, led us through a rehearsal at the first All Staff Meeting.

Now, singing in public brings up some anxiety for me and I was probably not the only one feeling that way! I read a study recently that said that about 85 percent of people have been told by their parents, partners, teachers, or children that they can’t sing…so they don’t.

Later that day, Mama Vida sent us all a supportive email saying that our singing sounded so sweet and the children will love to hear the song.  And on Wednesday, Kay, our Kindergarten teacher, emailed us all with this: “I dreamt that we sang beautifully, imperfectly, and with gusto.” Those two voices of support helped to calm my anxiety tremendously, and I joined the rest of the staff in singing to the families, knowing that it was alright with my colleagues that my singing may be imperfect. My voice would still part of the beautiful whole.

And that’s the kind of community we are building for the students, one where their peers offer support as they stretch the boundaries of what is comfortable for them, taking the chances academically and socially that they need to take to learn and grow.

As you walk through our campus, take notice of the many opportunities that the students are given to create this supportive community: teachers teaching inclusive games; children being grouped in a variety of ways in class; Middle School students feeling comfortable sharing their “Roses and Thorns” — which means something that went well in their day and something that didn’t; students K through 8th grade participating in mixed age groups at All School Centers, which are activities led by all the adults on campus; children in PE playing cooperative games and cheering for their classmates; and singing together as a community on Monday mornings.

These activities during the first few weeks are important in creating an atmosphere at our school that is welcoming, warm, and productive, with the children happy to be learning and growing at Crestmont, and we keep that spirit going throughout the year and beyond.