“It takes time and experience to learn to be a good friend and community member”
Empowering relationships is a core part of the Little School approach. It is fundamental to the skills we help children master in these first years, but it also permeates the interactions between all members of our community: teachers, parents, peers. Here are some specific ways we focus on creating strong and synergistic relationships throughout.
A strong teacher-child relationship allows a child to feel the trust and familiarity necessary to take full advantage of the preschool setting. To build that supportive relationship, teachers actively engage with children in child-directed play, care-giving, and teacher-inspired activities. As teachers engage, we learn about a child’s:
- Learning Styles
This allows us to give the child just the right kind of guidance, care and support they need to thrive. Children have the same teachers in the TTH and MWF years and move on to new teachers for their “big kid” years. The bonds teachers and children form are vibrant, warm and enduring—children come back to visit their teachers years after they graduate.
We also devote mindful attention to supporting a child’s process of building satisfying relationships with peers. It takes time and experience to learn to be a good friend and community member. We believe that children have natural social skills, and that, sometimes, they can also benefit from adult guidance and support. To learn more about how children learn about their social world, go to “learning in the classroom.”
Strong family-school partnerships are essential to help children thrive. Families have deep expertise about their own children; educators have broad expertise about lots of children. We build authentic, appreciative relationships with families by –
- Sharing honestly
- Responding and solving problems respectfully
- Appreciating a family’s unique identity, strengths, challenges, and the context in which they live
We communicate informally with families face to face every day, and also use email and phone conversations for frequent check-ins. We meet individually twice a year for conferences, or as often as families or teachers desire. We also communicate to families from each class regularly and use other events and meetings throughout the year to update families about each group's experiences.
We recognize the value of lifelong connections between families and these relationships are fostered by class events, meetings and other school gatherings. Through organized and spontaneous efforts, we help families -
- Support their own child
- Support the other children
- Understand each other
- Provide help and support to each other
- Appreciate what everyone brings to the community
This partnership extends to cooperative caring of the school. Families make up our parent board of directors, substitute in our classrooms, and otherwise contribute their strengths to the program. We rely upon families to help us address core questions of education and community, and we provide time for faculty and families to reflect and learn together (Please see our “Support” section for more details).
The Little School prides itself on its commitment to offering early childhood educators a place to build a career and reach their highest potential. Our co-founders, Leslie Roffman and Tim Treadway, continue to be a part of the program. Cassandra Britton, our child development specialist, has been here 25 years; and several faculty have devoted five, 10 or more than 20 years to teaching with us. The authentic relationships educators form with children and families are a significant reason for the long-term tenure of The Little School staff.
We provide time away from the classroom for teachers to reflect, plan for their classes and support the larger program. Ongoing reflective staff development is embedded in our everyday life. Teachers and staff are included in major decisions regarding the direction of the program, and take responsibility for creating a supportive, inclusive, respectful staff community that extends to families and children.
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The educators at The Little School are also strongly connected to the wider community of early childhood educators. Many regularly attend classes, workshops and conferences and bring back what they learn to their Little School colleagues.
There is also an equally strong commitment to sharing the approach we have developed with our colleagues in the field of early childhood and anyone working with young children. Staff conduct training workshops for both parents and educators and our teacher-training film and book provide stories, practice and theory about relationship-based, inclusive early childhood.
Find out more here about our teacher-training film, Relationships: The Key to Teaching and Learning in the Early Years.
Find out more here about our book, Including One, Including All: A Guide to Relationship-Based Early Childhood Inclusion.
Find out more here about upcoming workshops.