I went to see Act of Valor with my sister. Towards the beginning of the movie, before the team deploys for their mission, the Lt. gives a brief pep talk to his team. He tells them to make sure that everything is all set at home before they leave; their relationships, finances, etc. If they are not, he encourages them to let the chief know so that they can help. His reasoning? If things are left uncertain at home, they will be unable to focus out on the mission.
What a message that sends! I value you. Your happiness is important to me. Your success is our success. I've seen something similar to that in a school a couple of years back. I know that recently the Waldorf school in California has gotten some press as being the anti-technology school of choice for Silicon Valley, but having visited one myself, I believe it is more than that. You know how some say it is the emotion that is invoked that people will remember? Well, this is certainly why I remember why I remember my visit there.
Upon entering the school I was warmly (and sincerely) welcomed and immediately felt at ease. During the day I had the opportunity to tour the grounds and speak with students and teachers. Here is what I discovered. Every child, every person, is greeted (at least once) by name once they enter the campus. There are multiple adults and student greeters stationed to do just that.
In one classroom I visited a child began to cry. The teacher kept singing until she reached the child and enveloped her in kindness. A gentle touch on the child's hand to calm and a soft voice with probing questions to soothe. Some may say this is a perfect way for children to behave to receive attention, but it demonstrates to the children how important they are and that they have support.
In speaking to one teacher she had told me that she had once worked in public education before going to the Waldorf School. She mentioned that she worked with excellent teachers in the public school, but she never felt as supported as she did at Waldorf. Why? Because if she was struggling with something the whole staff was there to support her. If a child was having difficulty the entire staff participated in helping that child.
Yet the sense of community did not end there. During my tour it began to rain pretty hard out and I asked about recess. The parent that was my guide said that weather never prevented the children from being outdoors. They all had gear to participate in any type of weather. Naturally, I queried about the gear because some of the students were in attendance because of scholarship and would not be able to afford the gear. She responded that those families who can, provide extra gear.
This school, this community, understands the importance of belonging and significance; and it brought me back to my Montessori days. The students and the staff are supported to be clear-headed so that they can do their best while in school. The same with the staff. When there is that type of community it is easy to see how there is great success for the students after graduating.