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Welcome to the New School Year! A Reflection on Learning

September 15, 2017

Dear Parents,

Welcome to the 2017-2018 school year!

As the summer came to a close, I found myself thinking a great deal about learning. Not surprising, when you consider that I am a preschool director.  What prompted this thinking though, was a vacation experience with my family. As part of a family vacation we spent a few days backpacking in a National Park.  My husband and children had done this before, but this was my first experience putting everything I would need on my back and hiking out into the wilderness. I was excited. I was nervous. At times I was confused – who knew a backpack could have a brain?  At times it was hard.  It was hot.  It rained.  It was an adventure. In the end, I loved the whole experience.  However, I had to have the whole experience before coming to this realization. I had been planning the trip for months. On more than one occasion I felt hesitant. The morning we packed up and left the cozy cabin we had rented, I was feeling a little buyer’s remorse. Wasn’t I already having an adventure in the Great Outdoors? Yes I was, I told myself.

This adventure is what led me to think about learning. Over the years I have met with hundreds of preschool parents. The hope that parents express most frequently is the hope that their child will love learning. My summer vacation reminded me that learning how to do something new has many phases, and requires certain skills. Backpacking required me to ask questions and follow directions.  I had to learn how to use new equipment and tools. I had to trust the people around me who knew more than me.  I had to take a few risks. The more I learned, the more comfortable I became. 

The older we become the more control we have over our learning. I realized this summer that while I have continued learning throughout my life, I have often stayed within my comfort zone. Small children don’t always have that option. I left the woods with additional respect and appreciation for young children and their learning. My reflections have also reinforced my appreciation for the “tools” of learning – learning to ask questions, and trust those who are here to help; discovering the value in following directions, and discovering how to enjoy the challenge of trying something new. Often a neglected tool is patience. Learning requires lots of patience. I believe these tools set a strong foundation for a love of learning. While your child paints, builds, runs and climbs, learns a new song, or solves a tricky problem in their day, they are building their “learning” toolbox. We can’t take a picture of this or send it home in their cubby but we will support this learning each day from September through June. There is nothing more rewarding than watching a child learn how to learn.

I’ll close with a quote from an unlikely source, and circumstance, however it rings true to me in my roles as both teacher and parent.  From Jane Goodall:  “One thing I had learned from watching chimpanzees with their infants is that having a child should be fun.” We’re looking forward to the year ahead. Let the fun begin!