“Is it ready yet? Is school ready?”
The bright-eyed three year old paused in the doorway to the second floor as he asked his questions. They bubbled from his mouth; the thought behind them had clearly been on his mind for quite some time. The words were said with such comfort and familiarity I can only imagine they had been asked countless times over the preceding weeks.
“Yes, it’s ready. Have a great first day of school.”
With that, the school year began.
The beginning of the school year brings with it our colloquial greeting of, “Welcome! Welcome to school.” I would like to, however, reconsider what we mean when we say that. Is this space, this community, ours to welcome you to? I’m not sure. Frankly, I’m not sure this entity that we call a school community existed before you walked through our doors. For three months, our community has lain dormant while its members, its life-blood, have all been off experiencing life in different ways. Only this week, when we all finally come together, did our school come to life. With that in mind, we are not able to welcome you into anything, because there is nothing here until we create it together. When we say “Welcome,” perhaps we mean, “It is an honor to partner with you. Thank you for your trust and faith. We look forward to building a child-centered community together.”
Given the mouthful that would be, we’ll stick with the shorter version for now! But know that when we say “welcome” we are in fact not a host inviting a guest in, but a partner extending our hand outward.
Seeing our school and classes in this perspective reminds us that our children are powerful creators of space and generators of ideas. While our classrooms are rich with potential, the joyful burden of bringing them to life belongs to the students. Our teachers are here as guides and supports, partners and resources. In this first week of school, they’ve begun to observe and listen to the children, asking questions and pushing them to explore their responses, as the children’s ideas and musings slowly emerge.
So, yes, “School is ready.” It is ready for us to partner together in community building; ready to be molded as our children’s dreams and visions shape the classrooms around them.