The beginning of every school year is a magical time. I love the feeling of anticipation and possibility that fills the building and becomes an aura around every adult as they prepare our collective educational environment for our children. This new school year is especially glowing with potential. In August, we began our second decade as a charter school and we will celebrate the renewal of our charter under Saint Louis University’s sponsorship this coming Thursday with a community “birthday” block party (I hope you join us!). This summer saw community members, volunteers, staff, and education leaders from across the country gather to help City Garden develop a plan for expanding our impact over the next several years–a plan which outlines much exciting work on our horizon and which we are eager to soon share.
Even with all of the celebration and new work to look forward to, it is the potential of our children that brings the most excitement. On this year’s first day of school, I received a special delivery that fueled that excitement for me.
One of the core elements of the Montessori Primary curriculum is Practical Life Skills. Starting at age 3, students learn basic skills for contributing to everyday life. They practice everything from how to wash dishes or care for plants, to hammer a nail or polish a shoe. In Ms. Shannon’s Primary 1 class, Practical Life includes arranging flowers. Students choose a small, child-sized vase, learn how to pour water into the vase without spilling, practice cutting blossoms off a bouquet, and arrange the blossoms in their vase. Our Primary children may not grow up to arrange flowers every day, but this exercise helps them strengthen their fine motor skills and develop an appreciation for nature and beauty. It also gives them the opportunity to experience the joy of giving, as, once their arrangement is complete, Ms. Shannon allows them to deliver their flowers to the (nearby) staff person of their choice.
My first day of school was full of meetings, working on those exciting plans for our mission. In the middle of one such meeting, a soft knock came from my office door and, as the door opened, the little head of Austin, a 4-year-old in Primary 1, poked through the crack. And in he came, with a miniature arrangement of yellow lilies in his out-stretched hands.
Austin and his friends are why we so diligently prepare our classrooms and ourselves before each year; why we build ambitious plans and strive to expand our impact; why we celebrate milestones. It is imperative–and it is a privilege–that we work towards a world in which our children can fully grow and live into the caring, giving community members that they already hold inside themselves and are relying on us to allow to flourish. They are the possibility that we instinctively feel exciting us each new year.