Principal's Messages

Dear Merriam Families,

 

Many of you have read the feature article in today’s Boston Globe, and I know this raises a tragic topic for all of us as a community- one that touches each of us in different ways. Upon reading this article, I once again was struck by the incredible responsibility we have to make sure we are supporting and connecting with each and every one of our students. I thought it would be helpful for me to share with you some of the recent and ongoing work we are engaged in as a school.

 

Seven years ago Merriam School was invited to participate in a research study lead by Pamela Seigle (founder of Open Circle curriculum) and Chip Wood (founder of Responsive Classroom curriculum). Together, these educators partnered with the University of Virginia in order to look at the connection between relational trust among the adults in a school and the impact on student achievement. The research showed evidence that strong adult relationships impact student learning, and Merriam School has been working ever since to develop opportunities for adults to connect with one another, in service of connecting with our students. The group of teachers who led this work seven years ago started a committee which continues to meet today.

 

This committee (called Skipping Stones- for the rippling effect of its work) meets regularly and plans activities and faculty meetings. During our December 3rd faculty meeting, Skipping Stones led our staff through a reflective activity which incorporated journaling as well as discussion, where we looked at each of our students and thought deeply about how we are connecting with each one. Teachers were asked to make a list of the students with whom they directly work, as these children came to mind. They were then asked to reflect with one another on what they noticed about the order by which they wrote children’s names. Next, teachers were asked to write one positive word or phrase about every child. This led us to identify students with whom we would like to deepen our connection and teachers then made an action plan for connecting more deeply with each of these students. Teachers continue to reflect in the journals, and we will revisit these plans periodically throughout this school year.

 

Additionally, Merriam School teachers are all trained in  Open Circle, an anti-bullying curriculum. Classrooms have Open Circles/ Class meetings at least weekly, and many teachers incorporate Responsive Classroom curriculum into this format.  Responsive Classroom focuses on building connections between students and provides many games and activities which teachers incorporate into their meetings and throughout their days.

 

As a school, we continue to hold onto the structures that build community across grade levels. Our All School Meeting is a tremendous community event every Friday where we come together and celebrate our students. We maintain Family Groups, Theme Days and Community Days, and looping is proven to support deepened relationships between children as well as between teachers and students. I have had many consultants, parents, and district administrators comment on the strong relationships that exist at Merriam School and the commitment every educator has to the whole child.

 

I share all of this, not because it undoes any of the pain that surfaced when I read the article in the Globe this morning, and not because we can make any promises about the future. I share this because I want you to know how seriously we take the commitment of seeing each and every child, every single day.  We are supporting our students proactively, and we will continue to respond to situations where the emotional safety of a child may be compromised. We are committed to doing this work with all of you- our Merriam families.

 

Thank you for being such an important part of our work, and for sharing this responsibility with us.

 

I wish you moments of peace, and time spent focusing on what matters most during this often, incredibly busy time of year.

 

Have a wonderful evening.

Juliana

 

 


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