“Well done! Your child has reached the teenage years.” Those words open a letter I received today from my daughter’s doctor. So far so good, are my thoughts. Raising my children has always felt a bit like an experiment and I’m just a rookie scientist.
As I write this blog, my 15-year-old daughter is upstairs perfecting her room. She has vinyl records, fake vines, posters, Polaroid pictures, and LED lights adorning her walls. Her room looks like many other trendy teens. Also, she has her high school-issued Chromebook on her desk. It’s her virtual school companion.
This year has proved challenging for people everywhere. We’re all doing our best practicing flexibility, patience, and distancing from friends and family. How do you prepare yourself for this unpredictable situation we’ve found ourselves in? Moreover, how to prepare a teenager?
It takes a village to prepare a child
Thankfully, I’m not the only person who has been influential in her life. Like the rest of us, she has been constantly learning, from everyone she meets, and from every experience she’s had. I remind her that teachers and learning opportunities surround us. If we are open, they are there.
I want to use this opportunity to share about an experience that’s been significant for my daughter and our whole family. It’s her schooling. Years ago, when my husband and I went searching for a preschool for our daughter, we visited and fell in love with New Morning School. My husband and I are both teachers, so we knew the importance of parent involvement, student choice, goal setting, small classes, multi-age programs, and low student-to-teacher ratios. These are all present at New Morning School, and they make a difference in the lives of children.
Our daughter graduated (virtually) from New Morning School last year after spending much of her childhood there. She started in preschool and went all the way to eighth grade. It wasn’t the culmination we imagined or wanted, but we made the best of it. Like the rest of us, she lost out on some things she’d spent her lifetime looking forward to. No last end-of-the-year performance, no last field day, no graduation ceremony, no attending our annual and super fun auction. Sadly, we had already purchased her formal gown for the event. It still hangs in her closet despite the fact that she’s probably outgrown it.
Transitioning to a large high school
This year she transitioned from our small independent co-op of about 100 students to the local public high school. It’s huge. It’s bigger than most in the country because it uniquely sits on a campus with three high schools. Altogether, there’s about 6,300 students.
Did she feel nervous during our pre-pandemic visit? Sure. Did we? Yes, but we believed in our girl and we exuded that confidence.
Like I said before, so far, so good. So goes her freshman year. Here are some important takeaways from our years at New Morning School. These lessons prepared her for living through a pandemic and adjusting to high school.
- Students can talk to their teachers and ask them questions. They are approachable and caring people!
- You are you, and you are important.
- You can make new friends.
- Everybody is different. We can still get along.
- We learn and think differently. Information should be presented and digested differently.
- We have strengths and weaknesses. Work on both.
- We can be flexible.
- Balance work and play.
- Stretch and breathe.
- Grades aren’t everything. The goal is learning and mastery.
- Learning is a messy journey that can be fun!
- Big projects can be planned and broken down into smaller chunks.
- Relationships matter. Kindness matters.
- We are leaders. Younger folks are looking up to us.
- We are creative and inventive beings if we nurture that part in us.
- Try your best. People believe in you.
- Get involved! Help out and make a difference.
- After you are gone, your legacy lives on.
New Morning School prepares kids well
Could these important lessons be learned elsewhere? Sure, but we found a safe place for our daughter to grow into the strong, brave, and smart young lady that she is today. She spent her childhood surrounded by folks who cared about each other in a way we don’t see enough today. She was listened to, loved, and supported by teachers, classroom aides, peers, and families who were able to get to know her, because she wasn’t shuffled around from class to class, teacher to teacher, and school to school.
She had solid relationships with kids and adults who respected her at every stage in her young life. She wasn’t a widget on a factory assembly line. She was a growing individual worthy of investment, time, and attention.
Your kid is, too. All kids are. If you or someone you know is looking for the best place for a young one to spend their childhood, look to New Morning School. I believe you’ll be glad you did.
Marisa Downs is a preschool teacher at New Morning School in Plymouth, MI.