Blog: School Should be a Caring and Connected Community | Marisa Downs

Imagine arriving each morning to a school where some people know your name. Some people might know who your teacher is, or what grade you’re in. Imagine feeling jumbled in a large population of people mostly your age who don’t really know you. Do they care about you? Do you matter? Are you important?

Now, imagine this. You arrive and are warmly greeted by name by families arriving to school. Children ranging from 3 to 13 are welcoming you and others. You know every face and most people’s names, and they know yours. By the time you make it to your classroom, you have received positive attention many times, from many people. Your teacher smiles, maybe gives you a high five or even a hug. Imagine that.

It exists, but unfortunately not everywhere. All schools strive to create a caring community, but cannot. Many things have to be prioritized for success:

  • Family involvement
  • Low teacher-to-student ratio
  • Multi-age classrooms
  • Respect for children

Families have to be involved. They need to have relationships with staff and communicate often. At New Morning School, parents are integral to the operation and success of our students. They are always welcome and feel very much part of our community.

Great ratio of students to teachers

Our student to teacher ratio is low. Think about the most fortunate among us. Do those children attend schools where they are one of 25 or 30 students in a class? No, they are in classes like ours where students get the attention they need and deserve. Teachers are supported and don’t become overwhelmed. Classrooms are happy and peaceful.

The children at our school thrive in multi-age settings, building relationships, and strengthening their social and emotional health. Each child matters, and they know they are loved. Their curriculums are personalized and are suited to their academic level regardless of their grade level. They also regularly interact with students and teachers in different classes, challenging them in new ways.

Paramount is our respect for children as learners and individuals. Having a choice is hugely important for young people. We honor that and while there are formidable academic requirements to be met; how, when, and where can often be chosen. We have flexible seating, take breaks, spend time outdoors, and treat kids fairly and how we want to be treated.    

School shouldn’t be a place children question how they fit in. It should be their home away from home, where they know they are safe, loved, cared about, and respected. I’m thankful and proud to be a teacher in a school that understands this and makes it possible.  

Marisa Downs is a preschool teacher at New Morning School in Plymouth, MI. She can be reached at