Community Time at Fieldston Lower Cultivates Belonging
Each Wednesday afternoon, all students at Fieldston Lower engage in schoolwide Community Time. During this coordinated programming, students learn about community norms, engage in important lessons on health and social emotional learning, meet with their buddy groups, and so much more.
According to Assistant Principal for Student Life Naomi Randolph, “structured time that focuses on community-building is essential for fostering a sense of belonging and respect.” In their first Community Time meeting of the year, teachers and students discussed their classroom and conversational norms.
To put their understanding of conversational norms into practice, students began the year by discussing their hopes and dreams. Conversational norms encourage students to tell their story, note “oops” and “ouch” moments, give everyone a chance to speak, respect each other’s privacy, and embrace fun! 1st Grade Associate Teacher Matt Cleary reinforced that fun through a video where students shared their exciting hopes and dreams for the year.
In addition to learning classroom and conversational agreements, students also discussed how to prepare the community for success in shared spaces, such as the hallways, library, cafeteria, playground, and even the bus!
At ECFS, collaboration and dialogue are woven into the fabric of student life. In challenging students to relate their experiences and personal growth to others, they are encouraged to “inherent interdependence” within the School and beyond. One of the best ways they may achieve this is through their assigned “buddy groups.”
The Buddy Program offers the opportunity for older students in 3rd–5th Grade to nurture meaningful connections and interactions with younger students in Pre-K–2nd Grade. Since its conception, the program has proven to be not only a community builder but a confidence builder. Spending meaningful time with a student in another grade creates a sense of belonging, builds self-esteem, and encourages students to take care of one another. Not to mention, reading with a buddy has proven to be a way for students to instantly break the ice!
There are many ways that faculty and staff weave in the importance of belonging and building confidence in everyday interactions. “Our teachers embrace that in order for interdependence to flourish within a learning environment, strategies for engaging in meaningful conversation must be modeled and practiced,” says Chisty.
“Beginning in Pre-K, students practice whole body listening when sharing understanding. Our younger readers practice listening and responding, where teachers explicitly teach about body language, like nodding or showing confusion, to practice how to build on each other's ideas,” explains Assistant Principal for Academic Life Shawn Chisty. “Practicing their matured capacity to inhibit immediate response, our older readers learn to engage in conversation without raising hands.”
As we move through the year, let us all be reminded of Fieldston Lower’s schoolwide community agreements: Be safe, be honest and respectful, be kind, be clean and be green, and do your best work!