I was given a precious commodity over winter break…time. As Ms. Nancy would say, “Time to be present in all things.” Often we get so caught up in the grind of the holidays, that we forget the importance of the little things such as family movie nights or dinner with loved ones. The “gift of time” further allowed me to reflect on 2015 with a different perspective than years past. The state of the school address typically focuses on the operations of the school. Technology, security, curriculum, and facility enhancements were targeted areas for 2015 based on parent input through surveys. To that end, we have made great strides in these areas, including:
- Upgraded all computers on campus for staff and student use
- Replaced 20 laptops in the upper elementary program
- Incorporated Google classroom in the middle school program
- Installed security film on all glass surfaces
- Implemented advanced safety drill practices facilitated by SecureEd
- Increased the number of surveillance cameras on campus and upgraded hardware
- Incorporated a cooperative gardening elective for lower and upper elementary students
- Implemented the writer’s workshop curriculum for grades K – 6th
- Enhanced summer curriculum by offering STEM camps
- Upgraded the vinyl flooring in the lower elementary classrooms
- Replaced 7 air conditioning units
- Repainted several classrooms and all doors campus wide
However, when taking inventory of our 2015 happenings, I asked myself “what did I want to know as a parent when my son attended FMS?” I appreciated being informed about the operations of the school and sharing in that mission firsthand, but really that’s not the most important element. The events in our children’s lives are the most defining moments. As a parent, I would much prefer hearing about the truly noteworthy milestones that took place in the classrooms facilitated by our amazing educators. This is just a small sampling of what the teachers feel is the best of 2015:
- Famous American Presentation: the children researched historical people, chose one, did further research, then wrote a “Who am I?” script to present to their parents. Students created their own costumes and props. It is what a Montessori education breeds; creativity and an excitement to learn more.
- My favorite moment of 2015 is very simple! I am happy to be part of a school that understands the growing needs of children to experience the natural world though the most natural of ways… exploring…creating…inventing.
- There are so many wonderful moments spent with our students over the past year, but our annual “sing -a-long” celebration is one that most touches our hearts. It’s such a great feeling to see everyone together smiling and singing, and truly enjoying the holiday spirit.
- One of the lessons in the peace curriculum introduces “The Good Kind Deeds Tree.” When one student does something helpful for another, the receiver of the act can put a flower on the tree, recognizing their appreciation for the act. Likewise, when a teacher notices an act of kindness, she may invite a child to place a flower on the tree. It is incredibly gratifying guiding students in this process and fostering kindness.
- The highlights of my days are when I see a child’s eyes light up learning a new concept, or simply receiving a hug.
- We have three necklaces for primary students to allow them to use the outdoor classroom. One day four children wanted the necklaces at the same time and as a result one of them ended up crying for not having the necklace. At that time, one of the students who had a necklace offered her friend her necklace telling her “please don’t cry, I’ll go later. You go first.” It is joyful to witness the acts of random kindness in our children.
- My special moment, and there have been many, was the junior Broadway Production of Willy Wonka. It was such a journey, and the students completely committed themselves to doing and being their best. It was so rewarding to see the smiles on their faces, beaming “I did it!”
- The girls’ Volleyball Conference Tournament was a memorable moment. It was the 1st time in the Valley Athletic Conference that 2 teams from the same school went undefeated to champions (junior varsity and varsity). Our girls went into the conference tournament with so much confidence and faculty/student support, it was awesome!
- Upper el students formed crew ships and gave persuasive speeches to King Ferdinand & Queen Isabella of Spain (played by the teachers). Students played the part of seamen in the 15th century (costumes and all), were very prepared to sail into the unknown waters… and eventually got the green light from the King and Queen! Each member of the crew ship was asked questions to explain why they were worthy enough to be sponsored to sail to the New World. Students had worked diligently for weeks to prepare for their role bringing history to life.
- One day, we gave the children free choice in completing their goals. The students burst into action choosing a partner to work with using Montessori math materials, book research projects, grammar and word study boxes, and map work. The freedom to choose among many areas of the curriculum motivated the class to focus and enjoy! We happily watched their enthusiasm and love of learning!
- Middle school students were deeply entrenched in a Confederate Instructional Training simulation. The parents and I were so easily able to see the transformation taking place before our very eyes. The camaraderie that was developing was a beautiful sight, and the accomplishments thereof were unbelievable.
- We created a “Gratitude Box” in the class for students to write thank you notes to friends who helped them during the week. The students’ enthusiasm for recognizing the contributions of their classmates was incredibly heartening, as was the fact that we had so many notes to read aloud due to the children´s kindness and willingness to help.
- The camping trips are always a priceless tradition at FMS and one of our favorite moments year after year. It allows students, families, and staff to come together as a community and simply enjoy each other.
As we embark on our journey for 2016, further facility improvements will be on the agenda as we go into our 17th year of operation. We will also be focusing on redesigning our marketing media, including the FMS website to increase family engagement and ease of use. Please take the time to complete the annual parent survey in 2016, as your feedback is valued for our continued growth and success. In fact, FMS was recognized as a leader by the Endeavor Schools organization in September 2015 based in part on previous survey results. Every classroom was awarded an iPad and the staff was treated to a celebratory dinner to honor our achievements. It was definitely one of the highlights of the year for the FMS team, and I was incredibly grateful to Endeavor Schools for recognizing the passion and commitment of our faculty. Furthermore, we greatly appreciate the continued trust our families place in us with their child’s education; it is truly an honor and a privilege to be a part of their educational journey. You are a valued member of the FMS family and play such an important role in our learning community, fostering a strong home/school connection.
In closing, I would like to give a heartfelt “thank you” to the staff of FMS. The year 2015 brought tears of happiness and sorrow to our lives as we sent children to college, welcomed grandchildren, gave away children in marriage, battled illness, and lost loved ones. The level of commitment to the students and to the mission of FMS is unwavering. Your dedication is extraordinary and words simply aren’t enough to express my gratitude.
Here is to a fantastic 2016, and I wish you all the “gift of time” to celebrate the little things!