Commentary: A successful school feels like home

The life of a school - you hear the expression over and over again from teachers who care. No one ever really asks, "What do you mean by the life of the school?" because everyone has their own idea about what that means exactly. It can mean a lot of things: financial viability, friends on the staff, a good day teaching, a day off, the children, and a host of other ingredients that would make up "the life of the school."

When I think about the "life of the Garden School" I have to go home, because home is where my heart is, and home teaches me about my relationship to the world. So, at fifty-five, I have to ask myself what it is about my own home that continues to draw my children to return to home year after year even after they are long grown up?

I ask myself this every year when Brendan wants to come and stay 10 days with his family of five. I ask why it is that Katy wants to stay most of her Christmas vacation, and Molly says she wants to own my house, and Anne will be 22 and still lives in the same room she was born in very peacefully. What do they find here? Is that somehow important in the scheme of my life and the life that influences others? If it is important, how can or do I translate that to the school I helped build?

I think it's very important in the scheme of the success of the Garden School or any school. I have always thought that more than anything else that an early childhood place should offer a home away from home to the children it serves. I know the qualities of real homes are often found at the Garden School, and that's what gives it "life."

But it's not just my home; it's every faculty member's home; it's a combination of homes, ideas, love, joy, creation, schemes and events, play, learning, building, growing, developing and doing. The real question of "the life of the school" is created when faculty members bring their homes to school and they each create a nest that blends peacefully with other nests to nurture children comfortably through hours of childcare and learning.

Every classroom should be an extension of someone's home. It should bring out a personality, the creativity and passion of the owner. It should be kept as we keep house at home. It's our workshop, our nest, an annex of our home where we spend as many as 40 hours a week with our children and grandchildren and the children we are paid to teach and care for.

I strongly believe that classes and exercises should be a mirror of how teachers taught or are teaching or will teach our own children and grandchildren. Activities should be an active picture of what we do at home with our children, replays, loving teachable moments recaptured in success by the example of our own success. Teaching does not come from an instruction manual, but from the heart, the mind, the soul of those who teach. Teaching does not choose some children over others just like it doesn't at home. A good home offers all subjects for learning and so many activities, it's hard to count. It's never a pick and choose; teaching anywhere is a broad based and wide schemed world.

Why is bringing home, and parent to child teaching, to school essential for the success of the life of the school? Because the basic, natural, order of adult to child teaching comes from the home. Teaching the public only works if that essential ingredient is available and applied, and that ingredient is love and love comes like a tidal wave not a careful calculated dropping from some measured cup. Remember back to your favorite teacher. What was it about your favorite teacher that made that teacher memorable? I took my favorite teacher home - to our house...thirty seven years ago when I married him.

Combining home and school is not a new idea. It's an old idea that lets the bridge of affections and knowledge between human beings flow constantly. It's a place and time that's shared with affections, and that doesn't walk off the street nor does it keep its feelings tucked away. When searching for childcare, look around and ask yourself what do you see?