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Reflections from Katie: June 2, 2016

A few weeks ago, when it was finally time to open the playground after way too many months of waiting, I started to wonder about what rules would need to be in place for safety and comfort. I decided that instead of setting out rules ahead of time, I would ask teachers to spend some time with their children on the playground, exploring and then discussing safety and rules. They did this the first few days the playground was open. I also spent many recesses and mornings before school observing children as they navigated the new structures (and the old) both independently and with others.

After several weeks of observing, I have determined that a list of one-size fits all rules really doesn’t work for this playground. The playground is beautifully constructed to allow different children to engage with it in different ways, depending on a variety of factors including age, size, level of risk-taking, and how many children are already on the playground. At different points in time, certain rules may make sense. For example, the older children have found that on the Viking Swing, it really makes the most sense to only have one person per section. This means fewer children are on at a time, and therefore they have requested that someone keep track of time and set a time limit. On the other hand, the younger children use the swing in a different way, allowing more students on at a time. In this arrangement, no time keeping is needed, and they are able to navigate this all rather successfully. Of course there is negotiating that needs to happen, and sometimes that doesn’t sound as kind or friendly as it could. For example, one class noticed that sometimes when a child on the Viking swing asks for it to stop and it doesn’t stop right away, the child may get angry and yell at classmates. This class then had a class meeting about the issue where they uncovered that the swing doesn’t stop immediately and the person making the request has to be patient. At the same time, the rest of the children who heard the request could respond in some way, like by saying, “Stopping,” to let the requester know that they were heard. All of this has been an excellent exercise in thinking flexibly…both for children and adults!

On a different note altogether, I wanted to share with you about two staff members who are moving on next year. André Pelletier, who has been teaching 1st/2nd grade at Cambridgeport for the past three years, is moving into an Assistant Principal position at the Harrington School in Lexington. When André started here three years ago, I mentored him in a leadership program, so I knew that was the route he was headed. Of course I am sorry to lose him, but I know this is what is next for him and Lexington is lucky to have him! Glen Sherman, who has been Cambridgeport’s math coach for the past six years, is moving on as well. Glen and I started at Cambridgeport together, so it is impossible for me to imagine doing my job without him by my side. Glen is moving into a very exciting position in Boston Public Schools, serving as a math coach in the Boston Teacher Residency program. He will be coaching the newest cadre of teachers through their practicum experience and into their first year on their own. Working with brand new teachers is an exciting new move for Glen, and something he is eager to be taking on.

Being on a hiring committee is one of the most interesting ways to hear about what teachers and administrators truly value in our school. I have always found that parents on hiring committees gain an entirely new insight into the practices at the school and why they are important. It is also a great way to give back to your school community, because the parent perspective on these committees is very important. If you are interested in being on a hiring committee (I have several starting next week), please email me at kcharnerlaird@cpsd.us.