By Kurtis Peterson, UWCT Primary Principal
This one word has been the focus of our first couples weeks back at UWCT, whether it be getting to know new teachers or returning students. Our units and learning experiences have been dedicated to it. This, too, applies to parents who are a vital part of our learning community. They need the opportunity to get to know and connect with teachers to share their perspectives on learning and their child.
Like most international schools, we have a ‘Meet the Teacher’ where introductions take place and parents get to learn a little more about the teachers and the learning environment. Quite often, this rather superficial introduction is the only meeting until conferences arrive later on in the year. However, UWCT is a bit different than most in that we also have a ‘Hopes and Dreams’ session for Primary parents. The Hopes and Dreams meeting is an opportunity for parents to take the lead and tell us about their child and their ‘hopes’ for the year. These one-on-one sessions give the school a better understanding of home life, of past experiences, of how to connect best with each student and their family. The focus is not on academics. Instead, its roots lie in what every parent ultimately wants: a happy child who is eager to come to school every day to learn in a challenging and safe environment.
I have to admit that when I started here at UWCT last year and saw ‘Hopes and Dreams’ scheduled in our calendar, I was a bit skeptical as to whether or not it was necessary. Time is, after all, a very precious commodity in schools. When I experienced these conferences as a principal last year, I began to understand its importance as a way to kickstart a meaningful and necessary relationship with parents. However, it was as a parent where I really felt its value. That first meeting to talk about my daughter ended up going well past the allotted time (sorry, Kru Emma). We shared our pride and our struggles in parenting a preschool child (we may be teachers but that doesn’t mean we know much about parenting). We shared our values and what we hope the UWCT experience will help us to instil in Evelyn. We want her to be kind, honest, and to feel safe. To have her thinking stretched with experiences and challenges that are both academic and non-academic. To be principled and stand up for what is right in her heart even if it is not the popular choice. To be a risk-taker and show resilience. To connect with the world around her and see how her actions can make a difference. To love and be loved.
If the recent experience surrounding COVID has taught us anything, it is the importance that social connectivity plays in the learning experiences and development of our children. Online learning cannot replace the relationships in the playground, the beauty of sharing a book, the wonder in the eyes of students studying a millipede, the challenges of compromise when you have a disagreement with a friend. It can’t replace our experience this week of meeting our son’s teacher (Kru Nok) in person and sharing a few tears because we are lucky enough to have a Nursery team that honours and appreciates our son for who he is (believe me, that’s not always easy).
Let these first few meetings be the building blocks for a meaningful connection that lasts throughout the year.