Throughout the year, visitors tour our program regularly. We’re often asked, “What makes your program different? What sets your program apart from other schools?” Our answer is always the same: relationships. Relationships are what makes us unique.
Why are relationships such an integral part of our program? Because as humans, we are social beings and crave connections. These connections provide us with a safe space in which to grow and learn, to take risks.
They help us learn to trust one another, which can have a lasting impact on the relationships we’ll form throughout our lives. Relationships are valuable in every aspect of our program. They are the umbrella over everything we do.
Staff is the backbone of our program. We strive to treat each other as we treat the children: with respect and dignity, honoring each other as individuals, and with acknowledgement of the unique gifts that each of us has to offer. To do this, we have to know each other, so we spend time building connections and bonding with one another, both personally and professionally, in small and large groups.
We value our relationship and shared partnership with the First Unitarian Universalist Church. A relationship we have nurtured for over 40 years. Having open communication and a mutual interest in each other’s programs and events helps strengthen our relationship with each other. We offer support and care, so both the church and SYC mutually benefit.
The teacher/caregiver partnership is another essential relationship here at SYC. We know that you know your child best and we offer you support during your family’s journey at SYC that will hopefully also carry you far beyond the preschool years.
Emails and informal conversations before or after class give us a chance to connect with individual caregivers and get to know each other, as do more formal opportunities such as parent-teacher conferences.
Parent Coffees and parent education nights are offered throughout the year. Teachers help create these safe spaces where parents, in small and large groups, join in conversation about relevant topics, sharing their challenges as well as their successes. Caregivers support each other and our community gets stronger.
A relationship is not one sided. We want to hear from you throughout the year. Need someone to bounce an idea off of, wonder why we do something, have a concern about our program or about your child, want to celebrate a milestone? Tell us! We want to grow and evolve alongside you and your child.
The social and emotional development of children is often talked about as the most important piece of our curriculum. We want to meet each child where they are. We want to honor their uniqueness, quirkiness, and their authentic selves. We must develop and build a relationship with each child so that they can trust that we will care for them and keep them safe in our classrooms. That is why we will not talk about your child in front of them unless they are included in the conversation. We want to respect them and respect the relationship we are building. We believe that each child is a real person who deserves to be respected. That their feelings are valid and ideas are worthy. It’s our job at SYC to offer them the time, space and materials for open ended play, to keep them emotionally safe, and to guide them through conflict resolution.
These first school experiences lead to children beginning to build relationships with their peers. Through conflicts we gain experience on building and repairing relationships. We will offer children support in exploring this new territory. We will honor your children’s right to decide who they chose to play with and who they call a friend. Through the context of relationships our goal is that your children will experience being in a group, gain confidence saying what they need and practice listening to others.
Nurturing a relationship takes effort: setting limits, providing support, keeping an open mind, and most importantly, listening. Our hope is that by honoring and strengthening all of these relationships, we will continue the tradition of SYC being a safe place where children, parents and teachers come to learn and grow.
So you see it’s not always the newest toy, latest fad or the shiny walls that make a program unique. It’s the relationships that are built within and outside of the four walls that makes our program so great. We look forward to continuing to build our relationships in the 2016-2017 school year.
…Susan Roscigno & Amy Rudawsky, SYC Co-Directors
To understand SYC as it is today, it is important to know a little of how the school came about. The two women who founded the school, Lee Row and Janet Stocker, had a dream of creating a school that would meet the developmental needs of young children. Both women have previous teaching experience with preschoolers and were eager to put their creative energies into building a school of their own. They envisioned a school where large periods of the time would be allotted to free play and where art material would be available all the time. They wanted to encourage creative thinking and problem solving in young children.
In 1969 the First Unitarian Universalist Church opened its doors to Janet and Lee by sponsoring the preschool as a social outreach program to the community. The church’s Sunday School classrooms were spacious, with ceiling to floor glass windows, and the grassy areas outside made for a lovely setting for playgrounds. The founders and their teachers developed ideas for the program by imagining they were children and imagining what kind of preschool they would want to be in. These early teaching teams attended to enter the child’s world and build a program which allowed children to interact with each other in rooms filled with developmentally appropriate play materials. It seemed to the founders that children’s interaction with each other, with materials in the classroom, and with the teachers were the fertile soil through with young children could grow and develop.
Lee and Janet noticed that the first step to becoming an autonomous playing child was for that child to separate successfully from parents. Strategies for helping children feel safe at school and for helping families deal with feelings aroused by separation were developed to smooth the entrance to school. Retired master teacher Shirley Cheney says, “The process of setting positive patterns and coping styles for separation are an important part of SYC’s philosophy and curriculum.”
Another area of special concern to Lee and Janet was the protection of children’s rights. Lee says, “When teachers do consistently set proper limits, it isn’t simple case of reading children their rights. These rights have to be reinforced each time they have been violated.” The rules of the classroom becoming a living reflection of children’s rights.
Children have a right:
- To feel safe
- To non-interrupted play
- To keep a toy or a piece of equipment as long as they are using it
- To play with whomever they want and discontinue playing whenever they want
- To not be abused by someone emotionally or physically
- To have possessions not be destroyed intentionally
- To bring an object brought from home and not have to share it
- To have the consistent support of teachers in the enforcement of these rights
Furthermore, said the founders, everyone is responsible for his/her own actions and the effect she/he has on other people. Many devoted teachers, along with parents and children, have contributed to the development of the program in the last 20 years. The guiding force in the program’s development of the program in the observations of the children and the teachers’ assessment of the children’s reactions to art activities, play, classmates, materials in the classroom,and the teachers’ assessment of themselves.
SYC has grown from two classes with 40 students to nine classes with 147 students. We have 15 part-time teachers, an office administrator, and co-directors who also teach a class. Those of us who presently work at the school see SYC as a dynamic, exciting place to work. We never stop learning; we never stop creating, and we stay focused on maintaining a school that is truly for young children. To enter SYC’s doors is to enter the world of the child–to see, to hear the noises, and to feel the excitement and warmth of participating in what the children are capable of doing, to hear the noise of what children are capable of doing.
…Jan Waters, SYC Director Emerita
While spring is traditionally thought of as a time of renewal, summer plays that role in the life of a teacher. It’s a chance to step back from the routine of the school year to catch your breath, to spend time with family and friends, to renew and ready yourself for the year ahead. Sometimes that renewal comes from time alone or with old friends. It may come from travel to new places or return visits to special places or simply time at home. But the result is hopefully the same – that we come back together at the end of the summer ready to be in community once again.
This summer I found renewal – both personal and professional – at the Green Mountain Teachers Camp in Dummerston, VT. Attending camp was a big step outside of my comfort zone – I knew no one there and wasn’t sure what to expect. I was reminded of what my students might feel like on their first day at SYC: Where do I put my stuff? What if it all gets wet in the rain? Who will I sit with at dinner? Will I find my place? Will I belong?
Fortunately, the other teachers at the camp were very welcoming and easy to talk with. I met teachers of all stripes – preschool, elementary and even college – from all over the US including Alaska. We talked about the role of mindfulness for both teachers and children, and ways to get more play into the classroom. We discussed the role of technology in our personal and professional lives and used the framework of photography to examine the lenses through which we all view the world, including the lives of our students. We sang every day, laughed and talked at meals, shared stories of our schools, hiked to a waterfall and swam in a river, and created beauty. It wasn’t always easy – there were moments when I had to take a deep breath and make myself approach someone I hadn’t talked to yet, times when I forced myself to say yes when I could have easily said no – but it was so worth the effort and I grew both as a person and as a teacher, renewed with appreciation for the amazing community of SYC and for the year ahead.
As we welcome the teachers and families back to SYC, we hope that your summer has left you with a sense of renewal and an eagerness to rejoin the community. It’s not always easy to start things up again and sometimes we have to step outside of our comfort zones to welcome others and allow change to happen. But it’s so worth it when we do!
…Susan Roscigno, SYC Co-Director