School Culture

Dear Families,

Can you believe that we only have 13 school days (after today) left to the 2018-2019 school year?  We have many special activities and events happening over the next couple of weeks, so make sure to check the school calendar and mark your family calendar accordingly.  When I look at the school calendar for the next few weeks and also being to plan the calendar for next year, I can’t help thinking about one of our school’s focus topics: School Culture.


School Culture defines our ways of being in relationship together- how it feels, sounds, and looks for all of us to be “at school”.  School Culture describes the relationships between staff members, families and students along different points of contact. What makes up the School Culture at Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center?  What works for us? What doesn’t? What are we each bringing to the experience?


One way to think of the culture of a school is through thinking about our routines, rituals, and relationships/role models.  These three aspects of culture are essential to build a collective identity and collective responsibility, as well as act as the “glue” that makes school cohesive for students.  Let’s take a look at each of these, and as we do, I invite you to think about this closing school year and next year and how you might want to be involved with any of these aspects of school culture:


  • Routines:  Routines are daily.  The purpose of rountines is for efficiency, safety, and consistency for all.  Routines are essential to a strong culture because they ensure flow and predictability, saving personalized attention for higher level needs.  Examples of Routines at GRCDC: Drop off/School Arrival, Pick Up/School Dismissal, Visitor Check Ins, the Link Letter, and Lunch/Recess.


  • Rituals:  Rituals are regular expressions of values and beliefs.  They bring meaning and connection to the school year throughout the days and weeks.  Examples of Rituals at GRCDC: Afternoon Meeting, Portfolio Day, EOY Celebration, 5th grade graduation, Fall/Winter Celebration, Summer Park Meet-Ups.


  • Relationships/Role Modeling:  Students having strong relationships with adults and each other, as well as specific role modeling of healthy relationships, is an important part of social and emotional development.  Our school places a special priority here. Examples of Relationship/Role Modeling at GRCDC: staying with the same teachers for 2 years, partners in different classes (reading buddies, etc.), increased recess time, Safeties program, Mr. Trevor’s Family Liaison role, special guests in the classroom (Grandparent day, visiting weatherman, etc.).


All three of these aspects of a healthy culture should be seen and felt school-wide, as well as in each classroom, within the context of clear expectations for students and a plan for how we respond when things go wrong.  As we move into next year, we are really focusing on working on our school-wide culture- understanding what it means to be a student at GRCDC, the responsibility and privilege each of us have to culture here, and how to ensure that “Education Based on Relationships” results in our student have strong, flexible, and sophisticated social and emotional skills that will allow them to be successful wherever and whatever they would like to do!  If you have thoughts you would like to share on this, please let me know: heynel@childdiscoverycenter.org, 616-459-0330, OR find me at the front gate most mornings!  Thank you!