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Opening Letter from the Director of Lower School

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Dear Families,

We are so excited to be welcoming you all back to school. We have an amazing group of 51 new students joining GUS this fall and four new faculty members in the lower school. It has been a wonderful opening week, full of smiles, quickly growing friendships, and many small moments of discovery and learning.  

There is also an element of the unknown that can feel huge for our students in these early days. Even many of you might be feeling a bit anxious. I admit that on Tuesday night, after falling asleep easily at a normal time, I spent the early morning hours checking my clock in maddeningly regular 15 minute intervals. Beginnings and transitions can be a bit bumpy for all of us! Your students might be asking themselves:

What is my new teacher going to be like?

What if I don’t meet any friends?

Who will I talk with at lunch?

What do I do at recess?

Are my clothes okay?

What if my teacher calls on me, and I don’t have the answer?

These worries are normal and to be expected. Just this morning, I reminded a parent that transition happens differently for each of us. Some students come into school on day one confident and ready to go. Others move a bit more slowly, and we need to give them more time to settle in. Some advice and reminders: 

Take care of the basics. Establish regular routines at home for meals and bedtime. Anxious kids tend to forget to eat so pack snacks that you know your child will enjoy. Ask them to help you plan lunches. Getting to bed on time will also have tremendous impact on their ability to manage newness.

Encourage your child to share his or her worries with you. And then share with us. The more we know about what your child is experiencing, the better we can support them while at school.

Try to help your child problem solve instead of giving only reassurances.  “Don’t worry” might not be as effective as “Let’s try to come up with some ideas.” This approach allows your child to come up with some possible strategies for situations they are concerned about. Role playing a scenario can also be fun.

Pay attention to your own anxiety and words. Children take cues from us. The more positive and confident we can be, the more our children will believe that they too can find comfort and connection in new experiences.

In dinner conversation, lead with the positive. One fun way to reflect on the day is to play the “Rose, Bud, and Thorn” game. (I learned this on one of our school trips to Chewonki.) Your “Rose” was the best part of your day; your “Thorn,” the worst part; and your “Bud” is something you are looking forward to. Help children share their experiences by sharing your own.

Thank you for sharing your children with us. It is our privilege to work with you to ensure that each child at GUS is challenged, supported, and loved.  

Trust and Go Forward,

Sarah Kotwicki

Director of Lower School