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1110 College NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503



Filtering by Tag: music

Welcome Back!

Elizabeth Topliffe

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the French I took
But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me, too
What a wonderful world this would be
— Sam Cooke, Wonderful World

Welcome back to school. I say that every year. And just like every other year, I flinch a little when I say it. Stepping Stones Montessori School is so far from what most of us think of as “school”, and it feels cliché to say “Welcome Back to School” when we are so much more.

My observations of the first few days back definitely include “school”. Students are proudly reading aloud. Children are eagerly engaging with work on shelves—land forms, trinomial cubes, practical life, and outdoor play.

I’ve also observed so much more. Students’ faces light up with pride while carrying in some amazing book projects. Their trepidation about making a presentation to the class is replaced by a look of belonging once other students go out of their way to help them know that it will be okay.

Upper elementary students have been interacting and playing with Children’s House students, running and enjoying games together.

A few parents, initially anxious about the first few days, have relaxed and eased in to life in this community.


At this time of year, I reflect back to my own memories of pre-school and elementary school. I was curious what other people remember from school. So, I started asking lots of people—colleagues, parents, friends—what they remember about school. I have yet to find someone who includes academics in their answer. Not one person.

Friends remembered events like school plays, games at recess, friends, and field trips. They remembered lunch boxes, backpacks, and the path walked to school. Former colleagues recalled science projects, salt maps, and art projects.

Admin staff mentioned being part of a MEAP Party or the MEAP Pep Rally (for those of you new to Michigan, MEAP stands for Michigan Education Assessment Program—a standardized test given to Michigan students prior to 2008). My own school experience lacked the parties or pep rallies surrounding standardized tests, so I felt a little left out.

I remember friends. Kellie Stanley, Teresa Kistler, Stephanie Drummond, Lori Goldberg, Philip Christensen, Eric Dumas, and a sea of people who only own first names in my memory—Pia, Tamra, Kevin, Josh . . . . I remember teachers, especially the teachers who made an impact on me (both positive and negative). Mrs. Richter, Mrs. Emory, Mrs. Lovelace, Mr. Fox, Mrs. Parsons. . . . .


Most people, including me, remembered music. They remembered the songs they sang in choir. They could sing every lyric of the songs they learned with friends—whether it was “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells”, “Deck the Halls with Poison Ivy”, or something much nicer like “My Favorite Things”. (As an aside, exactly why does Batman still smell all these decades later?)

We remember very little of homework, grades, tests, or even learning. Those things were likely part of our school life. They just were not the things of memories.

Instead of welcoming you back to school, I welcome you back to the Stepping Stones community. Welcome back to memory making. Welcome back to a school where the art room actually smells like art. Welcome back to projects. Welcome back to a home where other parents are around to help each other out. Welcome back to a place where professionals care about your entire family.

Welcome back to music.

Welcome back to time outdoors.

Welcome back to the place where memories are made—together.

My best,



PS—If you know the lyrics to any of these songs, we should hang out:

“Rhinestone Cowboy”


“Delta Dawn”

“You Make me Feel Like Dancing”

“Blinded by the Light”

“Disco Duck”

“I’m Your Boogie Man”

“Da Doo Ron Ron”