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1110 College NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503



Filtering by Tag: note from HOS

First Day of School

Elizabeth Topliffe

Welcome Back

It is the first full day of school at Stepping Stones.  I've seen the posts on Facebook with the pictures of beautiful children with backpacks, and I've posted my own.

But, even as I write this, I feel as though I’ve just cheapened the experience of every child here by naming this the first day of school. 

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You Say Yes

Elizabeth Topliffe

I say yes
You say no
You say stop
I say go, go, go
— Hello, Goodbye--The Beatles

Over the past year, I adopted a new rule for myself.  I was in the midst of some big changes personally, and I wanted to ensure that I didn't end up hiding out or avoiding people.  So, I decided that  I would say "yes" to every social invitation I received unless there was a very rational reason to say no.

It turns out, I rather like this policy.  Just saying "yes" has helped me remain adventurous.  I've forged new friendships.  I've learned things about myself.  I've gained new skills.  I'm even trying to learn a new language!  It has been good for me, and for now, I plan to continue doing it.

That said, I have also been thinking about the power of "no".  I tend to over-estimate how much I can accomplish in a day (or week or month), and I also like to imagine that my "yes" keeps other people happy (as if I really had that much power!).  As a result, I find myself overwhelmed and stressed more often than is really necessary.

I was observing in one of our Children's House classrooms, and I got to see a "no" work beautifully.  One child was working with the bead chain.  Another child approached and asked to join the work.  Our first friend simply said, "No Thank You" and went back to work.

I was curious what that second student would do.  At first, he stood and watched his friend continue skip counting.  Then, he wandered for a bit in the room, finally settling on some other work.  After his friend put away the bead chain, he went back to it, taking down from the cabinet and starting his own work.  All of this played out over the course of nearly 45 minutes.

I thought about how powerful that one "no" was for both of these children.  

For the second child, who is only 4 years old, he got some practice at impulse control!  Lots of four-year-olds might have grabbed the work, hit, pinched or fought about the work.  Some also would have sought help from an adult in forcing his friend to share.  

Based on the initial tension I saw in the face of our student, I'm pretty sure those options were not too far from the surface.  Instead of grabbing or doing any of those other things, he stood and watched.  What a great thing to practice!

Our friend also learned how to adapt.  When he could not have his first choice, he needed to make another choice.  He wandered.  He considered options, and he found other work.  I saw him settle in to an alternative choice.

Even though I don't know whether his second choice was as satisfying as the first, I do know that throughout his life my friend will face situations that don't go as planned or where he doesn't get what he wants.  He will need to figure out a Plan B.  Any parent who has ever traveled with children knows that being flexible and open to alternatives goes a long way to keeping everyone on track!  I'm so glad this friend got the chance to practice that skill also.

And when I think about it from the perspective of the first student, he also got some really useful practice.  He got to say no.  He practiced setting a boundary with a friend.  He also got to really engross himself in his work without having to navigate a negotiation with someone else.

Even though it might seem counterintuitive, that friend also got practice at saying "yes".  When you think about it, can you really say "yes" without the freedom to say "no"?  Can you really share generously without the option to keep things to yourself?  

I'm guessing when that first friend is ready for elementary, he will be excited about sharing his work and working with a friend.  At that point, his "yes" will really mean "yes"!

As for me, I'm going to practice saying "no" to taking on more things so that I have the freedom to say "yes" more often to the alternatives.  If you have experience with this, please share your secrets!  In the meantime, I'll keep learning from my friends!




Exciting Stuff!

Elizabeth Topliffe

I usually use these notes to give you a glimpse into classrooms and life at school. Today, I wanted to share with you several exciting things happening for our school outside the classroom.  

New Website--We have officially updated our website.  It has an new look and information about the school.  We will be adding parent-only portals and a blog as we move forward.  Going forward, you'll be able to find archived newsletters and notes there.  It is also optimized for mobile phone access.  Say so long to searching through old email!  Check it out here.

Snowball Dance--Only one week until the Snowball Dance!  For those of you new to the school, this is a fun event for all school families.  Kids dress up, dance, eat pizza and enjoy the photo booth.  We hope to see you at the Wave Room next Friday at 6:00.  All ages welcome!

Steven Hughes--I'm very excited that SSMS will be welcoming Steve Hughes to Grand Rapids.  Dr. Hughes is an expert in brain development and developmental education.  He speaks with passion and from research about the need for education reform in the United States.  He also has great pointers for parents and educators alike.  Please join us on February 19 at the Loosemore Auditorium on GVSU's campus for this event!

We are also looking for volunteers for the event.  If you would like to volunteer, click here.

Auction--Our Auction for the Love of Learning will take place on March 21 at Frederik Meijer Gardens.  This year we have a theme!  We heard from you that you would like the event to include time to just have fun and laugh.  So, we're asking you to put on your 1983 vintage clothing and come prepared to, like, party.  Why 1983? That is the year SSMS was founded!!  Be prepared for some throwback fun with staff!

Upper Elementary Activities--I also wanted to let you know that our upper elementary students will be traveling to Nature's Classroom Institute in Wisconsin from February 23 through February 27 and that several of our upper elementary students will be representing Brazil and Cuba at the Montessori Model United Nations Conference on March 13 and 14.

I'm truly excited to have so many positive things happening right now.  I hope you are also!



PS--David Bowie's "Let's Dance" was a hit in 1983.  If you were alive in 1983, I'd love to hear your favorite tune from that year!