August 2012: Still a proponent of small?

Someone asked me via my Facebook page whether or not I was still a believer in small schools. I’ve yet to figure out how to respond to him within Facebook but the answer is a resounding “yes.” On the very day his question appeared I’d been talking to an old Saint Mary’s Elementary alumni now in her 20’s and asked whether she felt Saint Mary’s, a school of about 120 students, had made a difference in her life. For her it was especially poignant, she’d experienced the death of a close family member while there and the school community immediately knew and understood and was able to support her fully. That particular story is unusual and not, many kids experience adversity early on, but I can think of no kinder, more appropriate, or healthier environment than a small school for imparting and providing a child’s first sense of place and belonging in a larger community. This same girl admitted it had its drawbacks: with all the teachers knowing all the kids and all the parents she knew it would never be long before news of her infractions at school made their way home. My own kids are the proof in the pudding for me. They are confident, engaged, and socially conscious. It’s harder to end up there if you haven’t known it for your first seven years of schooling, P-6, working together daily with the same small group and figuring out everything, the academic, the social, and the personal, as you go. Give me a backyard in which to wander before setting me loose on the Commons. That’s the place to start and that’s what small schools do.

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