I believe in the world and its bigness and splendor, that most of the hearts beating round us are tender; … that strangers are friends that we may someday meet.
~ Edgar Guest
You might know Warren as our director of admissions and Adrienne as the coordinator of our beautiful school gardens, but they are also a family, along with five-year-old Willow and their dog, Cricket. The four of them spend a lot of time welcoming people because they genuinely love to see people feeling a part of things.
When a new student comes to school or someone in Willow’s class is having a hard time adjusting, the Wallaces will often invite them for a playdate. Those get-togethers aren’t necessarily aimed at finding a special friend for Willow. They have sometimes invited a child Willow wasn’t particularly interested in being friends with because they wanted the family to feel supported. They have also set up playdates for Willow’s whole class at parks and playgrounds. All of this activity grows out of a vision that everyone can and should be included.
This is a transformative perspective that all of us can adopt as classes are reconstituted, new students start at our school, and others leave. As parents we often want to help our child find one friend who helps them to feel secure every day, but this approach is often limiting and causes heartache and confusion when that one friend wants to be with someone else.
As the year begins, it’s wonderful to help your child notice everyone who is currently in a classroom and nurture potential points of interest and connection. “I see a new girl in your class who rides a scooter to school. What’s her name?” If the class has been together awhile, notice the positive ways people have changed. You don’t have to set up playdates with everyone, but taking time to really see everyone and talk about who they are is a powerful tool for inclusion and a sense of group unity.
You don’t have to know people in order to become a welcomer, a person with an expanded vision of inclusion. Parents can be important role models for children by actively noticing who is in a class and finding moments to reach out to others, even if it’s just an introduction. “Hi, so happy to see our children are in the same class.”