To focus on the Quaker value of Equality, we remember that equality does not mean sameness. We teach this through discussing and embracing an emotional vocabulary. An experience that puts one friend in a yellow, happy place, may trigger emotions that place another friend into a red, agitated state. We work to learn about each child on an individual and personal level. We discover which activities work for children and which do not, and in turn create a place where individualized teaching and learning is possible.
Through our work, we aim to even the playing field and provide each child with the necessary tools to navigate their educational journey.
To reflect the Quaker value of Peace, we remain conscience of how our choices affect others, and remember that everyone deserves to feel safe and loved. When energy runs high, we remember to take deep breaths. We check in with ourselves daily at the Mood Meter, as well as with each other when conflict arises. Children and adults alike are reminded to use their words in order to communicate their needs. We work to gain a sense of understanding of each other. We identify what makes us the same, and celebrate all the ways in which we are so very different. We are a community, and a family.
The Quaker value of Community is celebrated throughout Friends Center. As a cooperative organization, parents and teachers work together to support each child’s growth. Within our classrooms, we encourage community by promoting emotional intelligence and developing an understanding of ourselves as well as each other. We use our Mood Meter to check in with our feelings each morning. This tool allows us to explore, and develop, vocabulary to communicate a wide range of emotions. We practice gentle touches and gentle words, and always encourage children and adults to “check in” with each other throughout the day. We widen our scope on Community when we envision Friends Center as a whole. We invite families into our classroom and merge classroom groups during outside time. We invite children to greet familiar faces as well as newcomers with a friendly, “hello.” We venture out into the local community on neighborhood walks to discuss our surroundings while exploring new sights and sounds. We shout, “Hello!” as the mail truck drives by, and give a friendly wave to a cat, cozily perched in a window as we pass. We learn that our community is everything around us, and work to instill a healthy sense of exploration, and love for our surroundings.
Simplicity is reflected in Friends Center environment and practices in many ways. Books and materials are presented clearly, without clutter, and made accessible to the children, allowing for easy choices. Children are given time to go deep into their explorations, therefore transitions during the day are minimized. Also, transitions are not rushed, but rather viewed as an important part of our routine. Repetition and predictability are assuring, and through them children develop the comfort to take risks. Teachers are aware of their movements and body language throughout the day. We prepare for our day in a way that allows for the maximum amount of time to directly engage with the children during activities.
We remember to slow down and take deep breaths. We stop to feel the wind, the chilly air, the sun. We focus on the simple pleasure of sharing meals together, working and playing together. We continue to reflect on how we feel and learn the words to express our feelings. Simplicity means watching and listening to what is around us, and watching and listening to each other.
The value of Integrity is manifest in many ways at Friends Center. We encourage children, families and staff to be emotionally-aware, to recognize and communicate their true feelings through open, honest communication. We encourage integrity in our actions and interactions by being honest in our observations and encounters, and respecting one another’s perspectives.
As a program, we are driven by the truth that high-quality early childhood education should be an option for all families, regardless of socioeconomic status. We work to instill in all children the truth of their unique potential and provide them with the tools they’ll need to navigate their educational journey.
As we embody the Quaker value of Stewardship, we are reminded again to take a step back and understand the incredible capacity for care towards other living things that already exists within each child. When given the chance to be caretakers, children show restraint, thoughtfulness and care. This idea can be carried forth into interactions with other environments, such as the classroom, as well as interpersonal relationships. Children are given ownership over their classroom environment by realizing that they are expected, and able, to help clean up toys, projects and the eating area after meal times. They learn that they have the power to help a sad friend find a smile by simply offering a hug. Each child is given the opportunity to be a steward of their space, and we find that they appreciate the confidence that we have in their ability to carry out these tasks.