The heart of learning at Waynflete

Last week, the New York Times published an article by David Brooks entitled “Students Learn from the People They Love.” A Waynflete parent shared it with her children’s teachers, with a kind note of acknowledgement. The article quickly went viral among Waynflete’s faculty and staff. Brooks’s piece affirms what so many of us appreciate about Waynflete and what makes the school unique: the relationships. Teachers and students “learning to learn, side by side.”

It has been such a pleasure for me to give tours of the new Lower School this year. Prospective families appreciate the beautiful space as much as we all do! Seeing students and teachers in action in purposefully designed classrooms allows parents who are considering Waynflete to see how their children will spend their time: exploring, playing, questioning, connecting, thinking, and learning in relationship with the materials, the space, the teachers, and one another.

But the magic of Waynflete is not about the buildings. The magic is about the relationships.

Last week, I took a pause in during one of my tours. The families had seen the spaces, observed a dynamic K-1 math class in action, a group making Picasso-style plates and bowls in the art studio, and another fine-tuning their individualized weekly work plans in 2-3—all while voices from Spanish andthe sounds of music classes rang in the hallway. It all made for a positive impact. I know, however, that there is an intangible that cannot be seen on a tour. I decided to name it.

“As you consider a school for your child, make sure you find a place where they will be known and valued,” I said. “Make sure that there is an appreciation for the social and emotional skill building that must take place alongside the academic. Find a place that will provide the safety and support to be vulnerable and take risks. It is in this atmosphere that children grow and thrive.”

As one student described in an Aspen Institute study noted by Brooks in his article, “Success in school should not be defined just by our test scores…but also by the ability to think for ourselves, work with others, and contribute to our communities.” Brooks then asked “a defining question for any school or company…What is the quality of the emotional relationships here?” At Waynflete, feeling safe and known is an essential underpinning of the academic program. This belief is central to our approach and is a mandatory requirement for children to thrive. Our well-established social-emotional learning programs enable children to understand themselves better, form close relationships with teachers (who they don’t want to disappoint), and develop the courage to test out new ideas and take safe risks. As students develop the essential skills of persistence, self-regulation, empathy, and respect, the possibilities for learning are truly wide open.