Thanks to all of the families who attended our second annual Read-a-Long, Sing-a Long!
The 2nd annual Read-Along, Sing-Along event came together on December 5th, when current and alumni families gathered at the
school for some fun child-centered activities. This event came on the heels of the Alumni gathering - a night for parents (and sometimes, adult students) to come back to Cheerful Helpers and share their story, their experience, and insights. This time, kids were invited to decorate cookies, sing songs, play instruments, read books, and work with puzzles. It was fortuitous to see some familiar faces from Alumni night, I had another chance to talk to some of these folks before a stirring rendition of “Yellow Submarine” got underway and stole my focus.
Building community is a beautiful series of efforts pointed at fostering trust, warmth, fun, and being a part of something, and Cheerful Helpers knows how to build! Parents from the Alumni Association worked to organize the event, do the inviting and promoting, plan food and activities, and then there is the set-up and clean-up. It seems to me, the most important element to the success in building community, is people showing up. We had a lively bunch of families show up with lots of exploring to do. It didn’t get by me that I was in one of those unique environments that I will not see very o.en in my life; and that is a room full of grown-ups and kids who understand, accept, and even support my unique kiddo, and if he gets overstimulated or upset and randomly screams at the top of his lungs, in this environment it’s OK. IT’S OK HERE. And with that, I could relax, peel my eyes away from his every move, and enjoy being supported in the warmth and savvy of the company I was fortunate to keep.
Being a new family at Cheerful Helpers this year, one of the many things I am relieved by is the strong and consistent community of past and present families. Modeling for our kids that being involved in community and building friendships is important, and a continuing investment in those relationships takes effort, care, patience, and generosity. It’s helpful that such a valuable life lesson is wrapped-up in a fun event with familiar and thoughtful activities. I let my son know that when he was ready, there were kids here that would be interested in talking to a new friend. He didn’t talk to anyone new that I know of, but seeds were planted and opportunities will continue to come.
My son loved sharing his classroom with his sister most of all, and this may have been the highlight of the night for him (apart from eating the cookie frosting directly from the cup with his finger). He enjoyed showing her his cubby, his own carpet square, his art on the wall, and pointing out his teachers. A new level of ownership of the school developed for him, hence a deeper sense of belonging and acceptance. Older kids came, some played guitar for the sing-along, some zoomed through the open classrooms, relishing in their own sense of belonging to a place that affords them the opportunity to still do so. One student alum read a favorite book to the kids who sat intently with their new, or old, friends. I don’t know what my son (who is just starting to read) was thinking when I told him that the boy reading the book used to go to school here. I pointed out the big kids who were playing guitar, and the girl who was decorating her cookie so expertly - and I told my son that they went to school here at one time, too. His gaze on them lingered (he was probably trying to figure out whether or not they liked Star Wars), and I registered a dash of hope that the belonging and camaraderie he likely feels now, will parlay into future communities, schools, and friends. Star Wars or not.
One day, my son will be an Alum and he will be returning to the school to revisit his old friends, teachers, and his old carpet square. He may even talk to a new student and tell his stories of going to school there. Our family will be a part of continuing to nurture the Cheerful Helpers community, hopefully for many years, because this is the kind of school where we CAN.
Sarah Benincasa December 2015