"Gladly Will We Teach and Learn"
Students and teachers form a community at Connecticut school
Kid Reporter Leila Sachner works as a morning greeter at her school in New York. (Photo: Isabel Chenoweth)
In the first month of school, the fifth graders in Adam Solomon's class at the Foote School in New Haven, Connecticut, excitedly wait to learn their new names for the year. Fossa, Keena, and Tyto are just three of the 18 names that Mr. Solomon has chosen for his students.
During the first week of school, every student writes a list of their favorite things on a Post-It note. Mr. Solomon then carefully thinks about and researches the lists to come up with the perfect nicknames for each student.
For example, a fossa is an unusual cat-like animal, which one student put down as one of her favorite things. Another student wrote down that they liked owls; Tyto alba is a barn owl. And Keena is a famous singer, reflecting a third student's love for singing.
For the rest of the school year, only the nicknames are used in class, even on homework assignments and tests.
The effect that these nicknames have on the students is strong. Years after their 5th-grade experience, the kids still like to use their nicknames. The nicknames somehow bring the class closer as a whole. It creates a community within the Foote School. The kids share a special bond.
Four hundred seventy children from ages 4 to 15 attend this private, urban school. The school goes from Kindergarten to 9th grade, divided into the Lower/Upper School. There are around 15 to 18 kids in each class and about 50 in each grade. Most kids leave Foote after 8th grade and go to a high school, so the 9th grade usually ranges from 25 kids to as few as eight.
Students are privileged to have about three computers in each classroom. The Frank Perrine Library, with almost 50,000 books, is one of the largest primary school libraries in the area.
Foote teachers realize that the students at the school are luckier than students at many other schools.
"I think the way that schools are funded is troubling," says Solomon. "I think there are a lot of schools that don't have the same resources as other schools, and there must be some system where the kids have the same accesses to everything from quality teachers and supplies and technology. I think that's important."
Both Solomon and the head of the school, Carol Maoz, comment that kids have often asked about having Chinese as a language option. Foote's sister school, Yali Middle School in Changsha, China, has sparked a lot of interest in learning Chinese. Every year, the entire 9th grade class travels to China for spring break and attends classes at the Yali Middle School.
"The biggest question that has come up is Chinese because we have a sister school," said Maoz. "We don't have a formal Chinese program, so that's something to think about."
The Foote School's motto is Laete cognoscam et laete docebo, meaning "Gladly will we teach and gladly learn." The teachers love to learn as well as teach at the school, and so do the kids. Even though the kids come to school to learn, they also teach the other kids and even the teachers. The students and teachers have good relationships.
"The best thing about the Foote School is that we know our students really, really well," says 6th-grade Science and homeroom teacher Pam Harmon. "And because we know what they're passionate about, we can really facilitate their learning in a meaningful way."
Learning at the Foote School is fun, as 7th-grader Charlotte B. explains.
"I like Science because it lets me think outside the box in science and take it outside and learn stuff about myself I didn't really know," Charlotte says.
The Foote School has a great community and is a fantastic school overall. The teachers have the kids doing lots of hands-on activities, and the students are never bored!
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