A question I am often asked by prospective parents going through the admissions process is, “What is the value-added of the Junior School?” This is an understandable question as families consider such an investment for their young children.
It is one of my favourite questions to answer, too, but the challenge is keeping my reply short and succinct.
While I could speak about our incredible teaching faculty, our athletics program, our arts and music opportunities, the extracurricular offerings or how students get to explore and create in the library and Imagination Lab, a more subtle differentiator is one that is not so easily described in a quick statement.
It is the way we know each child.
While this may be something that could be considered a common statement all schools would make, I would suggest the resources we have to support students, the many dedicated faculty and staff who interact with each child every day, the time that is available for teachers to plan, and the structures we have in place are exceptional.
Each Student is Seen, Heard and Known
Knowing each child is what sets St. Michaels University School apart. I know the teachers and supports at our Middle and Senior Schools are just as connected to each student, providing care and attention that is second to none.
This has been evident as we have navigated the ongoing threat to in-class learning and various elements of instability over the past two years, yet have remained a joyful place of learning in a culture of excellence and have prioritized the focus on each child. With systems in place behind the scenes, each child is known, their progress monitored, sparks of interest ignited, bumps along the road discussed and celebrated, reassurance given, and growth acknowledged. There are so many caring and attentive eyes on each child ensuring that throughout each day they are seen, heard and known.
Several times during the year, we have meetings where every single Junior School child is discussed by many educators connected to their learning. We involve Learning Support, the homeroom teacher, input from our specialist teachers and the Junior School counsellor. Seated together, we examine evidence from classes and what we see throughout the day: How are they doing? Where might they need support? Where do they need to be challenged? Are they feeling connected socially? What are they feeling excited about? What are their strengths? Where are their stretches?
We hold each child up and honour them individually and ask ourselves how they are being nurtured for their year at school and beyond.
That is the value-added.
Thank you to Grade 6 student Maho M. for her beautiful drawing of the Junior School atop this story.