Yes, it’s Autumn and we’ve gone back to school!
We have now been in this new rhythm for over a month. It is not only our young children beginning school but we, the parents/caregivers, are also returning to the seat of the student. Our shared learning process is a key element of what makes attending a cooperative preschool special. It fosters healthy families and learning for all of us, not just our children. Although our children are technically students at Bothell Family Cooperative Preschool (BFCP) and we are students at Shoreline Community College (SCC), at the heart of what emerges from these two institutional umbrellas is that our learning and growth comes from our community. Our community is the classroom.
Teacher Kathy has been a dedicated guide of the early-learning journey here at BFCP since 2001, and she is one of an incredible legacy of dedicated teachers who have served this community through the 40 years of the coop’s existence. She knows that families who choose a coop preschool for their child are doing so for many different reasons – a play-based learning environment, a conscious choice to be involved, community, etc. With each new class of children and parents, she returns each year to the school’s mission statement for what informs her work as a teacher and a school director.
Organizational mission statements at best are only read once by their members and often not read at all. If they are read, they are quickly glanced over, with the parent’s attention skipping to other orientation details related to drop-off times and parking protocols (don’t park in the fire lane!), the schedules for committee work, school meetings and work days and, of course, not wanting to forget your snack day.
For Teacher Kathy, the BFCP mission statement is always close at hand. She shared in a recent interview that while the mission is revisited annually by the school’s Board of Directors, it has been “very rarely tweaked” and has stood the test of time. If you have ever worked on a mission statement before, you may know how truly impressive this is and how it calls forth another read.
On the first page of the coop’s handbook it states our mission:
Bothell Family Cooperative Preschool is dedicated to nurturing the development of healthy families.
We believe that children and their caregivers flourish in a supportive community.
We respect the uniqueness and capabilities of each individual.
With involved members at every level, our program provides a broad range of hands-on learning opportunities for children and their caregivers.
At OUR school, the first and foremost important thing is to nurture and develop healthy families. The rest of the mission is deeply rooted from this profoundly simple and potent seed intention. Teacher Kathy loves a quote that goes something like: “children are plants to be unfolded not pots to be molded.” She says that our coop’s members together are like a giant, diverse garden, and as with different plants that need their own certain/unique environments to grow, the same is true for all of us as learners. We are the plants. She believes that we and our children have the opportunity to bloom at BFCP and that there is a place here for everybody. This seed intention, to dedicate ourselves to healthy families, can give us a feeling of spaciousness to create beauty and magic in our classroom, in our community….in this garden we are co-creating and tending in its unfolding over the year.
An organization’s mission statement is only given life and meaning when its members embody its words in how they act and grow together as a community.
Now that we’ve settled into this learning year, here is an invitation to reflect on a few questions that come from our shared mission. This is in the hope of making our classroom environments the most nourishing garden for all!
As involved members and student-learners, what does it mean to each of us to be dedicated to nurturing healthy families?
How can we create a safe and supportive learning environment where all children and their caregivers can flourish?
As we are in the classroom together, how can we support health and vibrancy for our children, one another and the community?
How can we respect the uniqueness of each of the growing plants in our garden and raise up their capabilities as they thrive here at BFCP?
As we engage with these questions and others that the mission statement inspires us to ask, we are fortunate that when Teachers Jaime, Kelly, Angela and Kathy are engaging us, they are always wanting to create a space that feels caring and nurturing. That is to say, we are being well-held as we explore our own learning journeys as parents. Our wonderful teachers also strive to create a safe learning environment where our children feel known.
As we continue to get to know one another, ourselves and our children better, together we are making a beautiful, diverse and bountiful garden that will grow into the seasons ahead.