The first time I observed the magic that is The Cooper School, I came with a group of teachers during a professional development outing. We were going through our first year of Responsive Classroom training and the purpose of our visit was to observe the teachers and the power of their language for effective classroom management.
I remember being in complete awe immediately upon entering the building. I knew I was experiencing something that truly spoke to the spirit of what I had always hoped for education to be like. As I toured the building, observing teachers interact genuinely and respectfully in caring ways with students, I experienced a cohesive learning community with an environment that was warm, engaging, calm and so exciting at the same time. The curriculum was rigorous and cozy sock-footed students were fully engaged with the learning that was happening. I was truly engaged in their learning as I simply observed! It made me wish that I had attended a school like this. Everything from the placement of classroom materials to carpet and table learning arrangements was so purposeful and completely child-centered.
We ended the observation with a group discussion where any questions we had could be answered about the teaching we saw and the school in general. I had so many questions and while they were being answered, the students went outside for snack. I had a view of the backyard from my seat and when I saw the joy and beauty of students as they played, I was moved to tears by the whole experience I had while observing that morning. The Cooper School truly embodied joyful learning and where did they find these amazing teachers and how did they create this magic in the classroom? My heart was so inspired! I had experienced way more than my intended purpose.
I walked away from this observation inspired as an educator, hopeful and eager as a parent and extremely grateful for the experience. On this day several things happened to me as a parent and as an educator. First, I knew that I had to get my daughter into this learning environment. As the mother of a tenderhearted, sweet and gentle kindergartener, I was extremely moved and motivated by the beautiful way that childhood is protected and that the whole child is honored at The Cooper School. Not long after my visit, I transferred my daughter to The Cooper School mid-year. It was the best choice I’ve ever made as a parent. I witnessed my shy girl blossom into a brave scholar who eagerly read her poem in front of a packed audience at Pass it On! The second thing that happened to me that day was a realization that I had found the mecca for what I had always hoped for in education. As a person who really values communication, honoring emotions and feelings of people, and supporting those around me, I had a great deal of respect for the work that was being done at The Cooper School. Later that year, I was shocked and honored to accept a position teaching at The Cooper School for the following year! I was thrilled to become a part of a community that I had grown to love and respect so much.
Some days while I’m driving to work, I say things to myself like, “I just really love my job!” I love being a part of a community that protects childhood and fosters joyful learning in thoughtful and respectful ways. I have been stretched as an educator in so many ways. I am honored to work with an incredibly intelligent and talented group of professionals in such a unique learning community where joyful learning takes place everyday. This team of educators models daily with each other, what we teach the children about being encouraging and supportive members of a community of learners. I love the work that we do. I believe in the work that we do. I am a better educator because of the team I get to work with. I learn daily from the work that we do. I am grateful for the coaching, sharing, listening, learning, growth and change that happens daily at The Cooper School.