“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their
innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.”
From time to time schools should ask the simple question: “What’s important?” For
teachers in New Orleans right after Katrina, creating a safe community was most
important. In Somalia, teaching courtesy to children who witnessed decades of violence
and bloodshed in their communities was most important. On the island of Cyprus,
bringing the Cypriot children together to heal decades of conflict between the Greek and
Turkish families was most important. Once we know what is important, we can begin our
work with a thoughtful and unified purpose.
Last August, during a weekend retreat, the Casa board of trustees, explored what’s
important. This past June, I asked the same question to all the Casa staff. Both the
board and the staff broke into separate groups to discuss the question. Once they
reported back to the group, the central theme was the same.
Some explained it as Peace Education, while others described it as The Casa Way.
Communities are strongest when all community members feel known, needed, cared
for, and have the opportunity to shape their environment.
Many educators have studied the impact of community on learning. Maria Montessori
understood the role of community within the Montessori classroom. John Dewey
focused on several principles, including democracy and community. The Lakota Indians
used the term Tiospaye to describe their extended community. The Child Development
Project suggests that a caring community is the leading predictor of a greater liking for
school and a greater empathy towards others’ feelings.
At Casa, the idea of community is important. Beyond the classroom, community
members gather in special events such as summer socials and daily drop-off and pickups.
There is a sense of respect that is in fact the foundation of Casa. As I stand by my
desk in Latimer, I experience laughter, joy, and teachers who treat children with the
deepest respect. The teachers are successful in creating peaceful environments where
children feel safe to take risks. A safe and respectful community creates intrinsic
motivation in the child.
I want you all to know how much I love and respect the Casa community. This year I will
use writing as a platform for sharing ideas and developing a common language. I look
forward to getting to know the entire Casa community in the coming year. Please feel
free to stop by my desk in Latimer or office in Campbell Community Center.
I want to be sure that what’s important is being lived out in our day-to-day lives.
Dr. Jeff Beedy