Affirmations, benedictions, and other words to grow by

February 12, 2020 | Abby Liu

In November, Emily Sytsma (Early Childhood Director) and Melissa McCallihan (Fourth and Fifth Grade Teacher) presented a workshop called Affirmations, Benedictions, and Other Words to Grow By. The workshop took place at the Columbia University Teachers College conference, The Next Wave in K-12 Education: Spiritual Core of the Whole Child. The room was packed with educators from around the country who wanted to learn how teachers at MSS use honoring words to affirm the goodness that each child brings to the school community.

Ms. Sytsma and Ms. McCallihan shared how the words in our environment—embedded and spoken in our physical spaces, our seasonal rituals, and our annual traditions—support growth in children and serve to develop habits of the heart and to remind them of who they really are.

They offered practical ideas that can be implemented at other schools:

  • Schedule listening conferences with parents at the beginning of the year to give parents the opportunity to share stories as well as hopes and dreams for their child.
  • Devote time for students to write and illustrate their hopes and dreams, including who they want to be, so they can refer to it later when they need to be reminded.
  • Create class covenants through a collaborative process. Name and honor how students will work together to establish safe learning spaces.
  • Present honoring words at Commencement to affirm each child’s contribution to the class community.
  • Bless the graduating class with words of benediction, proclaiming the special qualities of each student as they step out into high school.

These rituals provide a touch point that teachers and students can return to as the year progresses. They speak and display words that children can hold as they work through the year. These rituals nurture connection. Help students to live lives of meaning and purpose in a community where they are known and loved.

Abby Liu

Former Director of Marketing and Communications

Abby Liu was the Director of Marketing and Communications from Sept. 2018-August 2021 and was an employee of Mustard Seed School for over 14 years. She’s the parent of two Mustard Seed School alumni. She's seen the impact of a Mustard Seed education from the early preschool days all the way up to eighth grade and beyond, and thoroughly enjoys sharing the Mustard Seed School story to this day.

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