Building Community and Connections

Kimberly Formisano, Head of Lower School
The beginning of a school year brings promise of new relationships, new learning, and new routines. My own children demonstrated their eagerness for the school year to begin by preparing their backpacks days before the first day of school. At the dinner table, they would discuss what they were looking forward to and what they hoped would be true. Always at the top of the list was a nice teacher and a fun classroom community, because they knew that was the key to a successful school year. When a teacher took the time to learn about students as individuals, it brought a sense of belonging and a feeling of significance in the classroom for the whole year.  

What I have seen in my first few weeks at Brimmer is a community of teachers who know their students and prioritize joy in the classroom. There is value placed on building community within the classroom, across the grades, and in the school. The intergrade buddy system and gator awards given at Share let students know they are important and that they matter. Teachers prioritize building connections knowing that “Students in schools with a strong sense of community are more likely to be academically motivated (Solomon, Battistich, Watson, Schaps, & Lewis, 2000); to act ethically and altruistically (Schaps, Battistich, & Solomon, 1997); to develop social and emotional competencies (Solomon et al., 2000); and to avoid a number of problem behaviors (Resnick et al., 1997).”   

Beyond the classroom, buddies—older students matched with a younger student—encourage connection between grade levels. Seeing a familiar face in the foyer of McCoy or inside the theater will often garner a wave or a hug. Buddies will often paint pictures for each other and write short notes. These small moments have positive ripple effects.  

The Apple Picking trip to Lookout Farm furthered the relationships that are developed through buddies and fostered a sense of responsibility. On my first field trip with Brimmer, I was immediately impressed by the students’ behavior on the buses and when we arrived at the farm. Children were patient as they waited for instructions and appreciative of the employees we interacted with. There was a buzz of excitement as the older students waited to greet their buddies and headed out to the orchard to pick apples. It was heartwarming to witness the buddies interact with one another—older students carrying apples for the little ones and helping pick apples too tall for their buddies. I loved hearing conversations amongst the children about how many apples they could pick and how to find the largest or smallest apple. Our trip to Lookout Farm encouraged students to act responsibly and respectfully; the older buddies understood the importance of looking out for their younger friends, while the younger students acted safely as they witnessed all 150 LS students move throughout a public space. The cooperation and kindness that took place demonstrated how field trips foster community building and impart memories that will last for a lifetime.  

At a recent family dinner, I shared with my own children the many examples of how Brimmer prioritizes connection and values the uniqueness of each individual. They shared memories of their elementary years and what was abundantly clear was that the years they remembered most fondly were ones where the teacher placed value in knowing the students and celebrating their talents.  
As an inclusive private school community, Brimmer welcomes students who will increase the diversity of our school. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, sex, gender, gender identity and expression, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, or any other characteristic protected from discrimination under state or federal law, in the administration of our educational policies, admissions practices, financial aid decisions, and athletic and other school-administered programs.