In Nicole Hesari’s third grade class at Todd Elementary School, students know that they are a family and that they are loved unconditionally.
As part of their “Communities” project, Hesari read aloud the book “Our Class is a Family” by Shannon Olsen.
“The book talks about how everyone is welcome, but also that just like there are different types of families, there are different types of classrooms,” said Teaching Assistant Joanna Press. “It bridges the gap between home and school – just like everybody’s family is different, ours is also different, but it is also special.”
According to Press, sometimes students will ask her why students in another class do different activities or have different routines and expectations.
“We just tell them: just like every family has their own rules and their own expectations, it is the same in our classroom,” she said.
“One of my favorite lines from the book is ‘Let’s always remember what a great team we can be. You have our back, and we have yours,’” Press said.
After they read the book, students cut out houses and colored them. On the inside flap they wrote paragraphs about why they think their class is a family.
Nolan wrote: “We care about each other even if we are mad or sad.”
“You can see that the book really helped the students get that concept,” Press said.
The back cover of the book sums up the main idea with a quote: “Family isn’t always your relatives. It’s the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what.”
Press said she and Hesari want to help students understand that they are loved and accepted no matter what.
“Come as you are. Don’t compare yourself to other classes. Our classroom family does things its own way, and that’s ok,” she said. “Ms. Hesari and I are very intentional about teaching students not to say, ‘this isn’t fair.’ Fair means that everyone gets the same thing, but not everybody needs the same thing. Everybody gets what they need. That’s equity and that’s our class family.”