The years spent in elementary school during the formative years of one’s educational journey can go a long way towards helping a student adapt to ever-changing environments in the years to come, educators agree.
That is, if a student spends those years in a nurturing environment such as the one found at Leo Ussak Elementary School (LUS) in Rankin Inlet.
The staff at LUS begins this school year with 305 young students in kindergarten to Grade 4.
The task of administering the process at LUS is headed by principal Sarah Ayaruak, who has 18 years of experience in the role.
For Ayaruak, getting a new school year off to a good start is an obligation not an option.
Ayaruak said every staff member at LUS should be prepared to receive the students on the first day of school.
She said LUS has been very lucky in that it has had little staff turnover recently and she views such consistency as being important to a school’s overall success.
“Most kids are in awe when they start to attend school for the first time, but there’s always a few who are not quite ready yet,” said Ayaruak.
“We give parents time to be with their child in the classroom until they’re ready to begin because most of the time they’re just having a little difficulty adjusting to being away from their parents for, really, the first time.
“I also speak to the parents to remind them that they knew this day was coming, it’s now time to let their child go, and it’s best if they leave as soon as they can so the child can adjust to being in the classroom without them.
“Sometimes the parents struggle as much with the situation as the kids do.”
Adults can often forget that, at that age, it can be a pretty big jump going to middle school from elementary.
Ayaruaq said LUS and Simon Alaittuq School (SAS) are restitution-model schools (a way back to learning and understanding) where children learn to be accountable for their actions.
She said a strong focus on literacy with the Grade 4 students and good communication between LUS and SAS are two of the main keys to a successful integration to middle school from elementary for the kids.
The Grade 4 and Grade 5 teachers meet to share information on which students work well together and which students do not, so they can try to keep things fairly-well balanced as the students move to their new school.
“We also give our Grade 4 students an orientation day to spend at the middle school before the end of the school year.
“We have three Grade 4 classes, and each one gets to spend their own orientation day at SAS to see the school and get to know the staff a little so they’re comfortable when they move there in the coming fall.
“These students have, pretty much, had the same teachers since they started school and that’s a fairly big goodbye – our teachers and I are also a little sad to see them go every year – but as long as there’s that connection between students and teachers, things go well.”