"I don't think that I've had a better start to a school year. I am so excited about the community of learners and friends that we are building." This comment came from a teacher in a class newsletter being sent home, capturing the positive energy at St. Johnsbury School.

Students in several classes have been writing about their hopes and dreams for the year. Some second graders chose goals like, "I hope I get better at reading" and "I hope everyone gets along." Fifth graders combined goal setting and paragraph writing. One student wrote, "For this new school year I have chosen a goal related to reading. I plan to increase the speed of my reading. To begin with, I will go to the Athenaeum to get books to read on my own. In addition, I will check out just right books. I will also read books to my little sister. I will collaborate with other students to further my reading skills. By June, I expect to be able to read a lot faster." Being successful is important to St. Johnsbury's students.

Two other students selected concentration and organization as goals. Here's what they had to say. "For this school year I picked a goal related to concentrating. I plan to concentrate on my work more to enhance my learning. To start with, I will try not to talk as much during working time. I will also use the entire time that I'm given to work. In addition, I will practice concentrating on my work at home. Finally, I will try to pay more attention during directions so I will know what to concentrate on."

Another fifth grader decided that better organization would be helpful, and he wrote, "For this school year I have chosen a goal related to being organized. I plan to stay organized so I can find everything I need. To begin with, I will put my papers in the right spot. Also, my bin will look clean. In addition, when the teacher asks, I will get out work quickly. Finally, I won't throw my papers in my bin. I will put them in the right spot. By June, I expect to be more organized and able to find my work at all times."

Another student chose the goal of achieving high honors and listed these strategies: always doing my homework, working harder on it than I did last year, trying my best, doing better in math, finishing work on time, and making sure to turn in my work. She closed her paragraph with, "Lastly, I will ask for help and help others because that is how we learn. By June, I expect to have achieved high honors by working harder in my school." This student had carefully thought through a plan of how to reach her goal.

Classes have been accessing the resources of our town. Our art teacher took seventh and eighth graders to Catamount Arts to see the gallery exhibition "Dogs, Angels, and More Dogs" showcasing the works of the late local artist, Stephen Huneck. The fourth graders attended the Fall Festival at the Fairbanks Museum to learn about the solar system. The seventh- and eighth-grade Humanities classes have begun the year with a unit of study based on the culture of St. Johnsbury. Students will be identifying the community's economy, political system, education, social structures and recreational activities. The Humanities teachers are seeking community partners to share their expertise or personal experiences with students. The teachers wrote, "It is our hope that students will be able to deeply understand the concept of culture and become active members of their community through a place-based learning project which will be directly linked to their own interests or curiosities about St. Johnsbury."

As our sign outside proclaims, "We are off to a great start!"

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