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Parent Education Series

October 05, 2023
By Jo-Anne Woolner

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” L.M. Montgomery Anne of Green Gables

Montgomery’s novel is one of my favorites - and not just because Lucy Maud was a Canadian and her mother’s name was Clara Woolner McNeil.* It tells the story of Anne Shirley, a pre-adolescent orphan who finds herself in the care of the Cuthbert siblings - both curmudgeonly and rather old - who were not expecting and are initially displeased to have Anne join their small family. The Cuthberts seem nearly as vulnerable as Anne, for as they deal with their own hardships, they try to set boundaries and realistic expectations for, and encourage empathy, kindness, respect, and responsibility within this spunky, accident-prone girl. Just when life seems to be going smoothly, another crisis must be averted or turned into a teaching, learning moment for all of them. The Cuthberts learn from Anne, but they also learn from their Avonlea acquaintances and Anne’s teachers, all of whom willingly share their wisdom and experience and offer help as Anne moves through adolescence and into adulthood.

At Gooden we understand that each year can feel challenging for families as they learn the protocols and expectations for a new grade - new backpacks, shoes, uniforms, lunches, musical instruments, PE and chapel days, after-school schedules, even sleep patterns - all loom large. This is especially true for our new families, for whom everything seems foreign and new! All of our families, like the Cuthberts in 1908, come to understand that children are always changing - emotionally, intellectually, physically, and socially. Families should know that they are not alone on this journey, for the school is an essential partner throughout every year, other families can help, and we can bring in special speakers for advice as well!

As we settle into October and fall, we are going to support our families by offering more parent-education opportunities throughout the year. We have begun with grade level coffee chats to discuss what to expect, what is typical developmentally to specific grades, and how we are going to support the children in every grade. These casual conversations are held in the library and are hosted by Head of School, Jo-Anne Woolner, and Assistant Head of School, Laurie Tortell, and often grade-level or subject-specific faculty. We value having this time to connect with parents on a personal level and to answer any questions that arise.

On Monday, October, 16th, from 4:00-5:30 p.m. in the multi-purpose room, there will be an opportunity for parents and guardians to discuss with an Episcopal education expert and consultant the needs of our school community post-COVID. Dr. Doreen Oleson, an independent consultant who last visited our school to do a climate study in 2019, returns to discuss with our community the state of the school and what we should concentrate on over the next five to ten years. Dr. Oleson has served as Assistant Vice-President at Pepperdine University, as Head of School at Saint Mark’s Altadena for 25 years, as president of the governing board of the National Association of Episcopal Schools, as trustee of the National Association of Independent Schools, was president of the California Association of Independent Schools, served on the National Commission on Accreditation, and was chair of the Commission on Schools for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.  We hope to see you there, please RSVP here.

We are also working with the GFA to invite outside professionals to our campus for an opportunity to speak to families about topics that impact our children. Our student-support, parent-education speaker series will begin with a presentation at 6:00 p.m. on November 9, 2023 in the multi-purpose room by Gooden alumna Dr. Natasha Hamlin about “The Well-balanced Student.” As we secure dates and our speakers we will communicate them with you and they will be announced in the app. Be sure to check for updates to the app on Fridays every week!

We look forward to our partnership with you as we work together to raise and support our children. Our teachers are the most optimistic people in the world because they know that “There is some good in every person if you can find it. It is a teacher's duty to find and develop it.” (L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea)

*Lucy Maud Montgomery was born on Prince Edward Island in 1874, and she herself was orphaned and raised by her grandparents. Around the same time, two of her cousins were also orphaned and there was a mix up about which extended family would get the boy and which would get the girl. The family that got the girl was not happy, and this and her own experiences inspired Lucy Maud to write Anne of Green Gables, and other novels. My husband’s grandfather, Benjamin Woolner, was born in 1876 on PEI and he was also a cousin of Lucy Maud’s.