December 18, 2018

His sweet smile as he approached me had already melted my heart. “It was my pleasure to have lunch with you today,”  the 4th grade boy said. At that moment I realized that our efforts to build community while dining together each week were taking hold. 
 
Wednesdays are my new favorite day of the week. At JCDS, they are “We Are Connected Wednesdays.” All staff and specialist participate in two important times in a child's day: Morning Meeting and lunch. During both, we are all connecting with students on a more meaningful level and building relationships.
 
We join a different class for Morning Meeting, a time when we are intentionally building social skills, fostering good character, and monitoring the emotional temperature of students. This allows staff and faculty members to connect with students at different grade levels and model positive behavior and mindsets.
 
Our staff takes these responsibilities quite seriously. In a recent administration meeting, one administrator asked to leave to meet with her morning meeting class because the class she visited was sharing their passions and wanted her to share. 
 
At the three lunch periods on Wednesdays, all teachers and staff have a lunch group. Students of differing ages and grades are joined by faculty and staff. Several students dine with one or two adults for dining, conversation, and fun. Intentional efforts to include good manners, conversational courtesies, and proper nutrition are readily obvious. We’ve been meeting weekly with the same table groups since September and are bonding. 
 
I am fortunate to have three Kindergarten boys and their 4th grade buddies joining me for lunch each week. Parents would be proud to see the deliberate way the older boys are nurturing and instructing the younger ones. It was the 4th graders’ plan to sit beside their buddies as they saw a disconnect when the three kindergarten students were together across the table from the three of them. Now, it’s a habit for all the boys to stagger and vary the seating. As the older boys, our role models, politely suggest, “eat your noodles before the cake,” “remember to ask to be excused instead of just getting up to take your tray,” and “please wait, it’s his turn to talk,” we realize that we are witnessing teaching and learning at its best. 
 
Stories are being reported about the different ways the adults and students are engaging with their tablemates.Tonya Elstein’s group has a “secret” signal when they pass in the halls. With much pride, she brags about how each of her students places the napkins on their laps before beginning lunch. 
 
Thanks to delicious meals prepared by our own Chef Jim, we are able to discuss the nutritious choices, favorite foods and what foods we like. Students are learning to socialize with others through one of the most common of human experiences: eating with others.
 
I am grateful to the entire JCDS family. As we grow and continually refine our programs, we realize how much we all benefit from learning together and making deeper connections. This year we are realizing the benefits of being connected. And we are all Connected through JCDS!
 
 
Pat Walker
Head of School


Head of School Pat Walker has 35 years of experience as an educator, including seven years teaching 1st grade at JCDS. She also served as Director of Admissions for thirteen years prior to being named Head of School in 2014.

Ms. Walker holds a BA in Education from Wake Forest University. She and her husband, James, are parents of twins who are alums of JCDS. Ms. Walker is passionate about character education and serving the children in her care.

She is active in the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the Florida Council of Independent Schools (FCIS), for which she has served on several FCIS evaluation committees, and the Elementary School Heads Association (ESHA).
 
Located In Jacksonville, FL, Jacksonville Country Day School is a private school for Pre-K 3 through 6th grade. JCDS prepares students for a healthy and productive lifetime of intellectual exploration, character development, and social responsibility.