Parent of a 1st grade girl. Love your class/school? nice kids? Tell me more

Hi Parents.

We live in Berkeley.

My daughter is in first grade at a private school in Oakland.  We love the school and it was great for our first daughter.  However, we are finding that the classroom vibe changes year to year depending on who is in the class.  And her first grade classroom (as was her K classroom) is a particularly difficult deal of cards.  Few girls live near us.  None of the other families of girls seem to want to get the girls together for playdates or other opportunities to build friendships.  And worse, there are actually some mean girls, who have made things worse.  Our girl is exceptionally well socialized in that she is kind, follows rules, does not have off-putting behaviors.  And seriously, this is not just coming from her mama.  Other adults who observe her behavior around other kids are just wowed at what a dear sweet child she is.  And she is funny.  And she is creative.  She has got it all going on, yet doesn't have a single friend in her class.  Meaning a single friend she can play with outside school.  So my question is - do you have a first grade girl in a classroom that is a great social environment?  A school with parents who want to get the kids together and are active and involved in their kids lives.  Public or private, I'm open.  I'd like to know.  Thanks!

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We’ve just started our kid in kindergarten at Emerson in Berkeley and one of the striking things about the school is the priority on community connections— coffee on the schoolyard on Fridays, an equity group, schoolwide events (walk-a-thons, read-a-thons) and that community feel has made for a pretty great social experience (as in be as involved/not as you’d like) that seems to also be in place with the kids (in our experience at least!).  

In case it’s helpful, our daughter’s first grade class also went through a “mean girls” phase last year.  Now the drama seems to be a distant memory.  They are really just learning how to navigate friendships at this age, and it’s our job as parents and teachers to help them.  A new school may help, but so may time.

I am so sorry that things aren’t feeling good for your daughter - it’s so heartbreaking to watch our little ones go through these struggles. Sounds like you’re looking for a warm and welcoming and creative place for your daughter to really settle into...I have a first grade daughter (and 3rd grade son) at Aurora - a small progressive school in Upper Rockridge - and it is just such a place. Both of my children have felt so welcomed and nurtured there - by their teachers, their friends, the other families, the administrators! It is a really lovely school that focuses a lot on building community. The whole school (K-5) gets together every Tuesday for assembly (parents welcome), where we sing, sometimes meditate, make announcements - it’s so fun to watch the kids lead the songs (when they feel ready), make announcements about the school or the world. It’s a small school - 100 kids in 5 grades - which helps facilitate friendships across grades  and which also really creates a feeling of community among the parents. Play dates and camping trips and shared after school activities are all actively pursued by most parents (and kids). I can’t speak highly enough about it. My children (and my husband and I) have been really happy at Aurora - it’s a wonderful place! Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.


An Aurora Mama to a happy first grade girl and third grade boy

My twin daughters and their dad and his siblings all attended Berkeley’s School of the Madeleine. My husband and his class of ‘68 still have reunions. Our daughters enjoyed 9 years there from K thru 8. The school’s motto is “be good to one another—pass it on!”  The current principal attended, his children are also attending and his wife teaches. Mostly very lovely folks send their kids there and it was a great experience for all of us. Check it out. 

When you say she doesn't have a friend she can play with outside of class... does she have friends *in* class? Kids she eats with, and plays with at recess? How does she feel about the social element of this class? Your message has a lot about what you want, and what you think should be happening. Are you managing your own expectations around school social life in a way that respects her experience? Maybe she has plenty of friends in class, but the other families are busy after work and on weekends. That doesn't mean she's having a negative experience in class. [Of course, perhaps she is, but I can only go on what you wrote.] 

I can definitely empathize. My own daughter is awesome (IMHO) and well-liked by adults, but as far as I can tell, she only has two friends. She never wants to invite anyone else over, and she never gets invited anywhere else. Those two families never reciprocate, but they keep accepting our invites, so I guess their kids like our kid well enough. We average 1 or 2 playdates per month. It's heartbreaking for me, but the challenge is not to project what I think her social life should be like onto her. She's totally fine with it as is. The last thing I want is to signal to her that she shouldn't be happy with her life. If *she* starts telling me she doesn't have enough friends, I'll be all in to support new friendships. Until then, I'm working on accepting that my daughter may not be a social butterfly, and letting her fill her time with the kinds of solitary activities she loves to do (art, writing stories, making up songs, etc.)

I highly recommend The Berkeley School on University Ave (formerly the Berkeley Montessori School). We’ve been there since my daughter was in kindergarten, she’s now in 2nd grade. The teachers are magical and stress full social and emotional growth alongside academics. As a result the children are amazingly empathetic, creative, and curious. My daughter loves her teachers and when I ask her who her friends in class are, she responds “all my classmates are friends.” We’ve also built a great social network with fellow parents of her friends. I routinely get support from fellow mothers, often rely on them for pick-ups, schedule play dates and even group camping trips. If you’re looking to enter into a full community of teachers, students, and their families, I highly recommend the school!