Getting to learn all about you

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My daughter made a comment the other day that yanked me right back to seventh grade. Just like her, that's the year I moved to a new school. And just like me, she was confessing to her mom that butterflies were still a major event every time she arrived at the school doors.

Still. A whole week - a lifetime - with all those kids who seem to know the drill, and her on the outside looking in. Then a new friend shouted her name, and a teacher greeted her. And she was gone - as were the butterflies.

That sense of recognition - of communities that know you well and expect the best - ranks high on the list of what helps kids succeed. This week's Learning section looks at several educators who have shaped their lives around that fact.

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At Engelhard Elementary in Louisville, Ky. (right), Principal Theresa Jensen and her staff learn the details of each of their 500 charges' needs and talents, and cite that as fundamental to a mission that has made the school a top performer. In New York , former Olympic fencer Peter Westbrook shows his inner-city students how to reach high and be disciplined - producing three members of the 2000 US Olympic fencing team in the process. And at Dartmouth College , like a growing number of schools, first-years kick things off with outdoor trips that have been shown to strengthen community and perhaps stem problems like binge drinking.

Which shows the importance of autumn "getting to know you" efforts. Done with sincerity and sustained throughout the year, they can make the difference in a student's will to make the grade.

*E-mail newcomba@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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