Notes from ED


(excerpts from my Open House Speech, with a few edits)

As you may remember, I always tell a couple of stories at Open House about precious, humorous, and poignant things your children say – and tonight will be no exception, but there will once again be a twist. I’m sharing a couple of stories from our teachers.

One of our 5/6 teachers shared that she was talking with her students about what it means to be a good role model, since right next door to her room there is a group of much younger students. One of the kids in the class said that he wasn’t sure he could manage this role model stuff – because of the level of responsibility. The teacher reassured him, saying that she was sure he would do a great job. He responded, “Is this what teachers feel like all the time?” to which she responded “Kind of.” He sighed and said, “I know I wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure.” One of our 1/2 teachers related a story about one of her students. Individual children in this class regularly have an opportunity to share a story, something special they own, or an exciting event with their classmates. The other children ask questions or make comments to their classmates. One student in the class delays for a while before putting up her hand, and she always raises her hand when no one else in the class has done so. The teacher, surprised by this behavior, asked the young girl about it. Her response: “I want to make sure that everyone in the class receives a compliment or a kindness.” Children say and do the most amazing things.

“Always be Humble and Kind” were words we heard sung sweetly by Fran’s class last year, at our Volunteer Reception All School Meeting. That song was made popular by country music star Tim McGraw and was written by Lori McKenna, a wife and mother of five from Stoughton, MA (who never dreamed that her beautiful songs would be sung by superstars and listened to all over the country). That song simply and beautifully speaks to the simplest of values that we wish for in our students and in our children. In fact, how we treat others must be at the core of what we practice and model for children. As we notice some of the things happening throughout the world and in our own country, we realize that we must teach our students tolerance, patience, kindness, gratitude, and respect. How we speak to one another absolutely matters…for kids it’s in the classroom, on the playground, on the bus, in family groups…for adults it’s in faculty meetings, in grade level meetings, at PTO gatherings, or at TEAM meetings. How we speak with one another absolutely matters; we can advocate while being respectful of others, we can be honest while giving space for others’ truth, and we can share our feelings while knowing that others’ feelings matter too. This stuff isn’t easy; if it was, everyone would get along in perfect harmony. But we can make a difference if we make “how we conduct ourselves” a shining pearl of our school culture, shining for others to see. This makes me think back over 10 years….some of you may have heard of the Handshake Project. It was a time when the Yankees and Red Sox rivalry was bitter – to the point where players and fans literally fought with one another. And there were issues on our own school playground. So a couple of classes of students began to have conversations about sportsmanship. Those conversations led to an idea: “Why don’t we ask the Yankees and Red Sox to shake hands?” The students’ message was simple: “If we can do it, why can’t you?” The kids created Powerpoint presentations and sent them to the two teams. They expected to hear nothing. What they received was shocking – it began with interviews with a Boston Globe reporter and was followed up the next day with a front page article in the paper. Interviews were conducted by television and radio stations all over the country – and as far away as Japan. Terry Francon called to speak to the students, Brian Cashman and the baseball commissioner wrote letters to the kids. A number of incredible invitations to the children (such as appearances on The Today Show and The Letterman Show) needed to be turned down; after all, the kids had to go to school. The school received a $10,000 sportsmanship award for their work on this project. There were many wonderful pieces written about the children and their project but my favorite was by New York Times sportswriter George Vescey. His article was entitled “For Red Sox-Yankees, “Blessed are the Peacemakers…” and here are a few excerpts:

“A bunch of junior peacemakers in Massachusetts are urging the Yankees and the Red Sox to show some civility toward each other when the season opens….This activism is a lovely first step, but the reality is that the Yankees and the Red Sox are not the ones who most need the shaming. The truly unpleasant actors in this rivalry are the bravehearts in the stands at the two historic ballparks….If the children can get fans to drop their dukes and lower their voices; I would send them directly to the United Nations. They are getting a marvelous education in that school in Acton.”

I’m reminded that in one of the last interviews, a newscaster asked the children when they were going to take their message about sportsmanship from the sporting arena to the political arena. That question continues to ring true today. So – we can dream big about the difference one small school can make in the larger world around us. We as adults can teach our children and in turn they can show us the way. It all begins with Lori McKenna’s simple words – the reminder to always be humble and kind. From there let’s all put how we treat one another at the core of what we do together as a school community this year.…Thank you.