How do you approach the end of the school year? For some, the countdown to summer begins immediately after spring break. For me, I am in denial until the very last week: “It is NOT almost over!” I protest. But even when the end comes, there is still Evergreen Camp and next year to look forward to.
To make the transition to summer meaningful, we are planning two special events to put closure on the year. The first honors our elementary class. On Friday, we will recognize the special journey of our elementary students—in particular those who are departing after many years of learning and growth at Evergreen– through songs, poems and presentations. We are so proud of our students and their accomplishments! If you are familiar with the elementary class, you will understand how sad it will be to say goodbye to our beloved students and their families.
The second event takes place on the last day of school. Students will gather in the gym for a giant Montessori birthday celebration for the school. We will simulate the earth’s path around the sun and represent the journey we have been on this year. We will recount highlights of the year, sing, say goodbye and conclude with cookies and lemonade on the playground. The snacks may be sweet, but the end is always bittersweet.
I read a great article on optimism by Jane Broddy in the Tuesday Health Section of the Times (A Richer Life by Seeing the Glass Half Full, 5/21/2012). Optimism, as you read in my blog last September, is the greatest gift we can give our children. And Broddy gives a short primer on steps we can take toward that goal.
My favorite part of Broddy’s article recounts the way confidence and optimism opened doors for he. She writes,
“When I applied at age 24 for a job as a science writer at The New York Times, an interviewer said I was foolhardy to think I could be hired after just two years of newspaper experience. ‘If I didn’t think I could do the job, I wouldn’t be here,’ I told him.
It turned out to be just what he wanted to hear, and I was hired. Since what I loved most was researching and writing articles that could help people better understand science and medicine, I stayed focused on my goals and declined opportunities to move up in the organization by becoming an editor.”
Broddy cites a book on optimism called Breaking Murphy’s Law by Suzanne C. Segerstrom, a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky. To be more optimistic, according to Segerstrom, you should act optimistically. Optimistic attitudes arise from patterns of optimistic behavior. She applies the addage “Fake it until you make it,” to optimism. Or in Broddy’s words, “If you behave more optimistically, you will be likely to keep trying instead of giving up after an initial failure.”
And Broddy adds, “Research has indicated that a propensity toward optimism is strongly influenced by genes, most likely ones that govern neurotransmitters in the brain. Still, the way someone is raised undoubtedly plays a role, too. Parents who bolster children’s self-esteem by avoiding criticism and praising accomplishments, however meager, can encourage in them a lifelong can-do attitude.”
Yes, we can.
And our children can too!
I would like to introduce you to a difference maker: Gawan Fiore.
He’s a seventeen year old high school student who is a co-president of the Color My World Project (CMW). Gawan’s organization recycles crayons in restaurants and sends them to schools across the country. So far, they have donated over 18,700 crayons! The 15 CMW team members collect crayons from partnering restaurants like Outback Steakhouse and California Pizza Kitchen around the US. CMW is already operating in eight US states.
But it’s about more than crayons. According to their website, CMW raises “awareness about the importance of recycling by engaging children and teenagers in a collaborative and community-based recycling project that also provides art supplies for young children.”
Gawan visited Evergreen School yesterday and spoke to our students about the importance of recycling. He explained how CMW works, the importance preserving our natural resources and ways we can all do our part. Gawan showed our students that even teenagers can make a big difference. And he even left us a gift of 900 crayons and a set of coloring books!
Thank you, Gawan!
One of my favorite ways to experience children’s art is to find connections to works from art history. This piece by an Evergreen student made me first think of the abstractions of Morris Louis and then Helen Frankenthaler. The longer I look, the more I think of a Richard Diebenkorn landscape. What do you see? The work of a sophisticated colorist or the exuberance and spontaneity of a 4-year old?
Originally printed in the GreenWheaton Newsletter, May 2012
Evergreen School is hosting their second Green Symposium on May 19. The program is designed for the school’s families and will feature class performances, hands-on environmental activities and representatives from local green advocacy organizations. John DeMarchi, the Head of School says, “It is a great opportunity for the school to promote environmentally sustainable practices by our families.”
This year’s Symposium honors the second anniversary of their prize-winning Rain Garden. The Garden was won an honor at the 25th annual Keep Montgomery County Beautiful (KMCB) award ceremony held by The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) last fall.
The contest was designed to encourage those in Montgomery County to undertake landscape activities and neighborhood beautification projects that improve the overall appearance of the County. MCDOT supports beauty without toxicity by encouraging landscaping projects that utilize conservation measures which keep pesticides and fertilizers out of local streams and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.
Evergreen’s landscaping project involved transforming its playground into a sustainable rain garden using only native plant species. The new landscape design prevents polluted run-off rain water from flowing into the storm water system and eventually into the Chesapeake Bay by channeling it from the school’s parking lot through a filtration swale and catch basin. Over the course of a year, pounds of pollutants are kept out of creek and river systems.
Mr. DeMarchi says, “The natural elements on the playground enable children to have intimate encounters with rain drops, earthworms and dandelions. The playground does more than provide a place for safe, physical play. It exposes children to natural elements—such as rocks, logs, water and other features that stimulate the senses.” As Maria Montessori understood, we learn directly from our senses—thus sensual experiences are the foundation for learning.
Our elementary and academic afternoon students participated in a hoop-a-thon, jump rope-a-thon and more today. The event was planned by elementary students who chose to support Amman Imman for their work in the Azawak region of Niger and Mali. Learn more at: http://www.ammanimman.org
Each school, including my school Evergreen, works to distinguish itself among its competitors. For this reason, the “Why?” button is ubiquitous on independent school web sites. These buttons or links lead readers to pages that promotes the school’s unique benefits. Some Why Buttons are simple: Why Roycemore? Why Woods? Some are more elegant: What distinguishes Chapin? Why Choose Landon? Other Why buttons are direct: The Collegiate Advantage, The Columbus Academy Advantage, etc.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asked another important “Why” question this week in his blog. Why do teachers choose to teach? He writes:
When I ask teachers why they teach, they almost always say that it is because they want to make a difference in the lives of children. They talk about the joys of teaching and the singular rewards of watching children learn…
Yet stories of lasting and life-changing teacher-student relationships contrast starkly with what teachers say when asked about their profession. In short order, they lament inadequate training, top-down reforms, teaching to the test, budget cuts and a lack of time to collaborate.
No doubt, Arne Duncan spends much of his time speaking with US teachers who feel underappreciated for their efforts, their professionalism and their dedication to making a difference. He notes that half of new teachers quit within five years. Data shared by Charles Blow in the New York Times (The Teacher Paywall 5/6/12) shows distressing levels of low morale among teachers. It is a pity to read such bad news, this being Teacher Appreciation Week and all.
Fortunately, this is not the news from Evergreen.
In the next several weeks, I will be collecting our teachers’ reflections on the Why of teaching at Evergreen. Just like our families choose our school, our teachers have many choices about where they spend their careers. They elect to teach here– and stay here (sometimes for 27 years or more). Why? Perhaps it is because of the respect with which they are treated as professionals; perhaps it is the way their efforts are honored by our families; perhaps it is our strong sense of community that makes every faculty member feel like an indispensable part of the team; perhaps it is our dedication to the school’s Montessori philosophy and the difference it makes in children’s lives.
I look forward to hearing our teachers’ answers to the Why questions. I will share their responses on my blog. For when you are choosing a school for your child, you will want to know why your child’s teachers have chosen, too.