A Note from Principal Tony Byers: October 2017

Dear Families,

Although recent weather would suggest otherwise, we’re well on our way into fall. The first few weeks of school are behind us, and children and adults have settled back into the school-year routine. And while I say this every year, it’s worth repeating: routines are the foundation of a successful school year. Children feel safe and are more available for learning when expectations are clear and they can anticipate what comes next. In the classroom, this means maintaining a reasonably consistent schedule and teaching students how to navigate and care for their environment. We really do teach lessons on how to replace marker caps; it’s vitally important to keep pushing until you hear the “click.” But of course knowing how to replace a marker cap and line up for recess does not ensure a successful school year alone. A successful school year also depends on helping students cultivate personal and interpersonal skills, or the habits that define an effective learner and a positive community member. At Graham and Parks, we call these our CARES values:

C: Be Curious (ask questions, think outside the box, try new things)
A: Aim high (do your best, work hard, set goals, take risks)
R: Respect everyone (be a good listener, be inclusive, embrace differences)
E: Be an Engaged learner (think deeply, be reflective, don’t give up)
S: Show Kindness (speak nicely to everyone, be friendly, help each other, be aware
 of others’ feelings, reach out)

The CARES values are a focus of classroom and school community building at the start of every year and provide a shared vision of what it means to be a Graham and Park’s student. It’s an ambitious list of values; I’m sure you can think of a few adults who routinely fail to live up to them. And if we’re going to be honest with ourselves, most of us falter from time to time, especially during times of stress and uncertainty, so you’d be forgiven for wondering if it’s realistic to expect our students to embody all our CARES values. However, despite the challenges, I do believe it’s a realistic expectation in elementary school. Young children are, by their nature, curious and engaged, and they desperately want the world to be a kind and inclusive place. And they look to adults closest to them, their caregivers and teachers, for evidence that it can be. But they don’t look to us forever, and so the elementary years are a critical time for supporting students in becoming the people they already want to be.

At Graham and Parks, we believe this work is as important as the academic curriculum and is in fact inseparable from it. But it also takes time, patience, and teamwork from all the adults in a child’s life. Together, we can make showing kindness and aiming high as routine as clicking on a marker cap.


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