A Note from Principal Tony Byers: December 2017

Dear Families,

November marked the beginning of the Kindergarten tour season. It’s the time of year when eager (and nervous) families descend on public schools across the city in preparation for making their lottery choices. Each of these tours at Graham and Parks end with a brief question and answer session with Lauren, Jodie, or me. Over the years, we’ve learned to anticipate certain questions. The first question is always, “Can you tell us what distinguishes Graham and Parks from other schools; what makes you special?” And my answer is always the same: our stunning physical plant. Sometimes families laugh, and sometimes they don’t. It really depends on the crowd, if they are in a joking mood, and if they’ve seen the brand new Martin Luther King, Jr. School yet. And strangely, some parents don’t hear this as a joke at all, especially those who are architects and designers. They think of our building as “that mid-century modern gem on Linnaean Street.” Each to their own, I suppose.

Of course, I don’t end my answer there. After some banter about leaking ceilings and crumbling concrete, I tell them the truth… well, two truths, actually. My line goes something like this:

I’ll give you the public answer and the private answer. You can read the public answer right in the Schools at a Glance book. It says that we do project-based learning, looping classrooms, and house the Sheltered English Immersion program. This means that you can expect a school that provides students with authentic, hands-on, interdisciplinary, learning experiences within an amazing international community. The private answer is that no matter what kind of school you choose, whether it’s Montessori, language immersion, or a more traditional model, what matters most are the teachers in front of your children. At Graham and Parks, your children will love coming to school because of our teachers and staff. I’ve never worked in a school with more dedicated, caring people. And if I could, I would send my own children here over any other school I can think of.

Then I drop the microphone and walk off the stage. Or really, I stay and answer questions about world language, school lunches, safety, busses, and other assorted topics. But it’s this first answer that really matters; everything else is ornamentation. Infrastructure and curriculum matter (a lot!), but never more than the people who navigate our uneven steps and create lessons that inspire a love of learning. And sure, we all have things to work on, and the work isn’t easy, but even at its most challenging, our teachers and staff show up to work because they love their students. And our students know it. As we exit November and head into the holiday season, it’s important to express how grateful I am to be a part of this dedicated, creative, and loving community… and that includes families too! But I know I’m not the only one grateful for this school and community. It’s easy to forget at this time of year to slow down and tell people how you feel. But as I reminded our students at our last assembly, “If you're​grateful for someone,​make​sure to tell them​how​you​feel.​It​will​make​ them​feel great!”