From: Rhonda Perry, Principal
Over the summer, my youngest sister moved to Virginia to teach seventh grade math in a very challenging neighborhood. She called me a few days before school started and asked me for advice. What do you say to a 23 year old who is at the beginning of one of the most rewarding careers a person could have and one of the most soul wrenching? I didn’t want to say too much. I told her to remember that the kids she will teach are as complex as she is and that she needs to do all she can to show them that she cares about them. “Get to know the kids and let them know you. Connect. Teaching is really about building strong relationships with kids. “ I haven’t heard from her in the past two months—very strange, since, as is true for her generation, she normally texts me back a few seconds after I send her a message. Via my mother, I learned that my sister is too busy with her students to get back to me.
I feel really good about my advice to her. When I think about Salk, I think about a caring school. I hope that when students leave Salk, they will remember this place as a place of joy and fun, where they felt understood, where they felt that people cared about each other and each other’s learning. I am lucky to spend my day with teachers who think deeply about how to create such a place for young people and are so intentional about building community. Parents have commented often about the easy transition to middle school. It is so because we’ve made it so by designing the schedule, the physical environment and the curriculum—our entire community--to allow adults and students to collaborate for long chunks of time on meaningful work inspired by our core values. We are intentional about creating opportunities for students to get to know us and each other and to have fun in classrooms, in advisories, on trips, at dances, and while out-to-lunch. And just to make doubly sure, we have our big-buddy program which is in full swing and whole school events like our Field Day. No wonder our kids are holding hands in the hallway and seem so happy. To state the obvious: students who feel good at school, do well in school. But, more importantly, they can truly embody our core values…yes, back to those core values…
Self-assured, resilient, open-hearted, open-minded students with a passion for learning who care about the people around them and take action to make good things happen can only be created by adults who understand how important it is to “paint the quality of the day.” How lucky are we to have adults in our community who model the disposition we want to cultivate in young people about learning, reading, school, the world, the self and others and who design the environment for these qualities to flourish all around us.
Educator Marge Scherer says that as educators, we are preparing our students for the hard work of living their life now and in an increasingly complex future. I believe that to prepare them, we must be prepared to hand over our hearts. I hope my sister understands this most of all.