As I contemplate a phrase to describe this school year, I am reminded of a political science professor I had in college. One day, attendance was light in his lecture. Very frustrated, he spent a good deal of class that day emphasizing that to succeed in life you need to put in the work every day, show up, turn in assignments on time, and keep your promises.
I remember feeling relieved—and, I’m embarrassed to say, a bit smug—that I had chosen to come to an 8:00 a.m. class that day rather than sleep in. For some reason, his message resonated on that January day and has stuck with me all these years.
Over my career in education, I have come to recognize the importance of the small things and their combined impact, and I see the importance of the learning and work we as a Middle School community have put in every day this school year. We have grown as individuals, grade levels, and as a community. I feel fortunate to have witnessed this journey from August to the first week of June. I remember observing Performing Arts classes in September, where band, strings, and choir were practicing stanza by stanza and dance students were learning a few steps at a time. We saw the result of their hard work and dedication in the wonderful performances at the December Winter Concert and the Fine Arts Festival in April. I think of the blank sheet of paper that turned into a script written by the grade 5 students, who designed a set, created costumes, acted, and ran a light and soundboard for the creative and funny production All Sugared Up: A Confectionary Catastrophe! I remember the lumps of clay that became individually designed teapots created by grade 7 students and representative figurines molded by the grade 8 students.
Many afternoons, I watched our Middle School sports teams practice skill drills and play scrimmages over and over again. This consistent practice fostered determination and persistence which resulted in competitive and exciting games. I have seen weeks of learning activities, note-taking, problem-solving, projects, and homework reflected in our collaborative interdisciplinary projects: Grade 5 Rome Day, E3, the Medieval Faire, and our grade 7 and 8 Capstone projects.
Our growth in understanding and insight as individuals and classes were important, but I believe the learning that we engaged in daily as a community was remarkable. From our first community picnic to open the school year to Middle School Olympiad, the ski trip, and House Games, we shared joy, laughter, and a few tears. An idea from a group of grade 7 students regarding climate change became a demonstration across the Middle School and has sowed the seeds of an Environmental Club next year.
We learned about our diversity in faith and heritage during Middle School Meetings, worked toward understanding different perspectives in honest conversations with each other in focus groups after the Antwon Rose verdict, and we shared our grief and concerns for our Squirrel Hill community after the Tree of Life tragedy. Each of these interactions, whether small or large, well-planned or informal, in celebration or sadness, worked to transform us into a stronger community where individuals are known and respected and student voices are heard and considered. I look forward with anticipation to continuing this progress next school year. Until I see you in late August, I hope everyone has a wonderful summer full of rest, relaxation, and most importantly, time with family and friends.