This week, Lower, Middle, and Intermediate School teachers came together to discuss the book they all had read this summer: Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character. We had wonderful discussions in small groups about the themes of the book and how they could positively affect our work with the children of The Potomac School.
One of our topics focused on our “core values” as a school. Noting that Lower School students have focused on four ideas (respect, responsibility, caring, and trustworthiness), and Middle School students seven wholly different ones based on Tough’s work (self-control, social intelligence, grit, gratitude, curiosity, zest, and optimism), we investigated how these two lists could be reconciled to help create a K-12 set of Potomac core values.
The comments from faculty were fascinating. Not only did we reach preliminary conclusions as to how these lists might complement each other, but we also noted some key values missing from the two sets.
One of the groups noted how the Lower School list is centered on the ethics with which people treat each other, and the Middle School list focused more on self-regulatory behaviors. However, a value that we certainly hold dear seemed sorely missing—the importance of building enduring relationships. At the outset of a school year, this particularly “Potomac” trait is evident in abundance. New faculty members rave about how welcoming their new colleagues are. New parents extol that returning students embraced their children immediately and earnestly, and that they, as new parents, also feel already a part of the school community. It seems clear that we as a Potomac community place a premium on bringing those who are new to the community into the fold as quickly and sincerely as we can.
From a pedagogical perspective, this is certainly critical. Teachers are blessed with a new group of students every September. Students find themselves each year, if not in a new school entirely, in a new grouping of students. To optimize the learning process, all constituents must build a community where it feels comfortable to voice a potentially contrary opinion, to reveal vulnerability when one does not understand, to cry foul when one feels wronged. All this starts with a true welcome for those who are truly new to the community, and then our K-6 Responsive Classroom environment aids immeasurably in facilitating this process. Developing these relationships honestly allows us to know each other as individuals, another element on which we pride ourselves as a school.