An Independent K-12 school on a beautiful wooded campus, 3 miles from Washington, D.C.

Malvika

Passions: I would say my passions are art and adventure. Whether I'm climbing at Great Falls, throwing a vase on a ceramics wheel or taking pictures of the world around me, that is what feeds my soul.
Favorite Thing About Potomac: I love the teachers at Potomac. I sit back and watch my kids love of learning grow and I know it is because of those teachers. They are such a gift to my children.
Memorable Potomac Moment: Potomac starts the year off with an Opening Assembly wherein the Head of School talks about events of the summer, goals for the school year ahead, etc. At last year's assembly John Kowalik, along with several faculty, surprised us all and did the ice bucket challenge! What a way to start the year!

Malvika
Mother of 2nd and 5th grader

As a parent with kids in the Lower School and the Middle School, I often hear about events that go on in the upper divisions, though I'm not truly familiar with all the ins and outs. I do know that the Upper School has something called "Conversations That Count." I've never been to one of these programs, which, as far as I know, allow students and parents to examine challenging issues. However, the name of this event truly resonates with me. I feel that when discussing what my kids are learning in the lower divisions, we, too, have conversations that count.

My kindergartener and I were running errands and listening to the radio, and a children's author, Mo Willems, was being interviewed. To my dismay, my kindergartener started screaming—full on screaming. Not in a fearful way, but in an "I'm at a Rolling Stones concert" way. Once my son calmed down, the rest of the car ride was a re-telling of all things Mo Willems that he had absorbed at school. Then, the radio segment started highlighting a book that my son had just checked out of the school library and had with him in the car. "I cannot wait to tell my teacher," my son said. "He is not going to believe what just happened!"

My second grader is currently studying the colonial time period, and a few weeks ago, he and his classmates went to Claude Moore Colonial Farm. That night at dinner, we learned all about a "board game" that used stones but was otherwise very similar to Checkers. My son spoke about the game with such passion that as a parent, you just got pulled into his words and the emotion behind them.

Almost every day, my boys are bringing home what they have learned and are sharing it with us. The student becomes the teacher. And for me, those are most definitely conversations that count.

Potomac students will without question hear about the school's core values - courage, integrity, humility, perseverance, and respect. These values are incorporated into everything students do, whether they are participating in Lower School discussions on the meaning of perseverance or learning to treat everyone with respect during those difficult tween years. Though I do not have an Upper School student, from what I can tell those values are interwoven into who those young adults are becoming.

Though these values are part of the curriculum, they are often not spelled out. They are taught in ways that make the students see them on their own. But sometimes, for ease of discussion, they do need to be spelled out. In November, the country elected a new president and, as with every election, passions were running high. The day after the election, my fifth grader's class talked about their feelings and reactions. They were reminded that it takes courage to voice your opinion when others may disagree. They were also reminded to respect the difference of opinion. My son came home feeling so great about the community that embraced his thoughts and opinions. And also felt grateful that he was able to hear the opposing view and gain a greater understanding of it. Every parent I spoke with was so thankful for how the faculty handled those intense emotions and reactions.

Later in November, I as a parent was able to witness these core values during the Thanksgiving Assembly. Students from each division got behind the podium and spoke about gratitude--toward family, diversity, and more. Keep in mind that these kids, the youngest being a third grader, spoke in front of the entire student body as well as before faculty and parents! After the speeches, Head of School John Kowalik stepped to the podium and pointed to words that are painted on the gym wall: "Where we go one, we go all." He reminded us of community and that though we may have our differences, we are all in this together. Let's just say it's not the first time I have teared up at an all school assembly. I suppose if I had the nerve to stand behind that podium, I would have spoken of my gratitude for those faculty and staff members who through their actions are showing my kids what courage, integrity, humility, perseverance, and respect are all about.

Something totally unexpected happened this year. Something I would have never foreseen. Something that has changed the tenor of our car rides to and from Potomac. Kids got a new phone perhaps? Or a new cartridge for their 3DS? Or I finally allowed them to play Minecraft on the way to school? None of the above. It actually is...wait for it...books. Yes, books.

This year, my 5th and 2nd graders are joined by my kindergartener (and for that reason I can drive my kids to and from school this year). Every morning, the three of them are deeply absorbed in their books. It is absolutely silent in the car. For those of you who may have boys, you know how loud they are, no matter where they are. And suddenly books have changed all that. It is pure magic. You would think, it's morning, of course they are somewhat calm. But the same thing happens at pickup.

There are days when I want to find out how their days went and I get, "Hold on mom, let me just finish this chapter." Are you kidding me right now?! I'm not exactly sure how or what the teachers and librarians are doing to get my kids to love reading, but I'm guessing some sort of magical pixie dust must be involved. The days they have library is similar to winning the lottery, and the backseat is filled with book swapping. Though I don't know how these Potomac teachers and librarians are getting my kids to love books and reading, I do know that it is sending my boys to a place of wonder where they can hang out in a magic tree house and learn what happens when you give a mouse a cookie. I also know that there is no greater feeling than see your child get lost in another world because their nose is in a book—no greater feeling.

Spring is in the air! (Well, if you look past all the rain and clouds, I'm sure it's out there.)

Spring at Potomac brings with it May Day, Peruvian mud ovens, Japan Day, field trips, and a host of other exciting opportunities for the kids to shine. Amidst this flurry of activity for my first and fourth graders, my husband and I were invited to a Lower School new parent orientation, as we have a kindergartener joining his brothers next fall.

When I arrived at the orientation, I saw some familiar faces but for the most part the room was full of anxious and excited parents. We were then introduced to all of the key players in the Lower School - from the school nurse to the head of transportation. Everyone spoke about what they did and how they would help nurture the new tiny faces that would be coming to school in the fall.

I knew what to expect when I was going to this orientation, as I've heard it twice before. But then the Lower School head parent rep spoke, and what she said truly struck a chord with me. She said she remembers sitting in this same room eight years ago and listening intently to all of the information. She wondered if her son would find the bathroom or find his classroom or even make friends. Then she wondered the same about herself (the making friends, not finding the bathroom part). And now, eight years later, her son is thriving and has amazing friends.

What struck a chord with me was how she spoke of the friendships she has gained as well. How they will be friendships she will carry with her for a lifetime.

After being a part of Potomac for five years now, I can also say the same thing. I can also say that not only will the faculty and staff nurture my kids but so will the parents. Everyone in that room was there to give our kids the best they have to offer. Everyone in that room is there to lift our children up.

As I stepped out into the rain, I had an overwhelming feeling of excitement for my littlest guy. He's about to embark on an incredible journey and I get to watch him flourish. I couldn't ask for anything more.

For my boys, Potomac represents tradition coupled with new experiences. They know that every year there will be a Kindergarten Circus, a Halloween stomp, May Day, and the Turkey Tango. They remember participating in those traditions fondly and can tell you if they were a monkey or a tiger. They debate which part of the Kindergarten Circus is in fact the best, and why. They'll retell the story of who was a monkey with them, everything that happened, and how fun and funny it all was - even though years have passed. Then you, as a parent, can retell their tale from the audience's perspective.

Then there are Potomac traditions that my boys have yet to experience but anxiously anticipate. From my perspective, these traditions are all rites of passage that each child at Potomac shares, full of laughter and love. They are all moments at Potomac that you can bottle up and savor for days on end.
One terrific Potomac tradition, however, isn't performed in front of an audience and does not require a costume: Martha's Table.

Up until this year my boys were both in the Lower School. The Lower School's participation in Martha's Table consists of a lot of little hands making a lot of sandwiches for those in need: a great Potomac tradition that allows my children to think about and, more importantly, openly engage in sometimes difficult conversations that may not have happened otherwise.

Now that my oldest son is in the Middle School, his interaction with Martha's Table has evolved. He has been able to see some of the faces of the unknown people he was helping while in the Lower School. This Potomac tradition, coupled with a new experience, made him think and appreciate even more. He came home that day and we discussed his class' efforts, how they made him feel, and how putting a smile on another little boy's face was the best thing that happened to him that day. His heart and my heart were full. It was another Potomac moment that I've bottled up and will savor for days on end.