Oh, The Places They’ll Go!

She looked perplexed.  “What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I am so sad that Bob Murphy and Kitty Drew are retiring; that Ira Dawson is leaving to be the principal of Atlanta Youth Academy; and when I look at Brad Brown, I start crying,” she shared.

“I know just how you feel.  I am going to miss them terribly,” I replied.

As I reflected on this brief conversation with a Walker faculty member, it was retiring Upper School Principal Bob Murphy, appropriately, who provided the most poignant observation:

“Walker excels at preparing people for the next level, the next opportunity.  That is, in fact, what we do best.  We prepare our students to flourish when they leave us; interestingly, we do that with adults as well.”

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The Class of 2015

As the Class of 2016 prepares to graduate this week, there is no more public example of Bob’s comment.  Our Promise Statement captures this major transition so well:

At the culmination of this carefully guided, increasingly independent journey, Walker graduates have evolved from curious young learners into critically thinking, individually expressive, confidently collaborative, and admirably honest young adults thoroughly prepared for the intellectual and relational challenges of college and life.

The fact that we excel at preparing young people for the next step is one of the two main reasons why families invest in a Walker education. The other is the quality of our faculty and staff. Walker has always been a place characterized by incredibly talented faculty and staff. I often comment that the most important responsibility I have as Head of School is to hire great people and let them soar as professionals.  Ironically, that speaks to the heart of why I find myself sad at this time of every year. When we hire great people like Sherry Walker-Taylor, Sue Rittenberg or Susie Schlich, they may end up staying at Walker until they retire; but in other cases, talented professionals will have opportunities to go on to great things somewhere else…just like our graduates. Regardless, it is hard to let go.

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Sherry Walker-Taylor, Sue Rittenberg, Bob Murphy, Kitty Drew, and Susie Schlich

As we celebrate both the Class of 2016 and departing faculty and staff for their amazing contributions to our school community, we do so with a mixture of joy and sadness. Be encouraged by yet another insightful word of wisdom from Bob Murphy: “If I have to leave somewhere, this is a fabulous place from which to be leaving.”

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The Lower School Unveils Honor Code

How do elementary aged student understand the concept of honor?  This intangible word may be difficult even for adults to comprehend and practice on a daily basis, so how do we walk alongside our students and children, teaching and guiding them to lead a life of honor?

unnamedOn Friday, April 29th, during the assembly, the Lower School Student Council delivered an announcement to the student body regarding the new Lower School Honor Code. The honor statements were developed by a teacher-led committee in hopes to align with the Middle/Upper School honor expectations, and to also give our younger students guide of how to make personal decisions of honor. The Lower School Honor Code presents these four important statements:

  1. Honesty: I will tell the truth (even when it is hard).
  2. Respect: I will respect myself, others, and all things around me.
  3. My ideas, words, and work will be my own.
  4. I will encourage others to be honest, respectful, and to do their own work.

Before the honor code was unveiled in the assembly, the Lower School students and faculty heard from two amazing students: Ally Carey, a seventh grader, and Barrett Kulik, a senior who is currently serving as student body president, offered their thoughts about what honor means to them. These presentations were powerful, bringing faculty to tears and engaging the student body in such a way that one could hear a pin drop in the often noisy Gatti Hall.

20160429_081511Barrett spoke about how our actions deliver the message of honor to others – classmates, teachers, parents, our community. When Barrett’s father asks him to mow the grass, he does so out of honor. When he completes an assignment for his teachers, he does so out of honor. Barrett reminded our students/teachers about how our behavior and our words are the truest representations of honor.

Ally spoke about honor, saying to our student/faculty body:

“What is honor?  To me, honor is many things.  It is an abstract word, associated with truth, integrity, morals, self-esteem, and living a life that values right from wrong….

20160429_081305Don’t let the temptation of winning a game, being more popular or getting a 100% on a test get in the way of your honor.  While it is OK to win the game, be popular, or get a 100% on the test, it should not compromise your honorability.  When someone falls, give them a hand.  When someone feels less than popular, give them your friendship.  When someone is struggling, give them your efforts. Although it may be hard at times, do what’s right, do the best you can, and mold yourself into the kind of person you want to be.”

Wow.

As Lower School Counselor, it is MY honor to be surrounded by students with such integrity, kindness, leadership, and truth. As we unveiled these guidelines for our student body, I continued to be amazed by the level of honor that our students already embody, and the actions of honor that are already displayed inside our school walls on a daily basis. Thank you, parents, for sharing your amazing children with Walker, as we are privileged each day to teach and guide these growing people to be honorable adults.