Lessons in Character: Self-Control and Resilience

Do we ever stop growing, in terms of character?  Over the last three weeks, I have been reminded that character development is a lifelong pursuit.

mastersIt has been said that “sports reveals character.” Certainly this was true at this year’s Masters Tournament.  I was privileged to be invited to attend the tournament this year.  It was a very windy Saturday, and I felt for the players as they tried to battle both a challenging course and extremely windy conditions. As I stood near the 7th green, it was hard to watch Justin Thomas’ ten-foot par putt get blown forty feet away from the hole. Billy Horschel had the worst luck, as the ball he marked on the 15th green proceeded to get blown into the water as he watched in disbelief (click here to watch). Of course, many of us ached for Jordan Spieth as he hit two balls into Rae’s Creek on Sunday.  Driving home, I reflected on each golfer’s reaction to the hardship.  None threw a club, cursed out loud, or yelled at their caddie. While each was understandably distraught, each maintained his composure, persevered, and played on.

This week at Walker, two student-athletes exhibited self-control and resilience in a way that made me exceedingly proud.  The varsity girls tennis team, competing for the region katiechampionship, was locked in a very competitive battle with St. Francis.  Needing to win three of the five matches, Walker was leading 2-1, with senior Katie Busch (left) and junior Alice Jiang (below) each trying to capture that final victory for the team.  Unfortunately, both Wolverines were battling physical hurdles. Katie’s right leg was wrapped because of a strained quad; Alice was in severe pain dealing with a blister that covered the length of her left foot.  Both girls had split the first two sets with their opponent and needed to persevere to win the final set.  Wincing often and moving slowly, Katie, urged on by lots of Wolverine fans and heralice teammates, managed to take an early lead in the final set.  Alice, having just lost the second set 6-1, gathered herself and likewise jumped out to an early lead. As I raced back and forth to watch each match, I was inspired by Katie’s and Alice’s determination, resilience, and stamina.  Unfortunately, I had to leave the match before its conclusion to participate in Senior Day activities for the soccer team.  Not long after those activities concluded, I saw Katie headed for the soccer game carrying the region championship trophy (pictured with Holland Martin).  While I was certainly elated that the team FullSizeRender (33)had won, I was even more impressed with the character Katie and Alice had displayed in the midst of a challenging situation.

Life has a way of mixing hardship and joy that is often unpredictable.  As parents and educators, we have an important responsibility to teach our children/students this truth from the Greek philosopher Epictetus, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”  Facing hardship with self-discipline, resilience and courage will enable each of us to find long-term success.

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Walker’s Core Strengths: Nurturing Atmosphere

This is truly my favorite part of the year …the warmth, kindness, excitement, and generosity fills the air and nurtures my spirit. It’s the time of the year where somewhere among the hustle and bustle, we get to take a breath and remember all that is truly important – our people.

At Walker, we often hear our school described as a place with a nurturing environment, and as Lower School Counselor, each day I see the work that happens so that our students are nurtured to grow and evolve into the version of their best selves. I watch the hands-on instruction; I watch the daily hugs, high-fives, and occasional tear-wiping from our teachers; I witness the behinds the scenes genuine LOVE, sweat, and tears of our faculty; and I hear the constant encouragement, reassurance, and inspiration specified for each and every student. These actions are heartfelt, as these precious students are “our people.”

Yet, in order to help our students transform into productive and positive citizens of the world, we have to show them what it is like to be nurtured, and also how to nurture others – how to step aside and put others’ needs as a priority. On Friday, December 18th, the Lower School celebrates its second annual Day of Giving, and we are continuing a tradition with our students in serving others. Each grade level chooses a way to give, whether it is making sure homeless animals have homemade treats to eat or hospitalized children have warm blankets, or sharing the love of reading with nearby preschool children, we must show our little ones what it means to nurture others, and by doing so, we in turn nurture them. Those in need of our service are “our people” too.

Yes, Walker provides an amazing place where are students are known, nurtured, and cared for in every way, and what I love about Walker is the fact that we also give our kids the opportunity to nurture others. May you all have a fabulous winter break and take a moment to nurture your people – those who may be unknown to you and those who you hold most dear.

Walker: It Just Feels Different

Molly M. is a new fifth grader in the Lower School at The Walker School. She is a guest blogger and a Lower School expert author for our Discovering Walker Wonders blog series. She writes about how Walker just…feels different: 

mollymComing to a new school was hard for me. I had lots of friends. But coming to Walker was different.  When I came, everyone I met was so nice and helped me with what ever it was I needed. The teachers were always so welcoming; it was like I knew them all my life.

Everyone I met knew I was new, but it didn’t matter to them. To them, I was the same as all their other friends they had before I came. Walker is one of the best schools I will ever go to.

Opportunities Abound – For Students and Adults

Gustavo W. is a new fifth grader in the Lower School at The Walker School. He is a guest blogger and a Lower School expert author for our Discovering Walker Wonders blog series. He writes about the opportunities that abound at Walker – for students and adults! 

gustavoI am a new student at Walker. I am loving Walker so far. The environment overall is stupendous and everyone is amazing! The teachers and my friends have been super kind. The campus has been outstanding since I know kids of all grade levels. Another quick thing is that the lockers are pretty cool, I haven’t used lockers in 5 years!  I signed up for football, so I met friends before school even started!!

So far, I have met so many nice people and I continue to meet nice people. I am not the only new student at Walker in fifth grade, but I think everyone has adapted very well. One thing I notice is that everyone is trying to do more than one thing: for example my football coach Coach Farrington helps with football, wrestling, and in the cafeteria. I think everyone at Walker is very determined to complete a task.

Walker: A Place to Perform

Madeline M. is a new seventh grader in the Middle School at The Walker School. She is a guest blogger and our Middle School expert author for our Discovering Walker Wonders blog series. She writes about her love of performing and the opportunities that abound at Walker:

performingLast weekend, I was inspired by the actors, singers, dancers, and musicians in The Addams Family Musical. I love to perform! Walker gave me several opportunities to perform this fall. I was a tomboy, girly teenager, and professional intern in the Middle school comedy in September. I can’t wait to perform in an Upper School musical!

I also performed in the fall orchestra concert. Did I mention that I love to perform? I play violin for Mrs. Kyna Elliott.

She inspires me every day to improve my technique and to perform with my violin.

Mrs. Elliot played along with the student orchestra pit during The Addams Family Musical. The student musicians were amazing, including a violinist from Camerata. At the fall concert, Camerata – an Upper School Quartet – was breath-taking to hear and inspiring to watch the movement of their bows.

I also perform in the classroom at Walker. Last week, I performed a thirty-minute presentation teaching my Spanish class about dance in the Spanish culture. Whether in Life Science, Early American History, or English, I perform as a writer every week and see my progress in expression.

I am grateful for the inspiration I have received at The Walker School! Did I mention I had a performance coming up? Come hear the Middle School orchestras, bands, and choruses on December 8th for our Holiday Concert.

Thankful in the Midst of Sorrow

Like many of you, my wife, Cathy, and I were transfixed by the horrific scenes from Paris over this past weekend.  Understandably, each of us responds to such tragedy differently.  Some of us want to bury our heads, wish it away, change the channel. Others want to exact revenge on those who would take life so violently.  Most of us want to know how we can help, what we can do.  As I reflect on those whose lives were taken in Paris and in Beirut, where more than forty died on Friday as a result of two car bombings, I am drawn to a bittersweet sense of sorrow and thankfulness.

I am overcome with sorrow for those whose lives were cut short, and for those who lost a loved one. There is little that compares with the grief experienced when a life ends too soon. Twenty- seven years ago, Cathy and I buried our first son, David, who lived only nine hours.  I often find myself thinking about David and the life he did not experience; I know I will think about him the rest of my days.  Like many, I grieve both for those who have died and for those forced to say goodbye to a loved one far too soon.

And yet, on the other hand, I am compelled to be thankful in the midst of sorrow. I am thankful to be a part of the Walker community whose first core value is the “belief in the infinite worth and dignity of the individual.”  At a time like this, when children have so many questions about such tragic events, it is important for adults to remind them how important life is and how much we must treasure each individual. This is particularly important in a diverse community like that found at Walker.  Though we have different backgrounds, come from different cultures, and experience life differently, learning to appreciate our differences is a critical part of our mission.

Life is an amazing journey, filled with exuberant highs and fraught with challenging lows. While it may seem natural to want to shield those we love from that which is difficult, it is neither wise nor healthy. Child Psychologist Michael Thompson, who will speak to our community in March, reminded me this summer that “during a crisis, children want to be with those they love and trust.” Michael would encourage each of us to be present, to listen, to respond thoughtfully, and to encourage young people to reach out for support when they have questions.

Earlier today a friend shared a wonderful message from TV personality Mr. Rogers that speaks directly to us as we walk our children through frightening moments:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”- Fred Rogers.

Mr. Rogers makes an important point – look for the helpers when life is difficult. Please know that everyone at Walker is poised to be a helper for each and every student.

Fostering Meaningful Relationships On and Off the Field – Matt Casper

In his last blog entry, Jack Hall described a moment at a cross country meet that perfectly illustrated how important creating and maintaing meaningful relationships is to our school community.  As head coach of Walker’s varsity football team, I realize that the success of our team rests on the relationships between our players. I am constantly striving to make sure that the Walker football program provides balance to our players through a combination of athletics, academics, and service.ALSwalk

In early September, sophomore and linebacker Candler Boland came to me to ask if we could help raise awareness of ALS, a disease that his father Mike has been battling since 2012. On most Saturday mornings, the team gathers at Walker to watch film from the last night’s game and spends time in the weight room, preparing for the upcoming week. However, on this Saturday, September 19, 35 members of the Wolverine football team and coaches woke up met at the World Congress Center to proudly participate in the Walk to Defeat ALS with the Boland family.

CoachesALSWalk

As I walked among my fellow coaches and players and we watched our athletes interact with each other outside of their normal routines, I realized that some of the best ways to foster these meaningful relationships happens off the field. I am so proud of our athletes for rallying around their fellow teammate to support a great cause. Candler did an outstanding job of organizing the walk and representing his family that day, and to date, the team has raised over $18,800.