Four books were sitting on my coffee table in early March patiently awaiting my attention over spring break. I read each of them, but one has stayed in my heart. I had the privilege to read an advanced copy of
Reading with Patrick
, a memoir by Michelle Kuo which will be on sale in July. It is a book that every educator should read - affirming that the power of literature taught by an inspiring teacher can truly transform lives.
Michelle Kuo was an idealistic new teacher when she joined Teach for America and was assigned to a school for students with behavioral issues in Helena, Arkansas in 2004. Her African-American students had never seen an Asian person before, yet through literature, poetry and expressive writing assignments she reached them in profound ways. After her two-year volunteer commitment with Teach for America was completed, she left the Mississippi Delta to attend Harvard Law School. In her final year, she learned that one of her very promising students had been jailed for murder. After much reflection on how her leaving may have impacted this young man, she returns to Helena to continue Patrick's education while he remains in prison. For seven months, she visits him daily and together they read classic novels and memorize poems, and Patrick writes. Michelle wrote of a poem that had touched Patrick:
...poetry had brought him closer to a feeling,
to a presence,
to an immensity
that could swallow
death and do away with time.
Their unique friendship helps them both grow and discover their own strengths as well as overcome challenges. Michelle helps Patrick navigate the legal system and, ultimately, when he is released after serving his sentence, they continued their friendship and remain friends today.
Close personal relationships built upon trust between students and teachers are at the heart of a great school and I have been so impressed with the dedication and commitment of the Kent School faculty to our students. Students (and also our Alumni) are known and celebrated individually. We know their strengths, challenges, passions and wishes. We know how to reach them in the classroom, in the lab, in the art and music studios, on the stage, on the court, and on the field. And, we care. A lot.
We also believe that the foundation of lifelong learning begins with reading and writing. One of the many things that drew me to Kent School during my interview process last year was that DEARS (Drop Everything And Read Silently) was sacred in the daily schedule. I also value writing in all of its forms and am so pleased that opportunities to write abound at Kent School. Writing is personal and poignant and is nurtured carefully here across the entire School.
Three recent Middle School writing contests proved to the greater community that Kent School has amazing writers! All students wrote essays for Character Counts of Kent County. I am so pleased to share that Ella MacGlashan received 2nd Place honors among 6th Grade students and Audrey Betley was the 1st Place winner among 8th Graders in the county. They have been invited to an award ceremony at Washington College this month. Kent School 7th Grade had the three county winners in the annual essay contest sponsored by the local Chestertown Elks Lodge.
The winners were first place Tessa Schut, second place Jake Cerino, and third place Cami Lord.
Three of our 6th Graders, Kolby Brice, Julia McClary, and Isabelle Requena wrote Kindness poems which have been selected to be published in the World Artists' Experiences anthology. They have also been invited to a ceremony at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, DC in May. As Isabelle so aptly wrote:
When you are kind, it is not hard to do,
Sometimes kindness comes back to you
As you know we will have a poet on campus in a month as our Kudner Leyon Visiting Writer. Naomi Nye has also written about kindness:
Only kindness raises its head from the crowd
of the world to say
it is I you have been looking
for, and then goes with you everywhere
shadow or a friend.
Naomi will be on campus on May 1 and 2 for an All School assembly and writing workshops with our students. She will also be holding a poetry reading and commentary for the Kent School community on Monday evening May 1 at 7:00pm. A selection of her books will be available for sale and signing. More details will follow but I cannot wait for her visit and hope you will join me for what promises to be a JOYful evening.
April begins this week with our AIMS Five Year Progress visit on Thursday. We are ready! I would like to thank our Maintenance team for all of the work they did to make our campus look even more beautiful than it normally does! The visit is a very important part of the ten year accreditation process so please welcome Neal Brown, Head of Green Acres School, and Larry Clements, Head of Friends Community School, if you see them on campus on Thursday. I am also looking forward to the #ShareOurJoy Auction on Saturday evening when we can toast a successful AIMS visit. It will be a fun, festive friend and fund-raiser! Hope to see you there.
Finally, I want to be sure you know that recently the Little School had its annual surprise visit from the Maryland State Department of Education Office of Child Care. I am so thrilled to report that on this visit there were no non-compliances found. I have had a lot of experience working with Preschools as a Board member and as a senior administrator overseeing the creation of a Preschool, and I can tell you that this is an extraordinary accomplishment. The checklist itself has 105 areas of compliance that need to be inspected. To have zero issues is a testament to Julia Gross, Little School Director and our amazing and caring teachers Karen Schauber, Bonnie Williams, Donna Simmons and Stacy Denny. I could not be more proud.
Our Osprey is home and the campus is starting to bloom with gorgeous spring flowers. I hope to see you on the fields cheering on girls' and boys' lacrosse this month! Go Ospreys!