This morning we opened our doors for the soft opening of New Family Orientation and packed the theater with more than 100 families and their kids. I enjoyed greeting everyone with a brief introduction from the Newbie to the Newbies. Over the last 28 days, I’ve learned much about the American School of Warsaw.
In particular, I looked up the instrumental founding influencer of the school, Colonel Frank Gilchrist (1938-1969). In 1953, while serving as the Assistant Military Attache at the American Embassy, Colonel Gilchrist was the driving force behind the opening of a school for 12 students from 5 nationalities: American, British, Swiss, Israeli, and Yugoslav.
Then, as is the case now, the reports were of a school with a special sense of community. A place where this mix of nationalities could connect and define themselves as a collaboration amongst diversity. Writers of that time and throughout the growth and development of the school noted the warmth and welcoming spirit of the school community.
That spirit was on display today as PTO and returning parents and students helped new families navigate their orientation day. Touring around the building, teachers and support staff welcomed their presence in classrooms throughout the building. Their first impression of their new “home” was a powerful one leaving all of us ready for the coming opening for all.
One of the key messages that I’ve woven through new staff orientation, full staff meetings, and the new parent orientation yesterday emphasizes what I consider to be a critical component of the program we offer. After the hard work of designing curriculum and architecting instruction is completed, I suggest that a critical test of a school is the understanding that “Small Things Matter.” Like a drop of water in a still pond, the ripple effects of empathy and service toward others cannot be underestimated.
I taught the new kids today another important phrase that I will test them on in the parking lot tomorrow. For those returning, you’ll have to share it with your children as the mantra of the year, the motto of the new director that I give you as a gift to inspire all your future accomplishments:
“If it is to be, It is up to me!!”
May the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year bring you special joy and a true sense of anticipation for all that is yet to come! Let the learning begin!