Sunday, September 27, 2009

Outreach: The Fifth Path to the Honor Code

Our revised honor code says we aim to accomplish our goal of becoming selfless servants demonstrating moral courage and commitment by reaching out to the community. We are very lucky in the middle school to have a dedicated class period for community outreach. This year we developed a new middle school outreach curriculum based on feedback from faculty and students. Below is a brief introduction to the outreach program that will appear in the Middle School newsletter. The Middle School Outreach Catalog can also be found on this blog to the left of this post.

Community outreach at Calvert has come a long way. From a few sporadic drives a few years ago to a dedicated period each week, outreach is now an integral part of a Calvert student’s education. Two years ago the Community Outreach Committee created our outreach mission: Through preparation, action, and reflection, Calvert’s Outreach Program seeks to promote a lifelong awareness of and commitment to community. Since that time, we have implemented a number of structures to accomplish that mission.

First, we have streamlined and focused on three all-school drives: UNICEF from October 26 – 30, Paul’s Place Toy Drive from December 7-11, and Paul’s Place Clothing Drive from March 29-April 1. Second, we have added two optional family opportunities for outreach: MLK Day of Service and Spring Cleaning Day (more details on both to follow). Third, in order to deepen the experience and develop meaningful relationships with our outreach partners, we have created an Outreach Theme and Partner List.

Using the Partner List, the middle school outreach program has created an Outreach Calendar and Catalog that provides choices for activities throughout the year. Our faculty has offered numerous opportunities for short term and long term projects. Students are working with their advisor to tailor their outreach interests to the options available in the Catalog. The benefits of this method are numerous. Students learn to work within an elective system, have choice in their outreach opportunities, work on long term projects and short term projects throughout the year, and will create meaningful relationships with their chosen outreach partners.

We are excited about this program and hope you will check it out. The Outreach Calendar and Catalog, as well our Theme and Partner List can be found on the Community Outreach Blog:

Friday, September 25, 2009

In 100 years....

A student was asked to answer the following question in her journal: Imagine telling a student 100 years from now about her life and school. This student wrote that Calvert will "teach you to be a selfless servant, to have moral courage, and commitment.”

It's sinking in....

Tragedy, Redemption, and Class

I found this story on Yahoo! and thought it was a great real-life example of people caring for each other, honoring each other and their sport, and how mistakes can make people stronger.

Check it out:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Path to Respect

"Respect yourself"

"Respect the process"

"Respect your elders/teachers/parents"

"Respect the power of nature"

"With all due respect..."

"I get no respect"

"R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find out what it means to me..."

At the word respect has sixteen definitions, eight as a noun, four as a verb, and four uses as an idiom. Almost every one of those definitions has multiple synonyms. According to the word originated between 1300-1350. Obviously, it is a hugely important word in the world and even more important concept. We could use it in almost any context we wish, and often do, as we see from the phrases above.

However with common usage comes overusage which is followed quickly by meaningless. Has the idea of respect become meaningless? Has commonality of usage led to a commonality of practice? Perhaps not.

We can look at the headlines and see pop stars disrespecting each other or football players complaining about a lack of respect because the quarterback only threw to them once. It is unfortunate these are the images many of our middle schoolers see each day when they go home because they distort the meaning of respect.

I think my favorite definition of the sixteen possible is this one:

esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability.

So, in order to respect someone, we must identify a personal quality or ability of that person. If we teach our students to search for the worth of a person, we are teaching them how to respect a person. With the action of identification, we breathe meaning back into word respect.

We teach our students to always find the excellence in a person. This, I think, is a much more positive notion of respect. In situations where disrespect is shown, we can now have discussions searching for worth and excellence of the offended person. Teachers help students develop strategies and tactics for seeking quality or ability in a person. Most importantly we teach our students to find excellence within themselves.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday Ponderance: The Three Pillars in Action

As I was searching for something to say during today's Monday Ponderance, I found the video below at The Responsibility Project from Liberty Mutual Insurance. The video is based on true events from a college softball game in 2008. I think it perfectly demonstrates the traits we work to instill in our students. Please check it out:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Parents' Night Comments on Honor 2009

Below are my comments for Middle School Parents' Night:


My name is David Skeen and this is my third year as Dean of Students at Calvert. I’d like to thank you in advance for your time tonight as I lay out the foundation of character development in the middle school.

Calvert believes that character development is an integral part of a student’s education. We dedicate significant time and resources to the development of a robust ethics program. Last year at this meeting I laid out the three levels of character education at Calvert: the Calvert Canon, the schedule, and the Dean’s Office.

Each of these areas is interconnected and includes multifaceted approaches to character.

The Calvert Canon, or those writings at Calvert which elucidate our core values, sets the context for character development. Our mission statement, philosophy, and various faculty- and student-derived documents are all products of discussions about our core values.

The schedule is the structure (or framework) through which we employ our most valuable resource, time, to character education. We have opportunities every day to meet in advisories, small groups, or as a middle school to touch on honor.

Finally, the Dean’s office oversees the implementation of the character development programs such as teachable moments, Points’ raffles and auctions, Monday Ponderances, discipline, outreach, and communicating a clear vision of the Honor Code at Calvert.

Last year, I introduced the Honor Code, which had three pillars: Selfless Servants, Moral Courage, and Commitment. I challenged (and continue to challenge) the students each day to live up to these ideas.

We’ve made progress. In fact, just the other day a student came to the Middle School office to return a key a fellow student had borrowed. After this student had returned the key to Mrs. Conkling, he hovered around her desk, like a bell hop awaiting a tip.

Mrs. Conkling asked, “Are you waiting for a reward or Points?”

The boy responded, “Absolutely not, Mrs. Conkling. I was merely being a civil servant.”

So, while the words are seeping into the subconscious (partly!) there is still work to be done to clarify the meaning of Selfless Servant, Moral Courage, and Commitment.

These first steps established our goal, but we need to know how to get there. I mentioned last year that we would be having conversations throughout the year with the goal being to outline what it would take to be selfless servants demonstrating moral courage and commitment.

The result of our conversations is our updated Honor Code, which includes the three pillars plus five characteristics meant to explain the meaning of the three pillars. The Honor Code now reads:

We strive each day to be selfless servants demonstrating moral courage and commitment.

We aim to accomplish this by respecting all people and things, being honest with ourselves and others, taking responsibility for ourselves and others, putting forth maximum effort at all times, and seeking ways to reach out to the community.

While we continue to challenge our students to live up to the Honor Code, we have now given them a road map to help them navigate their way through the windy roads of middle school life. We know students strive to meet the code but will fall short during their time with us. However, we believe this is the place to learn from the journey.

As Coach John Wooden said,

I am not what I ought to be,
Not what I want to be,
Not what I am going to be,
But I am thankful thatI am better than I used to be.

The constant and vigilant pursuit of the Honor Code is a lifetime goal we hope our Calvert students will take with them to their next school and beyond.

Thank you.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday Ponderance 9.14.2009

The Monday Ponderance has returned. Each Monday, at the morning assembly, I will present a quote or a story that I hope the community will take a moment to ponder and try to apply to their daily life. Below is today's Ponderance:

A man can fail many times, but he isn't a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.

- John Burroughs

The idea of owning our mistakes is an integral part of the Honor Code. As we heard the other day, we expect that we will all

“…respect all people and things, be honest with ourselves and others, [and] take responsibility for ourselves and others…”

When we make mistakes or slip up: get a bad grade, miss a shot, lose a game at recess, forget a homework, find ourselves in a place we shouldn’t be or leave a laptop unattended, (which WILL happen because we all make mistakes), we aren’t failures until we shirk accountability. We can all control how we react to failure, and the most successful people embrace it as an opportunity to learn.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Strive to Thrive

Coach John Wooden thought of himself like the man who said:

I am not what I ought to be,
Not what I want to be,
Not what I am going to be,
But I am thankful that
I am better than I used to be.

Our Honor Code begins, "We strive each day to selfless servants, demonstrating moral courage, and commitment...." At Calvert, we know striving for what we should be and should do may not make us what we ought to be, but at least we will be better than we used to be.

We work to instill Coach Wooden's ethic into our students. We want them to feel that the journey is the best lesson when it comes to honor and character. The triumphs and failures of life build who we are. We hope the Honor Code will guide our students when they encounter a fork in the road of right and wrong.

We hope our students feel they have become better people by the time they graduate from Calvert. They are responsible for themselves and others. They respect all people and things. Honesty is vital in all their interactions. The seek ways to reach out to their community.

Will our students do all these things all the time? I'll answer that with another question: do we? The constant and vigilant pursuit (striving for) of the Honor Code is a lifetime goal we hope our Calvert students will take with them to their next school and beyond.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Four Horsemen of Calumny

It's an interesting word: calumny. I'll admit I didn't have any idea what it meant when I read it. Here it is:

calumny: (n) a false and malicious statement designed to injure the reputation of someone or something.

I came across this word when I read the text of Senator Margaret Chase Smith's (R-Maine) speech to the U.S. Senate on June 1, 1950. She was speaking on behalf of seven other senators who had written a declaration rejecting the strategies of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin, that had created a frenzy of fear of "subversives" in the country. The result was a society gripped by fear and suspicion.

Think of the courage to speak out - Smith was the only woman in the Senate at the time (and the first ever elected to the prestigious body). It was June of 1950 (McCarthy gave his "communist spy ring in the State Department" speech in February) and she is speaking against a fellow Republican. Finally, Smith took her fellow senators to task for hiding behind their immunity and creating an atmosphere where there was "trial by accusation instead of trial by jury."

Smith ended her speech urging a change in leadership, but did "not want to see the Republican party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny - fear, ignorance, bigotry, and smear."

It is obvious Senator Smith had a well tuned moral compass and conscience. She had learned to speak out against wrong, even when it was hard. She was smart enough to see McCarthy for what he really was - a demagogue who bred division in the country.

At Calvert we are working with our students to develop their moral compasses, their conscience, and their courage to act. Our Honor Code, in part, states that we strive to be selfless servants demonstrating moral courage and commitment. Margaret Chase Smith, in her speech to the Senate, WAS the Honor Code.

What more selfless act than to be a representative of your state? What better example of moral courage than speaking out against the tidal wave of derision enveloping the U.S. Senate and the country? What better example of commitment to principles than decrying the smear and fear tactics of many of her fellow senators?

May all our students strive each day to live up to Senator Smith's example.

The full text of Senator Smith's speech: