By Dan Lang
Head of Middle School
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou
Each month of the year has its own special memories and associated feelings. In November the air is clear and crisp, yet the rain has not quite arrived. Daylight saving time ends, and that extra hour of sleep on a Sunday morning is glorious. Darker mornings and earlier sunsets promote thoughts of cozy hibernation. But most importantly, November is the month that reminds us all to give thanks.
With enough years of life now to generate a significant list of blessings, there is a particular set of people who come to mind for whom I am especially grateful. Of course, family is at the top of that list, but those who follow could rightly be called extended family. A set of teachers and coaches who gave some of who they are to guide and shape thousands of students during their careers, including me.
The Grade 8 English teacher who valued my class contributions and drew me into conversations about books she thought would challenge and grow me. The Grade 9 football coach who donned a kilt and played his bagpipes for the team before our biggest game of the year, and then joined us in a joyful muddy headfirst slide down the center of the field when we won. The chemistry teacher who convinced the class that magic does exist, but its real name is science. The college professor whose honest comment “your writing should be better than this by now,” was tempered with the additional note, “come to office hours; you can do this.”
Each of these remarkable people embody the comment of the great Maya Angelou. These teachers made their students “feel.” And how did they feel? Valued, respected, and known. Those three words are used often at Parker, and they are the keys to student learning.
Parker has a bold and challenging mission that requires teachers to continually build and refine their craft. Attention to the art and science of teaching is something successful schools and successful teachers have in common. However, the foundation of a successful classroom begins with faculty, staff, and coaches, who like the teachers and coaches mentioned above, understand the power of human connection, and the leverage for learning that flows from genuine relationships. In fact, that foundation is the most important qualification for an excellent teacher. I am grateful that Parker has an abundance of teachers who possess both a solid relational foundation and a commitment to growing their professional repertoire.
Certainly, Parker’s reputation has attracted high-quality candidates to our faculty and staff, but the story does not end there. Parker is an intentional environment that cultivates continuous growth in all of us by investing deeply in professional development. To further our mission of creating a diverse community of independent thinkers, Parker embraced the Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism, added the position of Director of Diversity and Inclusion, and recently sent the 6-12 Department Chairs and Division Heads to the National Association of Independent Schools’ People of Color Conference. Parker invests in adding qualified professional staff to support student wellness and learning. Parker invests in bringing local, regional, and national experts to our campuses to grow the capacity of our faculty in both small and large group settings. Parker invests in sending faculty around the state and nation to learn from our peer schools and attend professional conferences. Parker invests in faculty who choose to pursue advanced degrees. Parker invests in sending our faculty and staff to share what we have learned by presenting at local, regional, and national conferences.
All of this investment returns a dividend to our students. Students who attended Parker 10, 20, or 30 years ago return and share how their Parker education is helping them “make a meaningful difference in the world.” Current students who 10, 20, or 30 years from now will reflect on their own special Lower, Middle, or Upper School teacher, coach or staff member who gave some of who they are to guide and shape their students.
In this month of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the Parker community. A caring group of professionals who leverage their ability to make trusting and genuine relationships with students in order to guide them to academic excellence, strength of character and global perspective. And I am grateful for the generosity of our families and the work of our advancement team who ensure that Parker will continue to invest in the growth and development of our faculty and staff.