By Dr. Monica Gillespie
Head of Upper School
In Texas, there is a unique tradition of Homecoming mums. In true Texan fashion, these “corsages” are enormous. Made of mums, school-colored ribbons, and accessories like teddy bears, they form a drape that the recipient shows school spirit by wearing the “mum” like a full-length gown.
Although there were no mums to be found, Homecoming 2019 at Parker had the “Friday Night Lights” feel of a Texas town filled with incredible school spirit. The carnival theme came to life with dozens of booths, bouncy castles, and the dunk tank. As the sky turned a brilliant orange, the annual Lower School parade led by the Class of 2035 (yes, 2035!) brought the crowd to its feet followed by our Homecoming royalty. What came next is true Parker–our football players honoring our amazing faculty and staff. Donning football jerseys, faculty and staff were escorted onto the field as an expression of profound gratitude that extends to everyone who works at Parker.
Our faculty and staff are deeply committed to their profession and their students. Through classroom instruction, coaching, and advising, they connect with students and help to guide their journeys. A hallmark of Parker, students always cite relationships with their teachers as what they appreciate the most about their experience. This does not simply happen by chance–it is intentional. At Parker, we are teaching our students the wisdom of adulthood. When I speak to prospective parents about why they should choose the Upper School for their children, I share four reasons:
- We understand and appreciate adolescents.
- We are unswerving in our commitment to their intellectual, social, and emotional growth and well being. We have the courage and dedication to do what is best for our students. It is our calling–our passion, and we take the long view by preparing our students for college and for life.
- We intentionally create an environment in which students thrive as learners, classmates, and members of the larger community.
- And, most importantly, our students are known, valued, and respected.
Implicit in all of these compelling reasons is that at Parker students are surrounded by adults who understand how to be the professionals students need in their lives. Listening to students on admission panels recently, I heard them talk about the many ways we support them and help them find their purpose. One student commented, “I appreciate my teachers and how much they care about me.” Another student shared how much she values the out-of-class conversations she has with teachers, and a senior told prospective families that what he values about the Upper School is that “I am not a GPA, a test score. At Parker, I am known, respected, and belong.”
Our students benefit from how we are “teaching the wisdom of adulthood.” We embrace the opportunity and responsibility to influence our students as they move toward adulthood. As Heischman writes in Good Influence: Teaching the Wisdom of Adulthood, “teaching is, by nature, an idealistic profession: teachers believe that they can make a difference in the lives of their students, that not only what they teach but who they are as a human being will have a transformative effect on at least some of the students they interact with on a daily basis.”
So, as we enter the season of Thanksgiving, please share your messages of gratitude for our faculty and staff who dedicate themselves to our students and provide the wisdom our students need to learn how to live lives of their own making.
Dr. Monica Gillespie