Auburn Middle School Monthly
The Principal's Perspective, by Mr. Desto
What is School For?
There’s a story about Beatles front man John Lennon which goes something like this: His mother drilled into him when he was a little boy that happiness was the key to a good life. Later, when he started school, the teacher instructed the students to write an essay describing what they want to be when they grow up. Little John Lennon turned in a one sentence essay – “When I grow up, I want to be happy.” The teacher was not amused. She pulled Johnny aside and demanded that he re-write the essay correctly. Again, he turned in a one sentence essay – “When I grow up, I want to be happy.” According to rock and roll lore, this happened 2 or 3 more times before they finally gave up and asked young John Lennon’s guardians to come and pick him up. It’s difficult to know how much of the story is true, and I’m not sure whether or not John Lennon ever truly did find happiness, but the idea of “happy” as a goal certainly seems honorable. As a teacher, coach and now principal, I’ve often wondered why “happy” wasn’t something we pushed upon our students more here at school. We have all been programmed to believe that the purpose of school is to prepare people for the “real world.” But we who live here in that “real world” are forever in search of “happy,” so wouldn’t you think the idea would come up in school just once or twice?
This has me thinking really carefully about the question “What is school for?” I’ve read numerous books on the topic, and I have come across a pretty clear idea of what it used to be for – prepare kids to work on the farm (17-1800’s), in the factories (early 1900’s), in manufacturing and retail (mid-1900’s); to get into college, etc. The primary goal of school in the early days was to teach basic reading, writing, math and obedience skills. Later, someone introduced standardized tests into the mix and school became a place where kids learned information deemed important by mysterious, behind-the-scenes “experts” so that their school’s scores would be deemed good enough by elected officials judging from a vast distance away. I totally get that school should serve to help prepare young people for life and careers. But I thought when I was a student and I still think now that to some degree school has missed the boat on some very important issues. For example, are we truly teaching essential skills to students? Are we helping kids learn to relate to and work well with others? Are we helping kids search for and develop true passions? Are we guiding students toward how to build a happy life? Have we encouraged students to find meaning in their lives through serving others?
Now, before you think I want to turn AMS into a Peace Corps operation, please know that I realize the importance of a well-rounded knowledge base. I want every student to be able to read, write, listen to and speak the language effectively; to be able to access the mathematical skills necessary to navigate the world we live in; to have an understanding and appreciation of our physical world, government, geography and the law. Certainly, I believe that children should be exposed to art and music as much as possible, and that they should understand how to make healthy choices and how to safely and effectively utilize technology. Yes, of course I get all that. But I feel very strongly that our nation pours trillions of tax dollars into education because the purpose of school should be bigger than the classes kids take. In a nutshell, I think school should help kids make sense of the multi-faceted, complicated world in which they live, and encourage them to begin burrowing a tunnel to happiness. But how does a school do all that? Well, here’s a theory – school can (and parents can, too):
1. Coach students on how to work well with other people – some of whom are difficult to deal with (This will not change as they get older). This can be done by having a strong school-wide culture built on civility and respect (Please see the AMS 5-Point Plan) and by talking to and “coaching” students when frustrating peer interactions inevitably occur.
2. Provide opportunities to develop empathy in students. There will always be numerous opportunities to point out to kids the many people near and far who are struggling. In a good school, chances to help those people abound…and positive reinforcement follows.
3. Expose kids to a large enough variety of content and activities that it becomes more likely they will develop a passion for something positive. In addition to the 12 or so courses per year that our students have, we are fortunate to have ample extracurricular opportunities. It seems there’s always something going on at AMS – to me, that’s the sound of kids trying things out to see if a lifelong passion develops – awesome stuff!
4. Set a strong and positive example of how an adult life can be lived with enthusiasm (and how a difficult job can be done with a smile and a sense of humor). Undoubtedly, there are days when being an adult with major responsibilities is a mighty challenge. But our students don’t need to know that. They need to see people who love where they are and what they do. I don’t necessarily want our students to all want to become middle school principals, but I do want them to find careers that make them proud and happy. So each day, with my attitude, I try to show them what that looks like. I hope you will join me.
5. Expose students, as often as possible, to the joy of serving others. Like the old song says, serving others is “still the one!” Despite thousands of years of research and trial and error, nothing guarantees happiness like doing something nice for another in need (For practical tips on this topic, please see my 2018 Holiday Challenge on the next page). Great schools provide opportunities for kids to try this out.
I know there are some people in the education business who believe my thinking is a little off. They believe a school should simply stick to the subjects and try to prepare kids for high school, college, careers or anything practical and concrete. To them I ask this: Did you know that almost 100% of students who are currently in kindergarten will end up working in jobs that do not yet exist with technology that has yet to be invented? So exactly what specific career are we preparing them for? Did you know that over 60% of recent college graduates are still currently unemployed or underemployed (all while averaging over $30,000 in student loan debt)? So what skills or special qualities can we encourage that may begin to set our kids apart? Of course, that’s tough to say, but I have a hunch that a caring, enthusiastic person with a well-rounded knowledge base, great people skills and a history of community service would be quite attractive to any college or employer. Therefore, I think that helping a student become that person may just be, in the final analysis, what school is for…and that is what this particular school will strive to become.
A Quick Note to Families About the Holiday Season
Thank you so much for entrusting your children to us every day. They are and always will be the very best part of this job. Whatever you celebrate, best wishes to you and your family for a peaceful and joyous holiday season. Please let us know if there is someone in the community you know is in drastic need of assistance throughout this holiday season, and we will try to help or at least direct you to someone who can.
The Holiday Challenge to Students
See how many of the following tasks you can accomplish by January 1, 2019.
- Think of a student with whom you have never been friends or never gotten along – reach out in kindness to him/her.
- Say “thank you” to someone whom you know deserves it – you can start with the people who take care of you at home.
- Be the first one to say “hi,” “hello,” “good morning” or “good afternoon” to others when passing by – even grown-ups!
- Do not allow ANY student to sit alone at lunch.
- If working in groups in class, do not let a student go without a partner – do not ever let one of our fellow students feel alone.
- When communicating with others in person or via phone or on line, walk away, hang up or log off immediately when things become inappropriate, gossipy or overly “dramatic.” This will be your statement that you will not stand by idly and contribute to making the world a lesser place.
- Do something humbling, like cleaning the bathroom at home, washing dishes or cleaning up after pets.
- Ask at least one relative not to buy you a gift, but rather to make a contribution to a needier child or cause in your name.
- Use your own money to donate to a worthy cause – if you do not have any money, ask if you can do something to earn some, then donate it.
- Take note each day, at least in the morning and at night, of all that you have. Try actually making a list, keeping it near your bed and adding to it as the days pass by.
Let's Lend a Helping Hand
8th Grade Field Trip Fundraising
7th Grade Field Trip Fundraising
Health and Wellness Update
By Mr. Dunn
Wellness Newsletter Mental Health
November 2018 Auburn Middle School
Being healthy is not just about being physically fit. Wellness encompasses eating healthy, exercising regularly and taking care of our mental health. Mental health comes in a variety of forms; depression, anxiety, ptsd, eating disorders and many more. It is important to be honest with yourself, life is hard and comes with many struggles and sometimes we just need a little extra help. Everyone has times that they feel sad or stressed but these times should pass, if they do not pass it is important to reach out for help. And remember you are not the only one feeling this way.
Some Interesting Statistics
Approximately 1 in 5 people experience some sort of mental illness.
10.2 million adults that have a substance abuse problem have a co-occuring mental illness.
Half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14.
Over 41% of adults with mental illness do not seek help.
Eating foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains provides your body with energy, and unlike sugary foods, energy that lasts all day with no crash. Whole grains do not just provide fiber and nutrients but they also help the body in releasing the chemical serotonin, which increases overall happiness and mood.
Being physically active, whether that is purposely exercising, walking your dog, running in the yard with kids, going for hikes, the list could go on and on, we all know is recommended for our physical health. But regular exercise or physical activity of some kind is proven to ease symptoms of depression and anxiety, especially when coupled with a well balanced diet.
“ Trees lose there leaves through the tough brutal winters, but they stay standing tall. Because they know one day warmer weather will come and they will soon flourish again.” Be kind to everyone, you never know what someone else is going through.
1. The BLUE CARD and attached paper must be signed and a copy of a current physical must be on file with the school nurse. If you are unsure whether a physical is already on file, please attach a copy to your BLUE CARD.
2. Students are considered ineligible for tryouts unless the BLUE CARD process is completed.
3. The BLUE CARD deadline is November 16.