What did you give today?
Dr. Shimi Kang remembered that the only question her mother would ask her when came home from school each day was “What did you contribute in school today?” Her mother knew very little English, so it did no good for Shimi to show her the English essay with red pen marking an A at the top. Even if her mother understood English and could appreciate the efforts Shimi took to get that mark, she knew that her individual accomplishment would not be correctly labeled as a personal contribution to school. She knew that her mother expected more. Today, Shimi is a Harvard trained Psychiatrist who has written two books about motivation – not toward the typical expectations of grades, behavior or social issues – but toward the expectation of giving to others. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EHZAQmw2JA – Ted Talk
I didn’t have look hard to find a great example of contribution in practice at The Heritage Middle School. The Builders Club is the Middle School branch of the Upper School Key Club and was started by a few 8th graders motivated to provide local service. Its recent coat drive exceeded all expectations. They collected 1,300 articles of winter clothing for Bridging the Gap and One Roof – two local organizations which, among other things, work to keep people warm in the winter. To give perspective, that is over 8 articles of winter clothing per middle school student at Heritage. We received over 300 heavy coats alone! The only official marketing for this drive was a short paragraph in the e-news. So naturally, I was curious about how it ended up being such a great success. I sat down with Susan Grayton and Payton, two 8th graders who helped lead the project last week, and asked them to share their perspective.
Why did you choose a coat drive?
S.G. and Payton: First off, we’d like to say there were many others helping us in this drive – Sonny, Davis, Cody, David, Thomas, Graham, Mrs. Julia Thompson and many others. This was not something we did alone.
S.G.: It is a way to give back to our community. Growing up, I got to see my parents spend a lot of time working with Bridging the Gap. We would spend our Saturdays helping those in need. Not everyone in need is without a home. Coats are something that we frequently take for granted. They’re not something we think of not having, but many people are without.
Payton: I have always loved to help the community. Giving back is something I have always been interested in doing since a young age. And giving winter clothes is a way that everyone in middle school can give. We thought that was important.
How is this different than just giving money?
S.G.: When our age group gives money, it is usually coming from parents. This was student led and organized, which gave us more voice and we felt a bigger part of it. Giving money is a sacrifice that organizations need as well, but we just wanted to focus on something that we could do as students.
Payton: I agree with Susan Grayton, having student ownership was a big part of this drive. Every student could go home and find articles that they didn’t wear to give to this project.
What made this so successful?
Both: First it was something that everyone had at home and they saw the need for others to stay warm just like we saw it. Second, it doesn’t hurt to have a little competition (each homeroom/advisory competed to see who could bring in the most). But lastly, it was all student led from the beginning and that felt meaningful for everyone grade we worked with.
Why is service important in schools?
Both: A school like ours it is REALLY important to give back. A lot of our families have more than most families in the community. For students to realize that they can make a difference at a young age is a big deal. We wanted to do that with this drive.
As they were answering this question, both girls continued to astound me with their maturity. Both talked about situations that were very personal to them and how those experiences inspired them to take action. Each student cited their parents as examples of service and praised them for showing them the value of paying it forward early on. I realized that each one of our students has his or her own motivation, and I was thankful for that diversity of purpose and for each student’s ownership of it.
As we moved on to the next question, a student who was upset and in need of guidance came to the door. Susan Grayton and Payton quickly gave their seats to her and graciously stepped away even though they had much more to share. They saw a need and gave what they had to offer. They naturally, instinctively and purposefully answered the question, “What did you contribute in school today?”
Important Upcoming Dates—
- Monday, December 2— Classes Resume
- Thursday, December 5 @ 7p + Friday, December 6 @ 7p + Saturday, December 7 @ 7p—Middle School Musical “Frozen Jr.”
- Friday, December 6— 7th + 8th Grade Exam Review Packets will be distributed/posted
- Friday, December 13 and Monday, December 16— 7th + 8th Grade Exam Review Days
- Tuesday, December 17 to Thursday, December 19— 7th + 8th Grade Exams— Click here for more information.
- Friday, December 20— Drop Everything and Serve in Jubilee Teams then Grade Level Christmas Parties— Noon Dismissal (No extended day offered) Please wear Festive Christmas Sweater/Shirt and jeans!
- December 21— Winter Break Begins
- Monday, January 6 is a Teacher Work Day—No Classes
- Tuesday, January 7— 2nd Semester Begins