In my Lower School office I keep a collection of nun memorabilia: two wind up nuns who shoot fire from their mouths when properly wound, a nun candle that one can set alight and watch melt (somewhat like the Wicked Witch of the West after being splashed with water by Dorothy), and a lunch box on which one side shows a blackboard with a child’s scrawl, repeating endlessly, “I am responsible for the sins of the world.” I keep them in part to remind me what my schooling was like, but more importantly to remind me why I have stayed at GDS as long as I have.
At GDS we believe that all children are naturally curious, blessed with enormous capacity, ready and primed to love and be loved. It’s school and life that twists them up. We believe that no child (or adult) changes or grows because she is blamed or shamed. Children flourish when they are treated with affection, respect, and understanding, and no child can do his best work unless he feels seen and known.
We believe in limits, but believe as well that the best discipline is self-discipline and that the true test of our character is what we do when no one is watching or prompting us to behave in a certain way. We resist the notion that as teachers we know everything and that children are just sausage cases ready to be stuffed with bits and pieces of this and that.
To say that GDS and the schools I attended are as different as night and day would be a gross understatement. I sat in fear of just about every adult whom I encountered in the classroom. Blessedly our students don’t fear us.
Last year a moment in kindergarten brought home that particular difference. As I was helping one kindergartener with sounding out the syllables of a new vocabulary word, one of her classmates asked, “Hey, Serena, is that your grandpa?” Serena’s reply was priceless. “Nope,” she said, “we’re just friends.” I can think of no higher accolade.