Did you know that Willow joined the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Caring Schools Network this year? The Caring Schools Network is a growing group of schools committed to ethical development, formed as part of Harvard’s Making Caring Common initiative.
Making Caring Common aspires to help create a world in which children learn to care about others, understand and seek fairness and justice, and do what is right even, at times, at a cost to themselves. As a Caring Schools member, Willow now has access to research-based strategies and resources that support us as we further develop our virtues program and culture of caring and empathy.
Making Caring Common lessons are broken into themed projects. Willow’s middle school students completed “The Story of Us” project in the fall and will be tackling a new project in the spring.
As part of “The Story of Us,” students examined the experiences and values that are important to them. They also learned about the importance of storytelling and seeing beyond the single stories (or stereotypes) we are often told about each other. Students wrote “Where I’m From” poems, shared them with their classmates, and discussed the connections and differences in each story, discovering many common themes.
Through this thoughtful exercise, Willow middle schoolers learned how to tell their own stories and understand each other’s stories, respecting how where they come from has shaped who they are and how to appreciate their similarities and differences.
Here are a few of our students’ “Where I’m From” poems:
I am from books,
From Lewis Carroll and Stephen King.
I am from the blue house,
Dark, but inviting, the color like a ripe blueberry.
I am from orchids,
Looming in their beauty.
I’m from light-less solstices and bad jokes,
From Noelani and Mary.
I’m from the morning coffee and video games,
From don’t talk to me this early to because I said so.
I’m from no strict religion,
Believing in whatever I want.
I’m from the court in a small part of Oakland,
Eggo waffles, and pasta.
I’m from the roller coasters, enjoying my drop to doom.
I am from the diversity of my family,
The closet full of memorabilia,
The records of my life. – Gabe, Grade 6
I am from the words on a page,
from chocolate and beach towels.
I am from the turquoise cool pool,
joyful, memorable, chilled water.
I am from purple calla lilies,
my mother’s wedding flowers.
I’m from family gatherings and diligent workers,
from Dominique and David.
I’m from outgoing people and caring people,
from “Can you watch Hope?” and “Te quiero mucho.”
I’m from lighting the menorah and finding the afikoman.
I’m from New York City and Puerto Rico, Ireland, Germany, Russia, Poland,
my mother’s doughy challah, and GG’s rolls.
From the Fire Island beach, where I swim with my cousins in the icy sea.
From my parents meeting at Cornell.
All throughout my house are framed photos and albums,
capturing memories full of smiles and laughter to share throughout our lives. – Diana, Grade 7
I am from my piano,
From chicken shavings and new ornaments every year.
I am from the family gatherings in my living room,
Funny, hopeful, the fireplace blazing in the background.
I am from hydrangeas, the flower,
Nantucket’s shining star.
I’m from traveling and sunburn.
From Meagan and Mitchell.
I’m from loving and caring people,
From enjoy life and breathe.
I’m from Christmas morning posing for pictures in Pottersville, Hartwood Christmases with loved ones.
I’m from Califon, in the middle of nowhere,
Berry pies, fondue,
From the father who could live at the race track.
The fact that my mother considers a tiny cabin her happy place.
In my office are bound books. My computer that stores short chapters of my life.
I wouldn’t remember my history without them. – Elise, Grade 7
I am from the piano.
From picture books and model kits.
I am from the forest.
Green, sun-dappled, with a musty smell.
I am from jade plants.
I am from fireworks and studying.
From Narasimhan and Raghavan.
I’m from the love of food and short attention span.
From “Put the book down!” and “Go exercise!”
I’m from the Om symbol.
Bronze and shiny.
I’m from South India.
From my dad’s stories.
And my mom’s ideas.
The photo album in the closet.
Connects me to my past, my present, and my future. – Ashwin, Grade 8
I am from the soil,
From iced tea and Ritz crackers.
I am from the cozy home with the hay filled barn
(cobwebbed, dusty, smells like horses and leather saddles).
I am from flowers, teeming with butterflies and bumblebees.
I’m from matzo balls and blue and green eyes,
from Enid and John Henry
I’m from the readers and the travelers
From “Don’t eat the yellow snow” and
“You have to eat a peck of dirt before you die.”
I’m from Ashkenazi Jews and Catholics, Quakers and Protestants all mixed together.
I’m from New Jersey and Northern Europe, short ribs and latkes.
From the Grandfather John who fell off the Mayflower and survived
to the Grandmother Miriam who escaped the pogroms of Russia.
In a cabinet in the family room, and in frames around the house
are photographs that remind me I am a part of something bigger. – Miles, Grade 8
Thank you for sharing your stories, middle schoolers! Learn more about Making Caring Common and The Willow School here.