Giving Back

So with less than two weeks to go, and the Middle School graduation ceremony fast approaching, I decided last week to ask our beautiful 8th Graders about their year. I wanted to know what events, experiences, or resounding takeaways resonated most deeply in their hearts and minds as they reflected back on their “senior” journey. I managed to get responses from a decent sample size of about 100 kids, and the overall collective sentiment took me a little by surprise………..and made me smile from ear to ear. To be honest, I kind of expected the majority of them to comment on their sporting accomplishments, or the Middle School dances, or the bi-monthly House competitions, or the Middle School assemblies, or their favorite teachers and classes but what bubbled up, and clearly separated itself from the rest of the answers (much to my incredible joy) was the memory of our three major school service and fundraising projects……….our fundraiser in the fall to raise money for the Shanghai cancer survivor school, the Braille Without Borders book drive which raised funds for the blind, and the China Trip service project where they spent time at a local Chinese orphanage helping those inspiring kids with Cerebral Palsy. Overall as a Middle School this year, we raised over 10,000 dollars for causes close to our hearts, we changed countless lives, and we gave well over 2000 hours of our time back to the community……..I’d call that a successful year!

Three years ago when we first sat down and discussed the vision for our fledgling Middle School, we clearly wanted service, or “give back” opportunities to be an integral part of who we are, and last year when we decided to make each student’s service component part of their advisory grade, it was a purposeful attempt to bring service to the forefront of what we expect from our students. We understood back then however (and still do) that it’s one thing to require kids to give back, and an altogether different thing to have them own it intrinsically. Well, if we look at this recent anecdotal evidence from our 8th grade class, it looks like we’re getting somewhere, and truly starting to make “giving back” part of the fabric and fairly tale of our school. It feels really good to be a part of the outstanding, caring, and socially responsible Middle School that we’ve now become, and it is educational initiatives like the ones that we had this year that truly get to the heart of what’s important in the lives of our students……..and in education in general in my humble opinion. Hearing last week from our students that making a difference in the lives of others is what mattered most to them over the past ten months has made my year…………and apparently it’s made theirs as well.

I’d like to congratulate and thank you all for stepping up and initiating these opportunities for our students, and for taking part in the organization, delivery, and follow through of each event. I’m looking forward to using this year as a launching pad for future service endeavors, and with the momentum that we currently have on our side I think the sky’s the limit with what we can accomplish for our local and surrounding community in years to come. These are the experiences that our kids will remember deep into their future, and it’s the type of learning that shapes who they are as young adults…….I’m proud of them all for their efforts, and for their commitment to giving back to a cause that’s larger then themselves. Service is without a doubt becoming something that we’re known for around the city, and it’s beautiful to see our young people embracing it so emphatically. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week………
The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it – William James

Article #1- 7 Good Reasons to Give Back
http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1122
Article #2 – The Importance of Meaningful Service Learning
http://handsonblog.org/2011/09/26/the-importance-of-meaningful-service-learning/

Kid Focused/Friendly Give Back Organizations
www.generationon.org
www.kidswhogive.com
www.dosomething.org
www.allforgood.org

TED Talk – The Way We Think About Charity (Dan Pallotta)
http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pallotta_the_way_we_think_about_charity_is_dead_wrong.html

TED Talk – The Why and How of Effective Altruism (Peter Singer)
http://www.ted.com/talks/peter_singer_the_why_and_how_of_effective_altruism.html

About Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 
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