Insight: Community Building

By Vickie Baldwin, Director of Institutional Advancement

“Kindness kindles kinship and kinship kindles a sense of community.”
~Abhijit Naskar

The quote above from celebrated Neuroscientist Abjijit Naskar struck a chord with me the moment I read it. Until our Middle School remodel work began, our youngest students were greeted daily with the reminder: “Be Kind.”  (That’s part of the Middle School’s motto—Work Hard. Be Kind. Take Pride.)  I’m certain this visible reminder will return once our new building is complete, however even without it, kindness is reflected throughout our community. Our Head of School, Dr. Terry Macaluso, often says that our student culture imitates our adult culture. If our faculty and parents treat each other with respect and kindness, that will be the case among our students as well.

That has proven to be true in my decade at EPS.  I’ve been witness to countless acts of kindness within our community. Those random acts of kindness are certainly easier to notice when we’re all together—the student holding a door open for another, the quick conversation in the hall that ends with an expression of gratitude, or the chance conversation with a parent that provides the opportunity for meaningful connection. But even as we faced isolation and anxiety together over the past eighteen months, the acts of kindness and community building have been evident.  Those, along with our shared sense of humor, have kept us going. From wacky contests during our quarantine period last year, to virtual events hosted by our amazing Parent Association volunteers, to gradually dipping our toes into in-person gatherings—all have helped remind us that we are, indeed, a community, and that together we can overcome so much.

One set of parent gatherings that has benefited from the ability to return to the in-person format are the small group, grade-level “Head’s Table” meetings hosted by Dr. Macaluso.  These meetings showcase not only our unique approach to fundraising, they allow new and returning parents to connect and share experiences with other parents in their child(ren)’s grades. Dr. Macaluso’s sense of humor is always on display, as is her wealth of knowledge about teaching. At the risk of losing my job, I think something even more important is evident in these gatherings—our shared goal, as a community, to put our students and their education first.

In my mind, that’s the essence of community—when we work together towards common goals.  A few years ago, EPS went through a Northwest Association of Independent Schools (NWAIS) re-accreditation process.  One of the comments made to our faculty by the team of local educators who made up our visiting team in that process was that rarely had they seen a school where everyone was “pulling in the same direction.” It was a wonderful moment for me—a moment to reflect how lucky I am to be part of a community set apart by the fact that we’re united in the same objectives and we’re working together to achieve them.  I could not have been prouder than I was in that moment.  And immediately, so many examples of those efforts came to mind—conferences during which parents, students, and teachers come together to help students on an individual level, Guided Study Hall teachers who help students and faculty alike navigate the different learning styles each of us holds, parents and students welcoming new members to our community each year, and EBC trips chaperoned by faculty in order to introduce students to new experiences (and sometimes new parts of the world).

I realized then, as I do now, that if we continue to work together—with kindness—there’s no stopping us.