Advice from an MICDS “Lifer”

Yes it’s true.  I have spent most of my life at 101 North Warson Road. I still remember Ms. Rodman’s JK Class in the long forgotten Rand Building, where we also took woodworking and art. I remember singing “The Kindergarten Wall” in Mrs. McMillion’s music class (now a colleague of mine on the Admin Team), “First the root goes down, then the plant grows up!” (complete with hand motions to signal the growth of a flower.) I remember reciting the Gettysburg Address in front of the Beasley community and parents at Fourth Grade Recognition Day, accompanied by a classmate of mine playing Ashokan Farewell” as it had been played in the Ken Burns Series “The Civil War.” I even have a visceral memory of being called to the Principal’s Office, where Mrs. Dugan helped me explore my role in the wolf pack and to embrace being an upstander in the face of peer pressure. Yes, the Beasley years were a time for play and fun (I particularly loved competing in faux-Olympics in PE), academic growth (I was very proud to be one of the first in my 3rd grade class to complete my multiplication tables to 12!)  It was also a time for personal growth, when I learned about popularity, exclusion, inclusion, and social hierarchies among kids. I loved my Beasley years, and was proud and excited to hit the bigger stage of 5th grade and the newly merged “MICDS.”

Fifth grade (in 1994, no longer) brought blazers and ties. Fifth grade brought departmentalized teachers and changing classes. Fifth grade brought single gender classes and increased academic demands and expectations.  But most of all, 5th grade, and 6th grade, and 7th grade, and eventually 9th grade brought… NEW STUDENTS. Students who begin MICDS in Beasley School have well-earned pride about their experience and about their school. It can be hard to welcome new faces to the community, not knowing how they might affect existing friendships, compete for playing time on a sports team or leadership opportunities. On the other hand, it is thrilling to meet new classmates, realizing that they indeed might become your best friends, your teammates, maybe even your romantic interests. It is important for us “lifers” at every step of the way to change our mentality from “this is my school” to “this is our school.” The constant influx of “new blood” energizes classes, as students bring new and different perspectives, skills, and backgrounds to the mix of the class. Most of my close friendships to this day from MICDS are students who started in Middle or Upper School and represent students from a variety of backgrounds and previous experiences.

One of the objections I hear now from prospective parents considering Beasley vs. another independent elementary school is that it is healthy to change schools at some point, to meet a new group of people and transition into a community.  Beasley kids do just that, multiple times! Each division of the School provides a very purposeful transition with different facilities, schedules, teachers, and new students. And the social structures change, often! What remains consistent throughout the School is the commitment to excellence in everything that MICDS does, the fun school traditions that bridge generations, and the pride in being an MICDS Ram.  And that goes beyond the classroom and the playing field but also into growing positive citizens and community members of the world.

It’s true, I came back to the school I attended for 14 years for my professional career. No, I am not reliving the glory years or really even talking all that much about my personal experience as a student (outside of this blog of course!). I did however come back because of the relationships I built with people during my time here. The relationships with the many adults in this community who still remain, and the relationships with my friends who came from so many different backgrounds.  I wanted to make a difference and give back to my community, and what better way than to provide the same opportunity to many students and families in the St. Louis area. But the fact is, we are a different school than the one I attended 16-30 years ago. We have embraced professional development and best practices, teaching as a “science” rather than an art form. We’ve embraced technology and the doorways it opens for our students to explore the world far beyond our classrooms. And we’ve embraced the importance of diversity and inclusion, educational equity, social justice, and cultural competence not as extra bells and whistles, but as core to the Mission of our school in preparing the next generation for lives of purpose and service.

So yes, I love my School and am proud of it. For both what it was to me in my 14 years as a student, and for what we’ve become, one of the finest independent schools in the nation where I am now not only an alum and administrator, I’m a new parent to a JKer, Class of 2032! The tradition continues.