Monday, November 24, 2014

Four Points of Gratitude From a BVP Head of School

BVP Giving Thanks Blog Series- Part I

As a kid growing up Thanksgiving was grounded in traditions-- the Coventry vs. West Warwick football game, more food than there was room in our bellies, looking at catalogs to create our Christmas lists, and enjoying the day with family. I assumed everyone celebrated Thanksgiving like me, and I definitely took for granted the blessings that had been bestowed upon me.   

Fast forward to the present--I am now a wife, mom, Mimi (the “G” word doesn’t quite suit me), and of course, a school leader.  I still live a life that is abundantly full of blessings, only now I have a deeper appreciation for them. Being an educator, one would think that I am strictly in the business of imparting wisdom on others. However, more than a decade in education has taught ME some life lessons about gratitude, appreciation, and the blessings that are truly worth being thankful for. 

That brings me to some things I am most thankful for in my life:
  1. I am thankful for my family:  I have a caring husband, Bob, who is definitely under-thanked by me (admitting it is the first step!).  My four daughters-- Caitlin, Alexandria, Madeline and Abigail-- have taught me the greatest lessons in my life, and continuously find ways to make me proud to be their mom. Finally, I would be remiss not to mention my grandson, Ben, who is just a month old, but has brought me more joy than I could have ever imagined.
  2. I am thankful for BVP families:  I have worked in other places, visited many schools, and conversed with educators from a variety of settings, all which have helped me to realize this: BVP is truly something special. Take a moment to think about how we are now over 1,200 families large, from four communities, diverse cultures, and a wide range of backgrounds, but we exist together for the very same reason--to prepare our kids for success in college and the world beyond.  How cool is that?! Like all families, we are both supportive and challenging of one another. But in the end, it is our underlying values that unite us and help us to propel our schools forward. Like many of you, I am a parent, and I recognize that it’s the hardest job on the planet.  It is for that reason I am so thankful for all that you do to support our school and grateful for the strong partnership that exists between BVP staff and families.     
  3. I am thankful for my BVP team:  There are teachers, hardworking teachers, and then there are BVP teachers.  Each day I am in awe of the passion, energy, commitment, and selflessness that our staff shows.  BVP teachers are deeply and personally invested in high expectations and maximizing academic achievement for ALL scholars, while also pushing themselves to grow as educators and become better teachers for their scholars. This year as a middle school staff we decided to focus on the concept of “Bucket Filling.”  We are constantly looking for ways to fill buckets by saying or doing things that show our appreciation and gratitude for one another and scholars. 
  4. I am thankful for BVP scholars: Really…are there any kids, anywhere, working harder than BVP scholars? I think not!  They are a source of inspiration for me, brightening my morning with their handshakes and ½ smiles (most middle school kids don’t smile, so a ½ smile is truly special).  It’s called middle school for a reason. Scholars are caught between wanting to enjoy all the delights of being a child, while yearning for the maturity and independence of young adults…and I get to watch it all unfold. Now that’s something to be thankful for!
All kidding aside, our BVP scholars have much to be thankful for, and they know it. Our middle school theme of “What’s your why?” revealed their true motivation for showing PRIDE, and in many cases it included making their parents, families and teachers proud. 

A “why” that really stuck with me belongs to an 8th grade scholar. She described her why as, “My mom; she struggled for me and now it’s my turn to give her everything she deserves.” To those who believe adolescents only think of themselves, you have not met a BVP scholar.  Not only do our scholars know how to be thankful, but they are also taking steps to pay it forward.  

Our "Socktober" sock drive to warm the feet (and hopefully the hearts) of homeless families in Rhode Island yielded over 1,000 pairs of socks.  That doesn’t happen by accident.  Kids care…

I have more proof.  Recently, scholars approached me asking that our school participate in a “pink out” by wearing pink to show support for those facing breast cancer and build awareness for this awful disease. I didn’t go to them, they came to me.  

Just today during WIN block, I met with a group of scholars who are working on writing legislation that would require teachers to receive anti-bullying training regularly.  These are our BVP scholars--they are who I am thankful for.   

Tom Rath and Donald Clifton write in their book, How Full is Your Bucket, “Every time you fill a bucket, you’re setting something in motion.” I am challenging you to fill buckets one drop at a time by acknowledging the blessings in your life, showing gratitude for them, and then paying them forward. If our scholars are doing it, we can, too.

May your buckets runneth over this Thanksgiving and beyond.


Joy Souza is the Head of School at BVP Middle School. 

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