From the Principal/Welcome Message
Hello Wildcat Parents,
I’ve been thinking a lot about cultivating and harvesting. True, it’s mostly because… like farmers everywhere, my husband does the seasonal dance of gratitude vs be bemoaning the weather and opportunities (or not) to see the fruits of the harvest. Yes, seeds have been planted and fields cultivated… but we all want to see the barriers removed so that the investment gives dividends out.
Alright… you might already know where I’m headed with this… ;) humour me and we’ll go a bit further. So to cultivate is to nurture and help grow. Farmers cultivate crops, fundraising professionals cultivate donors, and celebrities cultivate their image… we get it. When you cultivate something, you work to make it better. Originally, the work referred only to crops that required tilling, but the meaning has widened. No matter what is being cultivated, the word implies a level of care that is reminiscent of gardening. Sometimes student trust, friendships, school partnership or collegial relationships come naturally, and sometimes you have to cultivate them. To cultivate ANYTHING requires an attention to detail, an understanding of what is being cultivated… and … a lot of patience to see all facets..
Teaching, like farming (o.k. I never thought I’d say that) are both about ‘tending’. Teaching is the process of attending to people’s needs, experiences and feelings, and intervening so that they learn particular things, and go beyond the given. Good teaching is more than technique according to Parker J. Palmer. Good teaching, he says, ‘comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher’ (Palmer 1998: 11). It is the way we are experienced, our enthusiasm, our care, our knowledge, our interest in, and concern for, people that is the key to whether we are felt to be good teachers. Westpark teachers are great teachers.
This is not to say that technique isn’t important. It is. We need to be skilled at scaffolding learning; creating relationships and environments for learning; and catching teaching moments. It is just that these skills need to be employed by someone who can be respected, is experienced as real and is wise. Good teachers join self, subject, and students in the fabric of life because they teach from an integral and undivided self; they manifest in their own lives, and evoke in their students, a “capacity for connectedness.” They are able to weave a complex web of connections between themselves, their subjects, and their students, so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves. Westpark teachers are great technical teachers.
Brene Brown also talks about the need for cultivation in our vulnerability. These are so ke for middle schoolers (for all of us). Cultivate authenticity: let go of what people think. Cultivate self-compassion: let go of perfectionism. Cultivate a resilient spirit: let go of numbing and powerlessness. Cultivate gratitude and joy: let go of scarcity and fear of the dark. Cultivate intuition and trusting faith: let go of the need for certainty. Cultivate creativity: let go of comparison. Cultivate play and rest: let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth. Cultivate calm and stillness: let go of anxiety as a lifestyle. Cultivate meaningful work: let go of self-doubt and ‘supposed to’. Cultivate laughter, song and dance: let go of being cool and always in control.
Today, I want to reflect on cultivating… and explore with you, our school experience thus far at Westpark. It is our deep hope to serve you and your children with respect. As Thanksgiving approaches, please accept our heartfelt gratitude for the opportunity to partner with you. We feel thankful and blessed for the gift of welcoming your children into this building or online every day. We are honestly SO excited to be back in school this Fall and teaching your kids! There has been such a positive atmosphere among our staff - one that reflects gratitude and cultivation. The weight of returning to school during a pandemic, with District protocols for masks, sanitizing, and classroom safety measures, is not lost on any of us! And I am fully aware of the fact that, if we chose to, we could easily ‘pour out our cups’ and focus on the if onlys, the I wish it were different, or the remember when thoughts that could be our focus instead. But then, we would miss out on the beauty and the diverse colors that are set before all of us. The gift of cultivating. Our cups are truly full!
Teresa Tataryn (Westpark Middle School Principal)