According to the American Kennel Club, a Bulldog's disposition should be "equable and kind, resolute and courageous, fearless, not vicious or aggressive.” They are loyal as well, and their family becomes their community. I believe this encapsulates the many factors that identify a Jefferson student.
Our school is fearless. Our students and staff take on new challenges each and everyday, and trying something new does take courage. It takes guts. Yearly at Jefferson we revamp and rework our offerings to try to tackle new problems and entice different learners to enjoy their middle school experience. And yearly, our students sign up, raise their hands, and show up at the door to participate in our programs.
Teachers are always trying new ideas in the classrooms to engage students, continually rethinking our methods and pedagogy in order to allow student voice in their education. From Project Based Learning to technology integration, from awareness of social-emotional needs to mindfulness and a growth mindset, our teachers are arguably the most innovative around.
This year, our school has built on their afterschool programs to include cooking, gardening, and martial arts. Each year, teachers come to me to pitch new electives or to better those that already exist. Each year students pitch lunch clubs and find teacher supervisors who are willing to let them explore leading a social group around any number of themes: from “SEW Awesome” to Chess. It takes fearlessness to see potential and work to make something happen.
Our school is resolute. We continuously do the best we can, trying different paths to success, devising workarounds to get what our students need. Our staff models problem solving and our students are dedicated in their efforts. Our programs and community do not cower to others. Just because other schools do something, that does not dictate our path. Conversely, just because doesn’t exist or has seen challenges elsewhere does not stop our resolve in trying a strategy we know has potential. We have the talent in our staff and our students to rise to any challenge.
Our school is a place of kindness. We hear about students coming to our school from other districts who have heard that we harbor kindness here. Middle school is a tough chapter in everyone’s life, but our staff works to help our students navigate its rough waters. We hear from parents that our school community is neighborly, going above and beyond with outreach when many secondary programs give up in their communication. Our teachers collaborate and model collaboration so that our students can learn strategies of working with others, both those they like and even those they may not chose to hang out with. Kindness must be in a school culture, and it trickles down from the adults.
In kindness, our students constantly meet and exceed our expectations. This year we implemented the W.E.B.(Where Everyone Belongs) program. My eighth grade leaders have blossomed into caring young mentors for our sixth grade students. They enjoy and want to be with them. Through mentorship, meak 6th graders turn into GIANTS in the courtroom of mock trial and outshine older students from other schools. We hear from parents and coaches from other schools that are witness to our competitive and character-driven victories. Our speech students bring home trophy after trophy in competition yet constantly hear how kind and sportsmanlike they are. This is the real victory for a middle school.
Our school is made up of a whole community of loyal supporters. Our community of parents is a strong support for our school. The PTA rallies the community and pours their support into all that we do. Moms and dads work to ensure that classrooms and teachers are supported. When there is a need, they are quick to respond.
Jefferson was tested a few weeks ago when one of our own was injured in a terrible accident. Every member of the Jefferson community responded to the needs of our family. Students made cards and posters in support, staff visited and supported the family, and families donated time, money, and energy to set up more safeguards in order to lower the possibility of another accident.
Fearless. Resolute. Kind. Loyal. These are what makes Jefferson special. It has the heart of the bulldog.