NEW - Setting Limits for Your Children
Jan Abernathy

You can put a dozen honeybees into a quart jar or into a two-gallon container and they’ll fill up each. Whether they need the room or not, the bees will spread out to the limit of their containment and constantly seek to move beyond.  

As bees in a jar, children, too, push against their limits, seeking to expand their bounds. It is as natural for children as it is for honeybees to try to escape from a quart jar. It is the work of growing up.

It is the work of parents to be cautious about lifting the lid from the limits they’ve set, even if it means suffering a few stings to hold fast. With the wisdom of hindsight, many of us remember how glad we were that our parents “held the line.”  

It sounds so easy. Set up reasonable rules, then apply them. But those of us who are raising or have raised children know how complicated it all is.  Is a rule for a fourth grader also reasonable for a seventh grader? How much input should teenagers have in negotiating our rules for them?  To what extent is it practical if our rules differ from those of our fellow EMS families? How do we handle the pressure of being the “only ones” with stringent rules for our youngsters? Do we relax the rules only when our children demonstrate maturity or does chronological age have something to do with it? What if our children aren’t ready for the same freedoms their friends have?

If any of this matches your thinking, don’t be surprised. It is a rite of passage for parents to be confused as their children go through school. If anything, it should underscore how much you have in common with other parents in the community.

So, whether working with honeybees or children, wear velvet gloves over firm hands to hold and hug your charges…and to protect yourselves from stings.

NEW - The Importance of Civility
Jan Abernathy

It’s hard to engage with the news these days without experiencing some measure of despair about the lack of civility in public discourse. It astonishes me that we, as a society, accept from our government leaders on both sides of the aisle language and close-mindedness that we, as a school, would reject.

Regardless of where we stand as individuals ideologically, what is essential for all involved in educating young people – school personnel and families – is that we discourage students from disparaging others’ opinions and ideas. Better, I think, is to explore why others hold their views and identify both common ground and areas of departure. It is only in that way we expand our perspectives.

But this is hard when the issues are emotional and decisions are subjective. We need some guidelines on which to rely to assure that school is a safe place for expressing ourselves whether our views are popular or not. We have those guidelines in place at EMS.

What has so impressed me about this school is that the 4C’s truly do guide our interactions. They are referenced when class gets boisterous, when there are playground spats, when arguments get heated. You all have chosen EMS in part because of the ethos of kindness and caring here. Thank you for modeling respectful relationships for our students better than some in Washington have.

NEW - The Admissions Difference at EMS
Kathleen Visconti, Director of Enrollment Management

Occasionally, members of the Elisabeth Morrow administration will share their thoughts with you in this space. Today's guest column is from Kathleen Visconti, Director of Enrollment Management.

This past week we had our yearly kick-off meeting of the Parents Admissions Network, a group of about 27 volunteers who help with our events, and function as a reference to applying and incoming parents. As I looked around the group and listened to their heartwarming stories, I thought about the families with whom I have worked in my four years at EMS. I remembered them in that first meeting---slightly nervous, curious, skeptical, and wondering if they had done the right thing by coming to EMS.

Providing a Parents Admissions Network is merely one element of enrollment management in an independent school. Our office manages admissions, tuition assistance, and enrollment contracts as well as retention, recruitment, outreach, and transportation. These functions must balance to create the best community possible.  Each is like a domino that can affect the other. 

On every marker---applications, enrollment, retention, and yields, the Elisabeth Morrow School is growing and thriving, surpassing at least 10 and 20-year records, at a time when some independent schools are struggling and even closing.

What makes EMS special is the way in which we consider each child's individual gifts.  We want to bring children into our environment because we know that children change and grow given the right opportunities. Colleagues advocate vigorously for our applicants by outlining their strengths. Once enrolled, our administration and teachers present a research-based program in which children can thrive. It is also a fact that the independent school environment adds value---while only 1%of the children in the country attend independent schools, these students comprise 10% of the population in the top universities and colleges.

I recall a scene in the Tina Fey movie, Admission, where she imagined the students Princeton denied falling through a trap door after they delivered a litany of achievements (which they did while fencing, standing on their heads and playing the clavichord). This scene, although funny, would never happen at EMS (although we would appreciate the clavichord). Similarly, Small Admissions, a 2016 novel, described parents being admitted to schools solely according to their braggadocio.  Again, not true here. 

We celebrate authenticity. We celebrate a passion for learning, service to community, and love of the arts. We celebrate global citizenship, bolstered by one of the richest varieties of cultures in an independent school in this country. We welcome a wealth of differing backgrounds and know how greatly this benefits all of us.

So however long it has been from when you first sat in those admissions chairs, speculating about what all this would mean for you and your child, I hope that your journey has been amazing. I hope that you are now fully confident, informed, and satisfied that yes, you have done the right thing by coming to EMS.

NEW - The Joy of Working with Children
Jan Abernathy

What a joy it is to work with young people!  They offer us fresh perspectives on that which we may take for granted. For example, many of us consider a strength of Elisabeth Morrow to be how we honor individuality and independence at the same time we build a sense of community.  We assume it’s easy because it’s so pervasive here.  That’s a flawed assumption.  There can be tension between individuality and community, especially in a nation that regularly recognizes individual creativity and honors those with the initiative to come up with the next big thing. The language of teaching is filled with respect for individual learning styles, differentiated instruction and one-to-one attention in class.  But individuality promoted in isolation can lead to self-involvement.

I heard author Barry Lopez on NPR talk about the unhealthy side of self-involvement.  In Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Mr. Lopez reminded us, Ahab’s sense of self, transformed to self-indulgence, took a boatful of sailors on a lethal mission to feed the passion of one man.

At Elisabeth Morrow we are fortunate that the captains of our children’s fates are our parents and teachers who agree that youngsters have to learn how to give a small part of themselves to contribute to a larger whole.  Our students have, at home, role models who volunteer, who support the school, and who dedicate time to building our community.  Our students have at school, role models who collaborate with colleagues and who communicate with parents to assure consistent, meaningful experiences for their charges.  Our students have one another in performance, class projects, service activities, and teams that help them both teach and learn what it means to be one’s own person within the context of a group.  We have a collection of individuals who believe in community and who live that belief every day.

It is both a privilege and a pleasure for me to be part of this caring community.

NEW - Finding the Information You Need
Jan Abernathy, Director of Marketing and Communications

Occasionally, members of the Elisabeth Morrow administration will share their thoughts with you in this space. Today's guest column is from Jan Abernathy, Director of Marketing and Communications.

At EMS, we want you to be a well-informed community member with the information that you need to support your child in school. With so ways to interact with us, that can sometimes be a challenge. I've put together a few tips that I hope might help:

  • if you can't find some piece of information, please ask us! Emailing me or Kelvin Ward, the Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications, will generally yield a pretty quick response to your question, and we're here to help. 
  • Student, Family and Faculty Directories can be found on MobileArq (a mobile app about which you received information in the August packet) or on our website. We have also added a new family communication tool - myEMS, which includes a directory among its many features. Please use whichever is most convenient for you. 
  • the Wednesday Envelope will always be your single best weekly source of information about the school and it is published at 6 a.m. every Wednesday during the school year, except during Winter and Spring Breaks. 
  • if you need to update your contact information, you may email me or Joann Testa in the business office, or change it yourself within myEMS or MobileArq. If that same information appears on your child's medical emergency contact forms, you must change yourself it in Magnus. Since Magnus contains confidential medical information we do not make changes in that system. 
  • please follow us on Facebook or Instagram if you want to keep up on all of the great things happening at school. 
  • as for more specific classroom activities, you will learn about how best to communicate with your child's teachers, and see what is happening during the day, at your back-to-school nights. Divisional and Parents Association presentations, Teaching Tuesdays and our FYI presentations targeted to new families are also great ways to meet people and learn more about your child's experience.
  • if you have a suggestion about making communications with families better, please let us know. We are listening!