Reflections of a Mom of a Park Street School graduate …
I was a young mom figuring out bedtimes and when to introduce cheese to my baby girl.
While I was just hoping to survive the early days of parenthood, my neighbor said she was sending her son to Park Street School’s Preschool. School seemed like a lifetime away when each day could feel like an eternity. That is why I was so surprised when just a year later my same friend said she was now applying her baby to that same school. The notion of filling out an application for my 18-month-old to attend preschool seemed preposterous, especially since I was a stay-at-home mom with just one kid. But, the little girl upstairs was my baby’s best friend and the school time would only last a few hours twice a week. Despite my reservations, I printed out the application and laughed at myself as I wrote that her hobbies were “swinging at the playground” and “enjoying cool breezes on her face.” I was still incredulous when I ran into the Head of Schools, Tracy Bradley, at a wedding. “Just send her,” she said, “We will take good care of her.” Well, I did send her, and those prophetic words came true 100 times over.
There are enough stories in our 10 years at Park Street School (PSS) to write a book, but the most significant memory is the one where my entire notion of education changed with one simple comment. In my work before becoming a mother, I had cultivated partnerships between companies or universities and the Boston Public Schools. I spent time thinking about how to improve the educational experience of students and how to help them achieve in alignment with their untapped abilities. It follows then that I was quite invested in my own child’s education. I wanted her to make A’s and to improve in areas where she was weak. It was my habit to scan a report card and look for places of weakness and to ask her teachers how she might improve.
In my typical fashion, I noticed that she had scored low on paying attention in the third grade. Of course, I mentioned it in our parent-teacher meeting. To my utter shock, her brilliant teacher told me that it was a positive attribute. She proceeded to share a story in which my daughter was looking out the window at a bird instead of listening to her teacher. That sounded terrible to me, but her teacher insisted that being observant is beneficial. Unconvinced, I listened as she proceeded to tell me the rest of the story. When asked what she was looking at, my daughter brought the bird to the attention of the whole class, completely interrupting the lesson. To me, the story was spiraling downward until this insightful teacher changed my thinking forever.
She asserted that not all kids must be excellent in every aspect of school or life. Instead of focusing on what could be deemed negative, a more constructive approach was to invest in the areas where she is naturally gifted. My life truly changed at that moment. I now appreciate the unique creation that kids and people are. A kid who procrastinates can actually be quite productive. The bossy child has a strong countenance and will not allow others to take advantage of her. A messy kid is a creative thinker. And my daydreaming daughter is truly a deep thinker whose astute observations prove useful.
Moving to a large private school in California solidified my esteemed impression of Park Street School. This new blue-ribbon school with stacks of awards and recognition felt more like a factory than a creative lab developing beautiful young minds. Viewing PSS from hindsight and in comparison with another school, affords a unique perspective. Families who have found themselves at new schools will almost always follow an upbeat statement about the new school with the comment, “but it’s not Park Street School.”
There is something different about PSS students. They go on to excellent institutions of higher learning like other private school kids (we know several kids who have been accepted into Harvard for example), but their worldly success is not what sets them apart. Rather, it is their depth. They are learners and thinkers, caregivers with compassion in equal measure to their brilliance. They do more than answer questions correctly, they consider how the facts they are memorizing also affect the world. They go beyond achieving success; they influence the people and systems they encounter all while being loveable and likable.
My daughter’s high school counselor noticed it. He recognized that she was different from her peers because she cared about learning more than checking boxes to receive an A. She did not fit into the school’s box because she had learned who she was and how to be confident in her unique giftings. This fall, she will either be training for the Junior Olympics in Equestrian Eventing or attending the #1 entrepreneurial school for business. Either way, she will carry the endowments from PSS with her through life as a deep thinker who knows herself well and is ready to share herself to brighten the world. Park Street School did more than just take care of her, it propelled her towards a more meaningful and abundant life.
— Carolyn Farrell, mom of Faith, PSS Graduate (Class of 2015)