Samantha Berman is mother to 2nd grader JW M. and serves as a trustee on the St. George's Board of Trustees. She is also the Vice President of the Parents Group.
I am always amazed and overjoyed when I see my son, JW, putting St. George’s core values of compassion, perseverance, integrity and respect to work. Some of it is, of course, a child’s natural inclination, but so much of it also comes from the lessons and care that he receives daily at St. George's. For example, last Monday after Hurricane Ida blew through New Orleans, my family stepped outside to survey the damage. We were lucky. There were a few roofing shingles blown off and some tree limbs down from the live oaks that surround our house, and the power was out, but overall we were relatively unscathed. One thing I will remember most about the storm, however, was that while my husband and I were fretting over how our possessions would fare – our house, our cars, our electricity – JW was concerned with everyone else around us. He wanted to know if our neighbors needed to shelter with us, if we could help them during the storm, if we could share our generator with them as the storm was raging. He was even concerned that the three large live oak trees in our yard might not survive the storm. He told me later that he had a knot in his stomach the entire weekend worrying if they would make it through. His concerns were not for himself or his stuff, but for others. Even the trees! While some of this concern, his compassion, is clearly the beautiful innocence of an 8-year-old boy, I know that so much of it comes from the St. George’s environment that nurtures and nourishes his soul on a daily basis.
I credit St. George’s for providing an environment that fosters, encourages and reinforces compassion for others and for one’s self. When one of JW’s friends is upset or hurt at school, he is actively encouraged to comfort them with a hug and uplifting words. When JW or one of his classmates are discouraged or having trouble with a lesson, their classmates automatically vocalize support for that student. And when a classmate shows great perseverance, JW and his classmates are taught by his St. George’s teachers to instinctively applaud their classmate for overcoming obstacles and never giving up. They have compassion for one another and recognize when others display compassion or show great perseverance. Beyond the reading and math lessons, St. George’s exemplary and dedicated staff teaches children how to be good citizens of the world. The teachers, every day, help nurture and grow those core St. George’s values. St. George’s has helped JW, and his classmates, to know that they should strive to persevere and show compassion, of course, but they also teach and embody it in such a way that our children recognize and appreciate it in others, too, which is what real understanding looks like.
On that Monday morning after the storm as we walked around the yard, we remarked on how lucky we had been. We also spoke about those live oak trees, how strong they were and how, during the storm, they would bend and twist but never break. That to survive, the trees had to give into the wind and lose a few branches along the way; they had to depend on their deep roots to keep them from toppling over. I realized then, just how similar these oak trees are to the work and values that St. George’s has been instilling in JW. Like the roots of the oak trees, the values of compassion, perseverance, integrity and respect are the foundational roots of JW’s personality. For the rest of his life, those core roots will serve him, keep him steady and help him persevere through whatever challenges life brings him in the future.