ILP

Raising Leaders at Calvert School

Jay Parker
Leaders do not simply take chances — they grab them. At Calvert School, we intentionally create a culture that promotes risk-taking and fosters growth among our Fifth Age through Eighth Graders. It is woven into our fabric, fulfilling our promise to provide the Foundation for a Lifetime.
Next week, our Middle School students will grab their chances, learning alongside one another in transformative experiences locally and abroad. In New Mexico, with the World Leadership School, 12 Calvert students are immersed in Native American Pueblo culture in the town of Cochiti. In the Bahamas, 32 students are living off the grid with the Cape Eleuthera Institute, discovering how Earth’s changing climate is affecting our ocean ecosystems. Here in Baltimore, students are volunteering at Paul’s Place in Pigtown, packing diaper kits with ShareBaby, and embracing inclusivity in our Nora Project partnership with St. Elizabeth School. In each case, our students are developing their purpose by exploring how they can impact the world. They are grabbing the chance to grow, to learn, and, most importantly, to be brave.

Raising brave children means encouraging them to be independent, pushing them beyond their limits, and, at times, letting them fail. I truly believe this starts in preschool. As the parent of a five- and an eight-year-old — who attend Calvert in fact — I know their experiences mold their future. The chances our youngest students take are the seeds of leadership — inspiring them to welcome and weigh risk, to seek exploration, and to grow through failure.

When it comes to leadership, we can learn a lot from those who teach our youngest students. The combination of challenge and care is tangible in our Lower School, and at Calvert, teachers prioritize collaboration as much as content, deftly tracking students’ emotional growth with high expectations and a healthy dose of love.

But why do our students grab their chances?

At Calvert, students are encouraged to grow and be brave. That growth and bravery begins by helping our students learn about their unique and particular interests — through offerings like clubs, arts, athletics, academics, outreach, collaborative projects, and, in Middle School, through strategic community partnerships. It begins in our youngest grades with stories like Kobi Yamada’s What Do You Do with a Chance? Using the metaphor of a kite, the book’s message is simple but powerful: If we sit idly by while chances pass us by, the chances will diminish until POOF! they disappear for good.

With Yamada’s message in mind, my colleagues and I constantly ask ourselves, “How do we raise children who grab those chances, who spread their wings, and who tackle challenges with confidence, resilience, and a smile? In the book, Yamada’s young protagonist realizes, “Maybe I don’t need to be brave all the time. Maybe I just need to be brave for a little while at the right time.” At Calvert, we encourage informed risk, so that students can be brave, grab their chances, and know they’ll be loved, supported, and encouraged along the way. As a PK-8 school, this is essential to our mission and to who we are.

Raising leaders is an aspirational mission, but one we undertake because we believe in our culture, our teachers, and, most importantly, our students. Moreover, we know that in our changing world, we need empathic, collaborative, and inclusive citizens who lead lives of purpose.
As we launched The Institute for Leadership & Purpose in 2018, we recognized this was our opportunity to model the ideals we preach and to build bridges with our community and city so that we may exemplify that making a difference does not come by sitting idly by. As that kite flies by, we, at Calvert, are grabbing our chance.
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Calvert School is a coed independent lower and middle school.

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