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Principal's Message / Mensaje del Director

  • Stuart Caldwell

    11/11/18

    Lathrop Letter: Today Is My Favorite Day!

    This week’s Lathrop Letter starts off with a quote from one of our most venerable life philosophers, Winnie the Pooh (before you groan or pass judgment I implore you to read on):

    • “Yesterday, when it was tomorrow, it was too much day for Today is my favorite day.”

    For me, Pooh’s words speak of resiliency, something that is very much a Spartan characteristic. Last week I worked with two of our students who seem to exemplify a resilient spirit. They both overcome extraordinary challenges in their lives and yet I find them smiling and working at our school. As I spin out these stories I am changing the name of the first kid for her privacy. I am also changing that name because I am sure that her story, as tough as it is, is mirrored by too many students in our building and I hope that readers will be able to relate what is written to success stories with kids that they know and work with daily.

    The first story is about a 13 year-old eighth grader. We’ll call her Marie. Early in the week I encountered Marie during lunch. She was starting to face off with another girl and a crowd was forming. I was able to extricate Marie from that situation, taking her to my office where we spoke for a bit. As we talked about the conflict it became evident that other things were weighing on Marie’s shoulders. For whatever reason Marie decided that she could open up to me. She shared that her family, which is comprised of her pregnant mother and two other sisters, had just been kicked out of the room that they shared in a home because of too much drama. They had been in a hotel for the past two nights and had no idea what they were going to do next (mom does not work). Though there is more drama underneath of all of this I will not share it here as Marie is still with us, and her family’s story is her own to share with whomever she will.

    Marie – remember she’s one of our 13 year-old 8th graders - stated that she wished that she could work to help her mother and family. She didn’t say this with frustration, anger, or regret. Rather, she said it as a straightforward wish of a child who wants to make her family’s circumstances better, inherently believing that there has to be a way to do so and that she is the one to take on that burden. I spoke at length with Marie, who smiled readily during our conversation. I connected her with our Community Liaison (who is also our McKinney Vento Liaison). Though we cannot change her family circumstances we can bring some resources to bear. Marie is a kid who finds safety, security and stability in our school but who is also burdened with uncertainty in all of these areas in her life outside of school. She is absolutely resilient.

    The next story is about another of our 8th graders. Denisse has been in the United States for 15 months. Lathrop is doing something unique in our district and state. We took our newcomers class and integrated our former speech and debate club kids with them, forming a speech and debate class. This past Saturday Denisse and our other speech and debate newcomers all participated in Spanish poetry or prose during the tournament. Lathrop had a clean sweep of the competition in Spanish poetry and prose. Denisse took 1st in Spanish poetry. Before I write more let me share that we chose to turn our newcomers’ class into a speech and debate class as we know that there are few disciplines that provide as thorough of a functional language training. Kids who participate in speech and debate become masters of their language. SAUSD has worked to add Spanish events, not just for our kids but for our broader community. However, we are pushing our newcomers to compete not just in Spanish, their first language, but in English as well. These kids take their piece and learn it in Spanish and then learn the same piece in English. This might sound easy but the nuances of meaning and emotion behind a competition poem or piece of prose require a deep understanding of the vocabulary. Denisse and a few others participated not just in Spanish poetry or prose, but in novice English poetry or prose as well.

    Denisse, after only having been in the US for 15 months took 6th place in English poetry. She rocked it! Importantly, her mother was at the awards ceremony to help her daughter to celebrate this triumph.

    First Place

    Successes like this only happen in schools when there are committed staff who are willing to go above and beyond. Miss Hammer is just such a Spartan. She gave eleven hours of her day yesterday at the tournament, and countless hours prior, to helping our students to prepare. Encouraging 11, 12, 13 and 14 year-olds to do the work that is necessary to participate in a speech and debate tournament takes heart, skill, patience (lots of patience) and determination. Miss Hammer brings all of these attributes to this program and this provides a unique opportunity for our students to thrive.

    For Denisse, Marie and countless other students in our school there is another Winnie the Pooh quote that speaks to resiliency lessons for our kids and ourselves: “I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I have been. That’s the way that I do it.”

    Winning Team

    We walk forward together in learning, fellowship and support. Our students and staff face many trials and tribulations. The more that we are able to focus on moving forward toward our learning goals, rather than wallowing in our challenges, as Eeyore might, the more successes we will experience. At Lathrop we are walking forward constantly.

    Our little intermediate school, in the middle of our district, took 1st Place in the small schools sweepstakes at this last tournament. This is the second time that we have done this so far this year. Lathrop is rocking the district and is helping our kids to thrive.

    Thank you to Miss Hammer! Thank you to all Spartan staff, who go above and beyond, to serve our students and families. As the venerable philosopher Winnie the Pooh stated oh so perfectly, “Today is my favorite day.” For me this is true as I am privileged to stand alongside each of you as we engage in this wonderful work of helping our students to learn and grow.

    Stuart Caldwell

    Principal, Lathrop Intermediate

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