It was Robert C. Parker Day at Robert C. Parker School in Rensselaer County, NY – just across the Hudson from downtown Albany.
If you don’t know Parker, it’s one of those schools that legendary educator Tom Little lauded in his book Loving Learning as “schools for the ages”.
Parker is a school in that long – and very American – tradition of what are often known as progressive schools. That actually means forward-looking schools in the forefront of educational thinking when it comes to the lives of children.
It’s the kind of school where problem solving and creative thinking are not confined to the block corner of the kindergarten but rather flourish throughout the institution. It’s a place that respects children, honors childhood and where caring about each other – and thinking about how best to make the world a better place – are not just words but a way to live.
The weather was lovely – the height of the fall season with the air fresh with the smell of autumn and the colors glorious.
It was also the installation of Laura Graceffa as the new head of school. Laura’s been there since July 1st but this ceremony was her official welcome to the school.
And what a lovely ceremony!
It was conducted by students who ran it with an impressive attention to detail and timing. I arrived early and it was heartening to see students quietly taking charge of the room setting up the chairs, the mats and the tech.
We learned some “Fun Facts” about Robert Parker and about Laura and everyone sang. (Thank-you music teacher Sara Militano.)
Pre-K teacher JoAnn Bennett spoke on behalf of the faculty and President of the Board of Trustees – Caroline Melkonian – made it all official.
One thing we learned was that was that when Laura was in kindergarten her teacher gave students an outline of an elephant to color in.
The elephant was large, the color was grey and the task soon became tedious.
Laura used this as an opportunity to talk about change. With the help of the 2-3 teachers she asked students to draw elephants. And they did – all different, very colorful, lively and diverse.
Some things stay the same. Others need to change and may do so change dramatically.
I was there as Laura’s friend and former colleague and she invited me to make a few remarks some of which you can read below.
Thank you Laura for inviting me to this lovely occasion. Robert C. Parker is a warm and welcoming school that clearly places students and their learning at the center of the everything. Lucky students to be at a school like Parker. And lucky school to have Laura Graceffa as its new head.
Photos by Christina Powers.