In the Face of Another Natural Disaster, Reconciling Joy and Comfort with Empathy and Action

By Brent Locke, Dean of Students

As our 75th school year begins, our hallways are once again filled with the laughter of children, the gifts of friendship, and the comfort in knowing we have a joyous place to learn and grow each and every day. Of course, these happy emotions can be hard to reconcile with the helplessness we may feel in our inability to act and in the guilt we may feel in our abundance as we watch so many in our country and around the world battle the destructive and unrelenting forces of Mother Nature. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and the earthquake in Mexico have wrought untold devastation in the Caribbean, Mexico, Texas, Florida, and much of the south. The needs are many and urgent as families, businesses, and schools are trying to survive, regroup, and rebuild. It is in these times that Langley shines brightest as we come together to help those who most need our support.

 Dr. Jane Goodall at The Langley School

Dr. Jane Goodall, former Lower School Head Ghetta Hirsch, and former Head of School Doris Cottam speaking to students about the Roots & Shoots service program which Langley still uses for service learning today.

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Day of Service at Langley

By Brent Locke

The holidays are often a time of happiness and joy. They offer the chance to celebrate the year’s accomplishments, show love and affection for our friends and family, and to prepare for a fresh new year ahead. This time can also serve as an incredible opportunity to teach our children how to share this joy and love with others. Building a desire and passion for service has powerful social and academic impacts for children, and reinforcing this passion with your children is critical to building service as a life-long skill.

This school year Langley adopted the Roots and Shoots Service Learning program. The cornerstone of this program is to teach students the power of service, develop their love and understanding of service, and to create, measure and reflect on a service learning project. As we know, service of all kinds is a critical component to character and community building. Our goal is to push students to understand the difference between an act of community service and a service need that is identified, researched, planned, and executed by a student. According to the Higher Education Research Institute, when students participate in service activities that they have personally identified and chosen to do, there are significant positive impacts to: “academic performance(GPA, writing skills, critical thinking skills), values, self-efficacy, leadership (leadership activities, self-rated leadership ability, interpersonal skills).” (Astin, Vogelgesang, Ikeda, Lee)

As students realize the power they can have as individuals within their own community, their passion for service grows. The tough work comes in helping students actualize this potential.

Practicing Langley’s core value of kindness is perhaps the most tangible way our students can internalize the benefits of spreading joy and love beyond their family and friends during this holiday season. On the last day of school in December, on Langley’s “Day of Service”, the entire school took part in recognizing acts of kindness they have seen, heard, or experienced as a Langley student. Students shared things like: “I saw a teacher drop all of her papers and a bunch of 2nd graders stopped to help her pick them up” and “I saw someone fall down on the playground and another kid asked them if they were ok” and “I was scared on my first day of school and someone asked me if I would sit with them at lunch.” We wrote these down and decorated our very own Kindness Tree, which can be seen here.

The final part of the Day of Service gave students the chance to generate ideas of how they could spread kindness within their community during the winter break.   Ideas ranged from serving food at a soup kitchen to helping elderly neighbors shovel snow. While the holiday break gives all of us the chance to relax and recharge our batteries, it also gives us the opportunity to build a love of service beyond the school walls, and to challenge our students to apply those ideas of kindness within their community. When children begin to realize that they can identify simple things within their community that they can change for the better, they begin to realize they are responsible and capable of making that change. So as you enjoy this break together with your family, ask your Langley student “how would you like to spread kindness today?” Happy Holidays!

The Power of Service

By Brent Locke, Interim Dean of Students

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a
difference. And we have a choice: What sort of difference do we want to make?”-Jane Goodall

Langley students impress me every day with their compassion for helping others both at school and within their community. By making acts of Middle Schoolers took part in the Capital Area Food Bank Face Hunger program.kindness both big and small a part of their daily routine, they make this community very special. Every day, I witness the simple, unprompted, thank yous our students give faculty after a class, a practice, an assembly, you name it. Langley students make treating others with kindness and respect a way of doing business.

While Langley students of all ages participate in a variety of service projects throughout the year, we launched Langley’s first-ever “Month of Service” this February to help raise awareness of the many ways students can help others on a daily basis. As the month progresses, I am hoping to harness the collective energy and goodwill our students exhibit by developing their understanding of service and the power of collective impact. Current educational research directly points to the immense benefits to students of participating in service learning. “Students benefit academically, socially, and emotionally; develop skills; and may come to appreciate the value of civic responsibility,” writes service learning expert Cathryn Kaye.

Developing a sense of empathy in adolescents, as they grapple with who they are and their place in the world, gives them powerful advantages in critical-thinking skills and awareness. Dealing with real-life issues, such as hunger and how to solve the overwhelmingly difficult hunger problem that exists within our own greater community, forces our students to see the perspective of others and expand their own problem-solving capacity. Further, students gain a deeper sense of gratitude and fulfillment of self when doing service projects.

As Langley constantly evaluates and improves our program and curriculum offerings for students, we have seen the overwhelming positive effects of collective impact that occur when our community works toward a common good together. For instance, nearly 30 people donated blood to support the American Red Cross blood drive we held on campus last week, donation boxes for the Capital Area Food Bank are already bursting at the seams, and best of all, students are learning the significance of our core values together as a community.

Langley students have embraced service and what it means to them in an inspiring way at school. At the end of the day, though, there is no greater thing you can do with your child than to continue these conversations about service with them at home. There are an abundance of opportunities to get involved within the community to further emphasize the impact and necessity of service in our everyday lives. If you are interested in volunteering as a family, I recommend you visit www.volunteermatch.org which lists a number of organizations that could use your help.