The Value of Our Efforts

By David M. Lowry, Ph.D.
Head of School

Winter 2012

During the last two eighth-grade trips to Washington, D.C., we had the honor of meeting with the newly appointed Supreme Court justice.  In 2010 it was Sonia Sotomayor, and last year it was Elena Kagan.  By dint of the projects that the students completed in history class and shared in advance, both of these impressive women met with our students for about 45 minutes, answering questions, talking about their backgrounds and experiences, and sharing their views on their new responsibilities.

To go “behind the scene” at the Supreme Court is stirring and humbling in itself, but to spend time, in person, with judges who are at the very top of our government, whom you only know from their media presence, is equally heady.  As I reflect upon these visits, recalling the exchange of questions and conversation between our young students and the two Supreme Court justices, I find my convictions reaffirmed as to the cumulative value of an Elisabeth Morrow education.  Aside from the good fortune of just being there and having this experience at this age (I certainly never had the equivalent), I noted that the significance of this meeting was not lost on our students.  Try to imagine: there they were, our thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds, poised, articulate, well-mannered (and well-dressed), clearly well-prepared and thoughtful in their questions (charged with relevant information), but perhaps most importantly, highly engaged in the moment.

As we were leaving, the intern who led us to our meeting room pulled me back by the shoulder, slowing my pace so that the students were ahead of me.  She said, “You know, we’ve all been talking about your students.”

“Oh, is something wrong?” I responded.

“Oh, no; we all noticed how polite and respectful they were.  How incredibly knowledgeable they were about the Supreme Court and its major cases.  What good questions they asked.  It is rare to see a group like this.  You are very lucky.”

For some, there are several quantitative measures that determine the success of a student or the quality of a school—tests, portfolios, placement, the acquisition of skills—but these things pale in their accuracy, in my opinion, when you are witnessing children embrace their curiosity, their desire to learn and to know. Truly, on these two occasions, our students were something to see.  I was as proud as any parent would have been, but I have to disagree with that intern.  Luck had little to do with it. On the contrary, luck does not propel these young people to this level.  The credit, in fact, lies with their families, their teachers and themselves—only when such synergy exists between home and school can such results be achieved.  The intern complimented me on our students, so, in turn, I compliment you, our dedicated Elisabeth Morrow community.

Although I can offer no standardized measure, I have seen with my own eyes the value of our efforts.