Founder Maren Schmidt’s 30th year Anniversary letter to WFMS
Congratulations on celebrating thirty years!
For a school, or any business, to be around after thirty years is a combination of luck, persistence, and perseverance.
What will the next thirty years bring?
There will be many challenges and rewards.
The challenges center around creating and maintain a community of people who have at heart their purpose, “children first”.
When we make decisions based on “children first”, the rewards multiply and multiply, not only to children but to everyone in our community.
Daniel Coyle, a Montessori parent, writes in his book, The Culture Code, that creating and maintaining community requires three main strengths:
- Building safety.
- Sharing vulnerability
- Clarifying purpose
By building safety, we create a safe environment for people to connect. We forge bonds of belonging along with a group identity.
By sharing vulnerability, we are open about the needs of our community with clarity and urgency. When we share vulnerability, we allow others to act with trust and cooperation.
By clarifying purpose, we continually ask and answer two key questions:
What’s all this for?
What are we working towards?
In about the tenth year of Walnut Farm, one of our students’ mothers was injured in a car accident on the way to bringing her boys to school. One of the staff members came upon the accident as the police arrived, and was able to take the boys on to school before their mother left by ambulance.
By the time I found out about the incident a little before noon, I asked what we could do to help.
I learned that the families in the school had already arranged transportation back and forth to school and home for the boys for the next week, offered to keep them overnight, had a meal tree arranged, and flowers and a card sent to the hospital.
That is the moment that I realized that Walnut Farm was more than a school. Our people had formed into a community.
As Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity, said, “For a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on people’s love and concern for each other.”
Moving forward, continue to build safety so you retain this love and concern for each other.
Celebrate that love and concern for each other.
The past two years of dealing with the covid crisis tested the resiliency of most every person in our country, and probably on the planet.
The Walnut Farm Community can celebrate thirty years because the community shares vulnerability. How do I know? Otherwise ,Walnut Farm would be gone like 25 to 30 percent of all private schools in the United States that were not able to muster the resources to stay in business.
The past two years was all new territory. You navigated it. Celebrate!
There will certainly be other challenges, but if you share vulnerability, being clear as possible about what problems you see, and acting with urgency when needed, the Walnut Farm community will continue to thrive.
We can never have all the answers. We can only do the best we can with clarity and urgency. Celebrate!
Still standing after thirty years also means that the Walnut Farm Community acts with a clear purpose.
Being a school, much less a Montessori school, will continue to be a difficult organization to maintain, basically because our society disregards children’s needs and children’s critical time sensitive development.
If that hasn’t been made evident over the past two years with mask-mandates, school closures, church closures, sports closures, and business closures. In many cases families have not been able to provide a stable home and school environment for their children due to these school and business closures.
Our society for the past two years has acted in ways that can only be interpreted as “children last”.
As parents, teachers, grandparents—at Walnut Farm, as well as the members of all school communities—we must be clear in our purpose.
To protect our children, and to provide them the learning environments of home and school they so desperately need, we need to call on the power of community to keep listening and responding in a safe and caring way, in order to understand each member’s point of view and concerns.
As we continue to build community , we need to find ways to show our love and concern for each other.
We need to keep our purpose clear and in the air so all will understand our mission of children first.
As they say, the reward for a job well done is having the opportunity of having another good job to do.
Today, celebrate a job well done and the opportunity to move forward in this important work for children and families.
Children first! Celebrate!
All the best,