SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 10, 2013

Column: The two pledges of Witchcraft Heights

Mark Higgins
The Salem News

---- — As a new day begins at Witchcraft Heights Elementary School, students and adults alike can be found reciting two pledges. One is the traditional Pledge of Allegiance, and the second is called The Witchcraft Heights School Pledge:

I am a smart, special, valuable person.

I respect myself and I respect others.

My words and actions are kind and honest.

I accept only my best in all that I do.

“I am a smart, special, valuable person.”

At Witchcraft Heights, we believe that each one of our students is smart and special. They demonstrate their knowledge and understanding in different ways, at various times, and with a wide range of actions. Students recognize that they, as well as their peers, have unique gifts that are valued by others. Witchcraft Heights places a strong emphasis on school culture and collaboration. We believe that learning should be fun, and we strive to provide instructional activities that engage all of our students. Each member of our community — student, parent and school employee — is valued and plays an important role in the overall success of our school.

“I respect myself and I respect others.”

Our core value is respect. Witchcraft Heights is a school composed of students from all walks of life. Each classroom is a microcosm of our society and contains a wonderful variety of children. Our classroom communities house students who have been born and raised in Salem, children who have just come from other countries to live in this country, others who have lived here for some time but speak another language at home, as well as students with a wide range of learning challenges. When classrooms are inclusive, students learn patience, tolerance and compassion as a way of life. When students are kept separate, they aren’t given the frequent opportunities to observe and practice these valuable qualities. “Treat others in the manner in which you would like to be treated” is the Golden Rule. Each day, we challenge our students to be helpful to others and frequently recognize and celebrate students who are observed “doing the right thing.” Children are often called to the principal’s office to share how they’ve been respectful toward members of our community.

“My words and actions are kind and honest.”

The words we use are powerful. We want our students to understand that the words we speak can make a friend’s day, but can also be hurtful. Our actions are also important because if we say one thing, yet do another, we are not setting good examples for our peers. Witchcraft Heights also involves itself in a number of community service projects. This year, the fifth-graders are working on a project to provide beds for children in our community who don’t have one. They are accepting change, as well as new bedsheets and blankets, to support families in need. This past month, students made clover pins in art and sold them, with the proceeds donated to Hospice of the North Shore. In the past, students have held fundraisers to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, the Haiti earthquake and the Midwest tornadoes. They have also collected goods such as toiletries, blankets and canned food, which they sent to troops in Afghanistan. Last year, students raised money for Children’s Hospital Boston in honor of a classmate with a serious illness. Students learn the value of giving and reap the rewards by feeling good about their actions.

“I accept only my best in all that I do.”

The most we can ask of our children is for them to do their very best. As part of the morning pledge, we ask each student to recognize a successful person that they’d like to emulate as an adult. Local veterinarians, firefighters, athletes, teachers and musicians are a few examples that our students identify with. In some cases, the adults acknowledged by the children have had a chance to visit with the students and share their work experiences. Each day, we challenge our students to demonstrate their best work and give their best effort. At the end of the day, children can’t help but feel good knowing they have done their best!

We are all very proud of the respectful and responsible children in our school community. They consistently demonstrate, through their words and actions, that they truly care!

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Mark Higgins is principal of Witchcraft Heights Elementary School. This is one in a series of columns from the Community Advisory Board for the Salem schools.