An Interview With the Principal
December 2, 2016 by Amelia Jackson
Photo by Gavin Keller
When students first apply for middle school, often times they come to the open houses and school tours with many questions. What are the classes like? Who will my teachers be? How is this school different from the rest? But rarely do students have a chance to get to know one of the key leaders of the school, the Principal. Well you are in luck! MS 447’s principal, Arin Rusch, took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few of our burning questions about her journey to her position and her vision for our school.
Q: Why did you want to become the MS 447 principal in the first place, and what is it about this school that made it interesting and special?
A: I was a teacher before, so I came to MS 447 in my 8th year of teaching. I wasn't a new teacher, and I had been to a few different schools before that, so I had a good comparison between our school and other schools I’ve been to. I could tell right away that our school was a special environment. And then, I would say, after a lucky series of events I was able to move into an assistant principal position.
I would admit that I didn’t love being an assistant principal. I loved teaching, and I was a little disappointed. And then after three years, the principal was leaving, and I first thought, “No way!” But then the more I thought about it [I said], “What a great job in such a great school.” So I decided to go for it. It seemed like a special opportunity, in an already special place, and I thought it would be nice to add my own flavor to the mix.
Q: If there was one thing you would want to keep forever, and one thing you would change, what would they be?
A: I would definitely want to keep Halloween forever, but I mean, to be more serious, I would want to keep my administrative team together, and definitely all of my staff. I would not want to lose any one of them. I mean there is a part of me that would like to freeze each class in 8th grade, so I would get to keep them, and not see them grow out of this school.
One thing I would like to change is to have our own, big state of the art building that has enough space for everything we want to do. But I would not want to move the location, because we are very lucky with the subways, especially with exploration.
Q: What things would you want the next principal to enforce, and keep around the school?
A: I want the principal to have a starting point with our shared vision for the school, that loves middle school children, and believes they strive when they are given voice and freedom, rather than being stifled. Rather than a principal who holds up strong academics for any child that comes through, to let them be human beings. Lastly, to help them achieve their goals, and become more independent as one.
Q: This school is now an anti-bullying school. Why do we have Upstanders and Peace and Diversity Day, and how do you think the students learn from them?
A: Now, those days are really important! But I would say that if we aren't working towards those goals, 365 days a year, they are just days in isolation. Those days are actually days to just stop, and shed light about it, talk about it, express about it. But really those days are just foundational days. They can remind us, this is actually the work of life everyday. Something for us to look back on, and to reflect, that lets us focus real attention to those topics. But they would be lost if we weren't working daily for the same goal.
Q: We have many extra curricular activities at this school; why do we have so many, and why is it important to have these clubs if they are not necessarily school related?
A: We have 525 students. And you think that if in a group of 525 kids, we are going to have a pretty wide range of interests. For starters, we have a wide range of activities, so that everyone can have something to be interested in. Why are those even important? Well, kids are human beings, and they should not get boiled down to just grades in a gradebook. They shouldn't be singlehandedly defined by their academic skills. They should cultivate interest, right, they should find happiness in all different realms. Whether it's a different type of activity, like an art, or a sport, or geeking out on computers, whatever it is, they should find a community where other kids have the same interests.
Spotlighting our Differences
December 2, 2016 by Ellora Onion-De
What would life be without cultural difference? Without diversity? Maya Angelou once said, "If you're always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be."
MS 447 also knows that a normal world would be a boring world. This is why our school features culture months and events like Upstanders Day. These events show that our school appreciates and celebrates difference.
For culture months we celebrate different cultures by saying the Pledge of Allegiance in that culture's language as well as English. Ms. Smith, a seventh grade science teacher, who helped initiate the Diversity Committee explains, "The idea to have the Pledge of Allegiance read in the different languages was borne out of the need to include all voices. Plus, it is a simple step with a big message: we all belong in this space."
When we read the Pledge of Allegiance, we read from a wide variety of cultures such as Polish, Italian, Spanish, and other languages.
For Upstanders Day our school explores the idea of standing up for people who are getting bullied because of their differences. Difference and diversity should be appreciated, and not made fun of or put down. This is one main things we learn on Upstanders Day.
There are so many different cultures to celebrate, and everyone may have a favorite. For Ms. Smith it's Asian-American and Pacific Islander month, which is celebrated in May. “The students, who chose to share narratives about family members who came to the United States, opened up about their personal lives," remembers Ms. Smith. "I would not have known any of this in a regular science class."
Poem for Upstanders Day
MS 447 Embraces Polish culture
December 2, 2016 by Thomas Edgington and Gavin Keller
Photo by Adam Gawronksi
Here at MS 447 we have a diverse community of students and families. To celebrate diversity, Ms. Smith, the 7th grade science teacher, reached out to Adam Gawronski, who is the father of Camilla Gawronski in class 806, to interview him about his family's culture. Mr. Gawronski’s father was a war veteran, but every year the Gawronski family celebrates him not just on Veterans Day but also in way you might not at first think of.
October is Polish-American month, and for the Gawronski family it is a month-long celebration of his family and heritage. “It is really a month long celebration involving the entire Polish-American community at large,” says Mr. Gawronski. The celebration usually starts on the first Sunday in October with the Pulaski Day Parade on 5th Avenue. “We do not necessarily march in it every year, but last time we did, it turned out to be a pretty unexpected adventure,” he remembered. “Not only did the kids [Camilla and Philip] march right in front of Mayor Bloomberg holding the Parade’s banner, but they were also interviewed live on camera by a NY1 News reporter.”
Mr. Gawronksi also attends something known as the“Polish Heritage Breakfast.” At the event Polish-Americans are honored for their contributions to the City. Another event he mentioned was the RC Parish Sunday mass, where many Polish-American organizations present flags and other patriotic symbols. "It is a really colorful show enjoyed by the Polish children and adults alike. The community celebrates that way it's unity through common history and, at the same time, it teaches it’s youngest about their unique heritage," Mr. Gawronski shared.
Born in Poland, Mr. Gawronski came to America before he had his children. He explained that it is harder for his children to keep up their Polish heritage as they have gotten older. When they were younger, though, it was easier because he actually spoke to his children in Polish. “Camilla spoke it to us very comfortably up to age five when she went to school. Then, things started changing rather rapidly,” he expressed. Mr. Gawronski explained that as Camilla started school, in order to be successful she had to read and write in English, not Polish.
But his children still have connection to their Polish roots. “During the year, [my] kids stay in touch with their family in Poland talking on the phone or communicating via internet,” says Mr. Gawronski. He also celebrates major holidays, like Christmas and New Years, in a traditional way he was taught growing up in Poland. “It involves specially prepared dishes, modern and folk music, gift sharing, well wishes expressed both orally and in writing.”
In the summer, his family also vacations in Poland so that they can visit their family near the capital city of Warsaw. “It is a real treat and during that happy time our kids literally get submerged in Polish culture, language, smells, sounds and rhythms.”
Camilla actually attends Polish school on Saturdays. Mr. Gawronski explained that most Polish families do this. “Schools of that kind tend to be organized at the local Catholic Church and Parish where children already come to learn about their Catholic religion, attend Sunday service, [and] receive their First Communion,” he explained.
Mr. Gawronski feels that the two cultures, American and Polish, actually complement each other. “There may be a greater diversity among the students in their New York schools than typically found in Poland, but I consider it an advantage in my children’s education,” remarked Mr. Gawronski. Though he does have one rule for his children, which is, “There is no talking down one culture or country over the other.” They respect both of their homelands.
If you are interested in learning more about the Polish culture, visit the Kosciuszko Foundation in Manhattan (www.thekf.org), or read about it in “Nowy Dziennik” one of three major local Polish newspapers (www.dziennik.com). But perhaps the best way to learn more is to try Polish food. One of the most famous dishes is “pierogi,” which are fried dumplings. Mr. Gawronski exclaims, “As my family’s chef, I take pride in knowing how to make them from a scratch. These days, however, you can find them on shelves in certain supermarkets as a ready-to-make dish. Many Polish Delis in Brooklyn offer them as a convenient take out.”
There is much to learn about the Polish community members of our MS 447 family. Consider learning more so that you too can be enriched!