A co-educational private school for Preschool–Grade Eight

Counting Kindness and the Pillars at FH

Here at Far Hills, we are charged to help each child find their passion and fit as they navigate the complex world in which we live. We provide the tools necessary for success centered on our five pillars: respect, responsibility, leadership, kindness, and honesty. The pillars are the keystones of our Social-Emotional curriculum—enacted in our community and integrated into lesson plans every day.

Kindness is at the forefront of our mission, and students learn the importance of this character trait within our community from their first days at Far Hills. They are reminded that it is a fundamental part of making our community and the world a better place. Our current Student Government has adopted the theme of Kindness, Acceptance, and Inclusion as their platform and will make it their mission to promote and practice these themes along with their fellow Falcons every day at Far Hills.

You may not know that the Pillar of Kindness was added in 2000 as the fifth Pillar by our Student Government, specifically driven by the Class President at the time. This legacy left by our students exemplifies how they take initiative and learn to speak up. The students believed that something was missing from our pillars. Noting one of the great values instilled in our students is kindness, the students sought to make it a more permanent part of our daily lives. As one student wrote in his yearbook page that year, "Lead with your heart, and the others will follow."

We have a strong foundation and culture where we hope all individuals feel genuinely valued—for who they are and what they contribute as a unique individual. It is important to foster that level of trust with our students so they feel confident to use their voice to create change not only here in school but for the community.

At Far Hills, a large part of our mission is to develop and fortify character strength. From our community service work and social-emotional focus, we create the routines and habits that build character. Elementary school is a messy time, one made for learning and growing. It takes time to understand the true underpinnings of our Pillars, but by graduation, our students are ready for the next phase of their education. Far Hills is not just an education for primary and middle school years, but life—and the way that our students internalize our Pillars and commitment to others distinguish them now and as alumni.

Over the course of this month, I am doing check-ins with our new families along with our Director of Admission, Rachel Yu. What we have learned is that parents are thrilled with their decision to join FH. They have noted our warm and welcoming community and robust on-campus program. Something that so many of our new families have mentioned is what an incredible opportunity it is for their children to be in such a kind and nurturing environment.

As you may know, this past week, we celebrated our unified community on Wednesday by wearing orange to signify our commitment to our pillars. For our all-school activity, the eighth grade created tree trunks for each grade level, and then each grade decorated each tree with leaf examples of the ways we live out each of the pillars.

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Faculty and students proudly wearing orange

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Lower School student happily displaying her leaf

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Upper School student creating their leaf

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One of the completed trees, featured right outside the Upper School Commons

As a community, we aspire to embody these pillars and work on modeling them every single day. Sometimes it happens organically, and other times it is intentional. An example highlighting this was in an email I received from one of our new families, The Blairs. Riley, their daughter, a fifth-grader, fractured her ankle and needed support to get through the school day. 

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Riley pictured in the middle with two of her friends

The family noted, "I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the overwhelming show of empathy and support for Riley in her condition. At drop-off, everyone immediately showed her love and support. The welcoming team was as enthusiastic as usual, and Mrs. Kramer sent out two students to help Riley. Amazingly they came out as we pulled up for drop-off! Every interaction we have with faculty and staff is more amazing than the last. Just when you think the bar is set as high as it can go, Far Hills takes it higher. Everyone from the nurse to the teachers to staff operates on one accord. My only personal point of reference for this level of service is Disney. Disney has long been considered best-in-class in the area of service. I think Far Hills is the standard by which all should be measured. Not just from a service perspective but also as a community. Everyone lives and breathes the mission and values of Far Hills, and it causes a natural adoption of the 5 pillars of character. I'm thankful we found and were able to become a part of the Far Hills family. Thank you for your leadership and guidance and for driving an atmosphere of respect and kindness. And thanks to all faculty and staff that we've had the honor of interacting with." Receiving this email in my inbox made me so proud of our students and faculty.

 

Fostering a culture of kindness enhances the connections made peer-to-peer and student to teacher. Our faculty and staff carve out time to intentionally promote kindness and cultivate empathy and understanding between individuals, leading to deeper relationships. As a team, we have weathered so much together and continue to make a difference in our students' lives. Each day we are together, there is joy and laughter within our hallways. I feel most fortunate to lead our school through this challenging time. We work diligently with a purpose to reinforce the notion that "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."