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Rossman “Families” — Where Character Takes Root

By: Head of School Elizabeth Zurlinden

November 28, 2017

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” —Aristotle

What ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle believed in 350 B.C. is precisely what we aspire to impart every day at Rossman School — a balanced education of heart and mind. Academically, students discuss great literature and history, as well as participate in scientific investigation and collaborative group projects, all which offer rich opportunities to integrate lessons of a parallel priority: the development of strong character. As a complementary social component of character education, Rossman Family Gatherings provide a distinctive caring community and opportunity for all students to learn about, discuss and practice the Rossman values of honesty, kindness, respect and responsibility.

Designed to strengthen connections between all students, teachers, and staff, Rossman Families include a student from each grade level, JK through sixth, and are led by a faculty or staff member. As a whole school, time is set aside each month to gather together, build friendships across all ages and focus on our shared goal to develop the habits that lead to character growth.

Last month we focused on kindness by reading the book, Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch, which beautifully portrays the impact a single act of kindness makes in a community. In response, each one of us set a kindness goal, just in time as the sixth graders debuted their “catching” kindness campaign. The bright bulletin board overflowing with individual receipts of acts of kindness is fun evidence that good character invokes action.

In honor of Thanksgiving, this month our Rossman Families shared our gratitude for the people in our lives who make a positive impact and deserve a note of thanks. You may have received a personalized, handcrafted card from your child thanking you for sending her “to an amazing school like Rossman,” or “for folding clothes.” Many students wrote beautiful notes of thanks to teachers for “turning on the light bulb in my brain,” or “making learning so much fun.” Sweet notes also were sent to the kitchen and housekeeping staff for all the ways they care for our school and us. Appreciating each other and communicating our gratitude underscores our Rossman value of respect.

“Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our Rossman Families strengthen our connection to one another, and our family activities cultivate character growth, and both a sense of community and strong character support academic achievement. Aristotle and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s quotes allude to the symbiotic relationship between the dual goals of intellectual development and character education. Just as the real world context of academic lessons is a vehicle for teaching values, Family Gathering activities that promote habits of character in turn impact academic learning. Collaborative projects require respect for others, and responsibility is foundational to good study habits. It is a vital partnership – values and intellect.

The Greek root word for “character” means “to engrave” or “to inscribe upon.” Within our Rossman families, the act of “inscribing” is a shared responsibility of the Rossman faculty “parent” and the Upper School student members who model the Rossman values to the younger students. Before each Family Gathering, fifth and sixth grade students excitedly head to the JK and SK classrooms to collect their Rossman siblings and walk them to their gathering spot. These relationships are at the heart of shaping character, for both the oldest and the youngest. The littlest look up to their big brothers and sisters and they are proud of their connection when they see them in the halls or school assemblies. And the big kids enjoy their role of friend and leader, having themselves been little ones anticipating the year they would get to assume this special responsibility.

Since a student is a member of a family for all their years at Rossman, Family Gatherings help students get to know one another, respect and care about each other and feel valued as part of our larger school community.  Rossman Families provide a caring, cross-age community where students hear and act upon a consistent message that unites us and permeates the entire school experience. Together, regardless of age or grade, we are one Rossman family and inscribed upon our hearts are honesty, kindness, respect and responsibility.

Here is what a few students and teachers have to say about Rossman Families:

  • “My Rossman family is really nice, and we get to do fun stuff together.” —SK student
  • “I like to be friends with kids from fifth grade and sixth grade.” —first grade student
  • “I love how the big kids take care of the little ones – they love that role.” —teacher
  • “We get to learn from kids in every grade.” —third grade student
  • “I love doing random acts of kindness!” —second grade student
  • “We learn to love people.” —JK student
  • “I love the chance to hang out with kids of all ages. We all feel connected.” —teacher
  • “I love seeing the smiles on the JK students’ faces when we pick them up in their classroom.” —sixth grade student
  • “Our family gives us a special bond to someone in every grade and allows us all to have a positive and unique connection to each other.”  —teacher


Rossman School, nestled on a 20-acre campus in Creve Coeur, is an independent preparatory school for students in Junior Kindergarten (four years old) through Grade 6. The school’s mission is to provide a strong, well-balanced education in a nurturing school community committed to excellence. Dedicated to developing personal, nurturing relationships with each child, Rossman’s experienced educators provide a solid foundation in academics, athletics and arts while emphasizing strong character development and leadership skills.​ Request a free Rossman School brochure here

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