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Bill Waskowitz’s Message to Middle: Reset Your Default Setting

Middle School students were given a lot to think about during a special Thanksgiving assembly at the close of the day just before break. In his signature format, Head of Middle School Bill Waskowitz encouraged students to employ empathy and compassion as they prepare to collect items for the school’s charitable cause, The Caring Place, which recently has seen a significant drop in corporate donations. Waskowitz then added in humor, as he showed the students clips from a number of comedy shows, such as “The Office,” “Bob’s Burgers,” “The Simpsons,” and deep-fried turkey scenes on YouTube. The laughter in the Middle School Commons subsided as students watched a very different last clip from “‘The Blind Side,” about NFL first draft pick Michael Oher. The Thanksgiving scene showed Oher, a young man from underprivileged circumstances as the only one who began eating his Thanksgiving dinner at the table, while the Tuohy family cavalierly ate dinner on the couch and watched football. Waskowitz message focused on what the mother, portrayed by Sandra Bullock, did next—move Thanksgiving dinner to the table.  “Mrs. Tuohy knew how to reset her default setting,” Waskowitz told the students. “Everyone else was just concerned about themselves. We all tend to do that. Our default setting tends to go to ourselves. But we need to try to get our default settings to move a little bit.” To further his point, Waskowitz concluded his message by showing thought leader David Foster Wallace’s eight-minute video, “This is Water,” which challenges people to break out of the thought process that puts oneself at the center. “You’re all going to have awesome Thanksgivings,” said Waskowitz. “Perhaps over vacation you will have an opportunity to get outside yourself and develop an awareness and realize things from other people’s points of view and that their thoughts matter and when you do that, you will be taking the right step.”