Our school community
Ramblings about rain and things
Thank the Lord for rain. I realize that those who make their homes in wetter climates find it funny how we -arid land folks- respond to this life giving gift. Let them laugh. Those of us who live lives where it’s bone dry know. Rain changes things, it cleans them. Rain gives you breath; it renews our spirits. Thank the Lord for rain.
So funny how fast time flies. Here we are, already well into December and only a few short weeks away from a long awaited winter break; where does the time go? Though I love the ease of this time of year, I have to admit that the swiftness of time’s passage makes me a bit nervous. Have we accomplished enough? Have we taken on too much? In truth, I’ve spent so much of the first few months placing names with faces, shaking hands, learning rhythms and systems, and overseeing the completion of our self-study, that I sometimes wonder what all I’ve been missing. I’m not sure this situational angst will ever go away, but it leaves me with plenty of ‘what ifs’. Fortunately, we did have the foresight to set a path forward a while back.
The late curriculum theorist and educational philosopher, Elliot Eisner, says it best: “if the kind of mind that children can come to own is, in part, influenced by the kinds of opportunities they have to think, and if these opportunities are themselves defined by the kind of curriculum schools provide, then it could be argued that the curriculum itself is a kind of mind-altering device. In this view it’s easy to see how curriculum decisions about content inclusion and content exclusion are of fundamental importance.” It is thoughts like these of Dr. Eisner’s that continue to roll around in my head, that continue to push me to envision new ways to mold minds, and fold new experiences into our curriculum. What we know about learning and education is this: the more opportunities to which we expose our children, the more they experience myriad aspects of their world, the more sense they can make of it. And in the grand scheme of things, that matters. In large part, this is why we seek to enrich our electives with a hands on, project based approach to learning. We will ask kids to question and think like scientists, artists, engineers, and mathematicians; because the truth is, to ask the right question is often as important as it is to know the solution. When you hear us speak of STEAM, this is what we mean.
It is important that we make inquiry central to our educational ethos, and to the lives of our students. It is the root of our inventive American identity: to question the limits of what is, to wonder about the rules and why, to redefine what is accepted or expected, to cut new paths into the future. And though I am not quite certain when or where or why, we seemed to have strayed from this axiom, and lost ourselves amongst the weeds of matrices and measurements that can only tell us so much. It’s time to broaden our understanding of what is achievable at school, and what we expect from our kids. We owe that to them.
As I’ve stated before, I could not be more honored, and cannot be more proud of the opportunities I’ve been afforded at St. Paul’s School. As it is now the eve of the year, I look on to the next with excitement and anticipation. Although appropriate progress must always be measured, I am certain that the students and community of St. Paul’s School are poised and ready to grow. I hope for the happiest of holiday to all of our families, and look forward to our continued work together in the new year.
The coming of fall and such things…
It has been a busy past few weeks here at St. Paul’s School. Looks like summer is truly on its way out, and fall is here to stay. As much as I do like the sound of that, I’ll have to remember to bring an extra layer for my parking lot duty first thing in the morning. There was a time when I was relatively impervious to cold weather, but since hitting my 40s, I seem to have lost the antifreeze that was running through my veins. Such is life. Accompanying the changing weather is the coming of first quarter grades. Our quarter closed last Thursday, and these past two weeks have been filled with the serious efforts of students tying up all loose ends. It truly is a pleasure to be a part of such a caring academic community and a group of students who take the time and attention to achieve to their fullest potential.
This Monday past played host to our Fall Choir Concert, and it was quite a success to say the least. Mr. Alberstein, the consummate professional, had the kids prepped and ready for their inaugural event of the year. As much as I would have enjoyed hearing them sing a few more songs, they absolutely nailed the three they did perform. You could see the exuberance on each of their faces as they began to realize how good it was all sounding. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they seemed to be surprising themselves. By the third song, it was all they could do to contain their enthusiasm for a job done well. I think one of our fathers captured the sentiment of the night best when he leaned over to me and said, “I hope these kids know how lucky they are to have such fantastic opportunities.” Well, I couldn’t agree more. I’m definitely looking forward to our Christmas Concert, and would hope that everyone would find the time to attend.
There have undoubtedly been other high notes since my last blog post. Late summer played host to Grandparents’ Day, and it was heartwarming to see our lunch patio so full of life so early in the morning. If I were to venture a guess, I’d bet there were over 200 people in attendance. Frankly, it was ‘standing room only’, and our dedicated staff did all they could to makes sure our grandparents were fed and well attended. More to note, student run chapels have been poignant and powerful this fall. I’m always amazed at the effort and abilities of our students and teachers, and how amidst their varied and busy lives, are still able to put together meaningful performances that leave our school a better place to be. And, my recollection of events would not be complete without mentioning St. Francis Day. Boy, is it a sight to behold. To see Father James taking careful time to bless the dozens of myriad pets that grace our basketball courts is a testament to his care for the school and compassion for the lives of our students. We certainly are blessed by his presence, and have been blessed, in general, this fall.
Although the common sentiment around here has been good, fall is not without its challenges. Currently we find ourselves in what I affectionately call the ‘first semester grind’, a period of time from Labor Day to Veteran’s Day with little time to stop and breathe. The ‘back to school’ excitement has subsided and the very deliberate work of character and academic growth is underway. Add to that a school wide sharing of the common cold, periodic bouts with rotavirus, and a few other odd ailments that have graced the threshold of our office, and it’s easy to understand why we all are looking forward to the holidays. The good news is, our holiday celebrations begin this Friday with our Fall Carnival. I look forward to seeing so many of our families out this Friday afternoon to celebrate the coming of fall in fellowship with our faculty, staff, and Board of Trustees.
I guess that’s all for now. Best wishes to you and welcome the coming of fall!
It’s been an exciting ‘Back to School’ season here at St. Paul’s School. As I write, to think that we are already seven days into our 18-19 academic year is pretty awesome. The support and welcomed comraderie I’ve received is quite humbling to be sure. Still, it would be disingenuous of me to suggest that I didn’t harbor a bit of trepidation as we approached the beginning of the school year. What was I to expect? How would I be perceived? Would the students readily appreciate new leadership? Would the faculty and staff? Would the parents? I had to check myself - was this the onset of impostor syndrome? I’m glad to report that I survived, due in large part to the caring culture so evident in the stakeholders of St. Paul’s School. As I write this piece, so many of my concerns have been allayed, and in their place now resides a sense of fellowship, confidence, and eager anticipation for the coming year.
It all became quite real on Monday, August the 13th, when the entire staff returned for our first professional development day. An ordinary ‘nuts and bolts of the school year’ meeting quickly turned into and engaging educational fellowship as we shared stories of our summers and reflected on our philosophies and shared commitments to education. At the end of the day, I was fast feeling the faculty old friends, true and trusted colleagues. Tuesday was filled with departmental meetings, and it was here that I began to recognize the efficacy and efficiency of our teams. There willingness to collaborate, to constructively evaluate their practice, and desires to grow professionally spoke volumes about the culture of our school. Wednesday the campus was filled with families and life as orientations got underway. This was my first foray into publicly addressing a substantial number of parents. There’s no denying it - I was a bit intimidated. Yet, the warmth and welcome reception that I received quickly put me at ease, and the energy that the families brought to our campus was palpable. And then there was Thursday - the first day of school.
It’s important to note that I had been laser focused on Thursday, August 16th, since the moment Josie Iverson called me this past spring with the job offer. In preparation for the presumed ‘chaos’ of day one, I had cleared my calendar on Thursday and Friday so that I could be entirely available for the proverbial fires that were certain to arise. Thursday morning arrived early for me (like 3:00AM early), and I set out on a pre-dawn run to settle a bit of my anxiety. The next thing I knew was it was 8:15, and chapel got promptly underway. To finally see all the faces to whom I would be dedicating my professional life, to hear them sing hymns full and bright, the welcome message of Father James - truly I was speechless. On time and in tune, we marched out to the flag pole for the weekly flag salute, finished with a rousing song of celebration, and quickly the staff and students scurried to their classrooms to begin the year fresh and hopeful. And there I was - standing stunned by the grace and efficiency of the students and staff, honestly wondering what I was to do next. In truth, there was plenty for me to do, but there was an awesome sense of competence and unity that made a serious impression on me, and spoke to the quality of educational community for which St. Paul’s School is known. I couldn’t have been more proud.
Until next time...