Last Wednesday, I wrote to the upper school faculty to say I was particularly grateful to work in a school on that day, November 9th, 2016. Schools are about raising human beings in close proximity to difference; with respect, curiosity, and kindness at the center of their mission. They are places where teachers build a community of citizens who learn how to create a place of questioning and understanding. There is great power and great hope in these endeavors for anyone fortunate enough to work in education.
At this particular school comprised of engaged and curious girls and young women, we are able to turn to the words written on the walls of our school. Our Mission, Core Purpose, and Values Statement become our protocols during these times that try our souls. These words suddenly transform guiding principles into the directives for how we should live.
We understand that the strongest community does not imply singular focus or sameness in thought. The model community is formed when we invite a plethora of voices to our table, and we find ourselves right beside those of every race, faith, culture, and yes, those who lean red and those who lean blue. Our values remain the same. We continue to define ourselves by how we treat each other. No one should be diminished on either end of a debate.
Our Values Statement, written years ago by our teachers and students, declares that our community “has chosen respect, integrity, individuality, and trust to be its guiding principles.” The statement continues, “these values reflect our reverence for expressing kindness toward and acceptance of others; our commitment to diversity, forgiveness, and achieving one’s personal best; and our dedication to the service of others.”
Our faculty stated in our Core Purpose that we aspire to “nurture a sense of wonder” in our students. They continue with a pledge to “inspire students and faculty to combine knowledge with goodness and reflection with action.” Words like these are an indication that this place is a community filled with people who understand our calling to be much more than a means to transmit information and content to our students. We believe in the power of the community, where connections to others and an understanding of context is essential to solve the world’s problems. We want to cultivate students who, as a former university dean said, are able to “cherish the wisdom of tradition and explore the possibility of discovery.” “We want them to uncover the neglected to find the beautiful…scrutinize the new to find the good, and the old to find the true.”
We continue to learn new lessons from each person in this community every day. We dedicate ourselves to growing in our understanding of the world around us and the people within it. As we march onward in our work, I am reminded of the first three words and guideposts for our school, written in Latin and carved in stone many, many years ago – Mentem Spiritumque Tollamus. Let us lift the mind and spirit.