Mission Driven (Part II): Inspiration is the key!

Last week I wrote that I referenced our mission statement in my opening address to the faculty:

Challenging and nurturing Mind, Body, and Spirit, we inspire boys and girls to lead lives of purpose, faith, and integrity.

But in addition to the fact that I feel my own personal philosophy is closely aligned with EA’s mission, I wanted to share another insight about the power of our mission.

I think the most important part of the mission statement might just be the word “inspire.” I believe when we are at our best, we are inspiring our students and each other.

As I get to know our faculty better, I thought it was important for me to share with them some of my beliefs about education.

Content Knowledge is important.

Pedagogy is important.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge is important.

Good teaching can be learned (I believe in the growth mindset)

And…

I believe in the art of teaching.

When you see a great teacher teach, there is an inspirational magic to it. The beauty that only artists can attain flows through the classroom.

I then asked each teacher to share with me at some point in the year a moment of true inspiration. I look forward to sharing those magical moments with you. Have a great year!

Mission Driven (Part I): Personal Alignment

In my opening speech to faculty this year I referenced our mission statement:

Challenging and nurturing Mind, Body, and Spirit, we inspire boys and girls to lead lives of purpose, faith, and integrity.

When I applied for the position of Head of School, I was required to submit a statement of my educational philosophy. In this opening excerpt, I notice the close connection to the EA mission:

It is our responsibility as educators to vigorously challenge and support each and every student, and it is this dual focus that creates a synergy to empower all learners to stretch toward their potential.

I go on to explain a bit more about what I mean:

Schools must emphasize high cognitive demand, engaging tasks, and lofty expectations so that students are able to reach new academic heights. We must however, pay equal attention to creating supportive environments that allow students to take risks, make connections with others, and feel, in every sense of the word, “safe.”

From my very first day here, I felt that EA was a good fit for me as a leader. I see countless examples each day of challenging and nurturing. It is what we believe in, and I am proud that I witness not only a pursuit of academic excellence but also a rigorous commitment to community.

Every time I talk with someone who has been here a while, I hear powerful anecdotes about the strength of the community. It seems everyone has an “EA was there for me” story.

The beginning of the year is a great time to remember why we are here, confirm our beliefs and mission, and acknowledge our gratitude for all we have.

Our Senior Master: 45 years of wisdom

135_2014-5-30There are so many rich traditions here at Episcopal, and one of my favorites has to be one that begins our school year. Each August, the Senior Master (the teacher with the longest tenure) addresses the faculty and staff. And while I do my best to set a positive and inspirational tone to begin the year, there is something special about hearing from our most experienced teacher. Our Senior Master is Chip Hollinger. Chip began his 45th year at EA telling us all a story of small bridge at a summer house “in a place called Hogestown-just outside of Harrisburg.”

His father built this bridge along with his grandfather, and there is “a set of footprints placed ‘walking’ across the bridge (all very typical of a teenager when confronted with wet cement!)” Chip continued to tell such a lovely story of walking in those footsteps, and then he turned the story into an important message for his colleagues.

“Not only are we following in the footprints of our predecessors, but we ourselves are placing footprints of our own in the hearts and minds of our students and the historical lore of the school.”

Everyone looks forward to Chip’s speech each year. It is always lovely and poignant, and we all benefit from his wisdom.