Welcome to the 2018/19 school year.
Each year at this time I articulate my goals and general themes for the coming year and this year is no different – except this year, there is a little more.
For over a year and a half, the faculty has been thinking about and designing our vision for SEM. So this fall as I introduce the year’s themes, they’re actually the product of a collective effort by us all.
This year will be focused learning, of course, but also on character.
With the start of every new school year comes the excitement of opportunity and promise tinged with a bit of anxiety. When I stopped in at Café Aroma a few weeks ago, the barista making my latte told me that even though she was not in school, she had been in Target and it made her anxious because of the all the school supplies and back-to-school advertising. But she thought a little longer and said to me, “I also remembered the feelings of excitement and possibility. I love that feeling and I miss it.”
She helped me realize how lucky we are to experience these feelings of excitement and possibility each year and particularly how lucky we are to experience them together at SEM.
I ask myself and challenge each of you: as we get caught up in the tasks of school, how can we foster this spirit of excitement, optimism, and possibility and keep it strong?
My answer is to build our community around the concept of character, and as I mentioned last year at graduation, by making the little things big. At our opening faculty and staff meetings, each person shared moments or examples of character they had experienced over the summer. As I listened to their stories, a few common words and concepts emerged. Most cited examples of character revolved around helping others; followed by courage, honesty, grace, and dependability. I want each of us to keep these human attributes in mind as we move through the year.
To make the little things big promises two distinct ways to build our community. First, making the little things big has a very practical purpose – if we pay attention to details and address little things before they become big issues it will give us the discipline to manage our busy lives. It will prevent the escalation of something easily manageable and small into something complicated and big. This is easier said than done, but, if we each commit to it and support each other when we are beginning to feel overwhelmed, I believe we can create a sense of purpose and calm.
Second, I encourage you to pay attention to the little things that bring happiness or joy. Be present as you walk in our hallways, sit in our beautiful chapel and the unique spaces that can only be found at SEM. Protect and preserve this beauty during your time here. Lend a hand, say hello, give a smile. Make sure your friends, teachers, and colleagues can depend on you when their spirit begins to flounder and know you count on them too. Doing these little things can have a big effect – it will shape your experience and that of everyone else in the school.
We are in this together. By living with character, appreciating the things that bring us joy, and not allowing the little things to become big we can make the 2018-19 school year one where the sense of excitement, optimism, and possibility all will remain alive and well from September through June.