Rector Kathy Giles addresses the SPS community on the work ahead for our School and the country
Good morning, everyone. It is a crisp winter morning in Concord, one of those New England mornings that makes you happy to be outside, moving briskly, and then happy to duck back into some warmth. The days of our long break are coming to a close, and we are preparing – with all of the different emotions that come with starting up classes and school again – to get back to the work of learning and teaching and growing. Right now, 450+ students plan to return at the end of January, and planning for your return never really stopped after you left in November. Throughout this important and crisis-filled time, we are all doing our jobs, even as we work with and through these “unprecedented” events.
I have always believed that in everything we do at school, the bottom line is that we are learning to do hard things well, whether those hard things are physics or Latin or anything academic, or taking responsibility for a mistake, or expanding our minds to develop our respect and kindness muscles when things are hard – learning to do hard things well is the skill that unites everything we do, whether we are teachers or students or staff members. Sometimes we know the assignment, the homework, and the rubrics for success, and sometimes the assessments and evaluative moments are surprises. Sometimes the performance – on the quiz or the paper of the game or the concert – goes well, and sometimes it doesn’t. But that’s where the learning part of “learning to do hard things well” comes in. Despite our huge desire to be able to plan and control, moments of truth and hard things just show up, and learning is a responsive process and not something we can memorize or plan our ways through.
Our country has to learn to do some hard things well right now, and each of us – as citizens of all ages or as visitors from abroad – has a vested interest in becoming the kind of person who does hard things ethically, spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, physically well. As yesterday’s events continue to play themselves out, they are not isolated, and they are shocking and disappointing but strangely not surprising, in light of the past weeks and months of suffering, injustice, and conflict that we have seen in society and the world in which we live. Becoming people who do hard things well with integrity, compassion, honesty, kindness, discipline, and determination is a big part of the reason we take so seriously the study of physics, Latin, living in community, leadership, and everything else that is an intentional part of our community life. Every day matters, as we build ourselves to be people of strong and good character who, with scholarship, spirituality, and citizenship in service to a greater good, do hard things well and for the benefit of others and for our world. Every day matters in that work. We have great work to do in the weeks and months ahead.
As I was reflecting on the “whys” of St. Paul’s School, why I believe in this work, why I am so inspired by my faculty and staff colleagues and by my students, I came across this quote from the Buddha:
Thousands of candles
Can be lighted from a single candle,
And the life of that candle will not be shortened.
Happiness, Wisdom, and Love
Never decrease by being shared.
Prior to the break, we talked about our individual candles and our lights. I am so very grateful for the ways our community finds to show its light. Now is the right time for us to be that people of hope about whom Mr. Lovett spoke earlier this year, the optimists for today as we prepare and grow the builders of tomorrow. These are hard days during which we can offer a lot of support, warmth, and strength to those around us, and I hope that even as we work with the anxiety and emotions of these crises, we remember how much strength we have that others need.
There is much good work to be done in this new year for all of us, and every person and every day matters, as what we are doing has an important purpose far beyond our day-to-day schedules and commitments.
“See” you next week and be well.