The rain that greeted us this morning did not dampen the spirit and energy of our students and teachers as we came together for the first day of our 15th year at St. Anne's Episcopal School. Although we have postponed our all school photo until tomorrow at 9:00 a.m., today we were able to gather for chapel in the gym for some songs, prayers, and an opening chapel talk.
The lesson for today was taken from John's gospel, where Jesus gives his New Commandment to "Love one another. Even as I have loved you, so you must love one another." Using that as our springboard, I asked the students to share what they think those words might mean for us as a community this year. The students at every grade level shared how we can show love for one another. They filled in the sentence of "we can..." with phrases like, "look out for each other," "be welcoming to a new student," "celebrate the differences that we see in each other," "be kind," "stand up to unkindness," "include, and not exclude," and "respect the feelings and opinions of others." They were inspiring!
This summer, our sixth graders were asked to write about the word "empathy" in response to their summer reading assignment because that is one of the qualities that we want to help develop in each student here. When I asked for a definition of the word, one 6th grader offered, "Imagining yourself in someone else's shoes." This helpful working definition prompted me to reflect on the words of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird when he told his children, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view ... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." Though my paraphrase during chapel may have lacked Atticus's eloquence in this beloved American novel, it is clear that our students are ready to live today's lesson.
In this our 15th year, as we open our hearts and our minds to one another, we need to be open to learn from each other, to empathize with each other, and to recognize the value in each other... to be respectful, responsible, and compassionate. I also shared in chapel today an expression used in Argentina that says, "Paint your little village, and you will be painting the world." When I asked the students to think about what this could mean for us here in our little village of St. Anne's, one 8th grader responded that the small acts that we do here can, in fact, affect the world.
People sometimes say to me something along the lines that St. Anne's "really isn't the real world." When I hear that, I typically respond by saying, "You are probably right, but I think St. Anne's is the way the real world should be." As we go forward this year as a community of learners and in partnership between school and home, let's make every effort to fulfill Jesus' challenge to us to "Love one another." Let's be sure to paint our village with empathy, respect, and compassion. And together I hope we can convince others that the community of St. Anne's Episcopal School is indeed the way the real world should be!
We have had a great first day, and I have every expectation that this will be a wonderful school year! Welcome one and all!
Peter ThayerHead of School