The value for September has been tolerance. What an appropriate topic as we begin the school year, standing in observance of a significant election in our country. In our chapel services, we have spoken about tolerance first of ourselves, followed by tolerance of people that look different from us, and then tolerance of people who hold a different viewpoint from us. Tolerance is easy when everyone is of the same opinion…the same favorite color, favorite food, favorite sport, favorite school, etc. Tolerance becomes harder, however, as differences emerge and opinions are formulated that may not be the same as ours.
I am aware that at St. Michael’s we are not only teaching academic subjects, introducing new knowledge, and encouraging engaged learners; we are also teaching and modeling character and leadership. Children watch us all the time…well, at least most of the time. As teachers and administrators, we serve as role models for our young charges. How we conduct ourselves, how we speak to each other and to them, how we deal with conflict and seek resolution, how we problem-solve by being part of the solution, these all serve to model for our students what we are teaching them day in and day out. The best way to teach leadership is to model good leadership. In doing so, the hope is that our students will follow our lead and model that going forward.
No pressure there! This causes me to stop and think often about how my actions might be perceived by students and by my colleagues. My concern is that often we may feel we are pushing the rock up a sometimes steep hill when it comes to modeling tolerance. Social media as well as television seem to be filled with too many examples of adults’ using harsh language, name-calling, or character assault as opposed to issue-based debate. This opens the door, however, to opportunities for us to offer alternative solutions by taking seriously our position as leaders and role models. We can demonstrate a better way to express our opinions, listen well to others, and accept our differences without damaging the relationships we have with one another. That’s what tolerance looks like to me. We honor our differences and celebrate our diversity, while being people of integrity. In doing so, the hope is that we are mindfully sending forth young people who are empowered to be strong leaders, inquisitive learners, and compassionate, tolerant friends. Certainly it is a goal we can all strive for.
Head of School