Message from the Head of School

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Many years ago, I spent time at a mission in rural Mexico. One hot and humid day, I noticed a parade of young men walking with satchels on their backs, each carrying about 100 pounds of rocks. The men worked hard all day long as part of a service requirement for all community families. One day a week, each family had to supply one able-bodied person to work on behalf of the village on a common project (a road, in this case), and I learned that no family would ever consider skipping this obligation. During my stay, I was incredibly impressed with the shared values that the villages had and how families relied on each other. They worked cohesively to get the job done with no conflict. They all understood the debt they had to their fellow citizens and to future citizens yet to be born.

Of course, in our country we could not replicate such a system with our complicated society. We are disconnected from the work that takes place to keep us safe and advance our economy. Civic pride and an understanding of civic responsibility have given way to a general pervasive attitude that disengages us from our community. My experience in the tiny village in the jungles of Mexico showed me how important a sense of civic duty is for our society.

At Saint Columbkille, we believe that it is our job to plant the seeds in students that will blossom into yearnings to fully participate and give back to our fellow citizens. I was incredibly proud of our Loyola Academy students who worked hard to research and then present their views on the “Separation of Powers”, this year’s theme at Brighton’s annual Law Day. Judge Donnelly, who presides over the event, pulled me aside at the award ceremony, where many of our students earned prizes, to acknowledge their thoughtful work and thank me for teaching them about their government.

We take this work seriously. One of the new Laboratory School initiatives with BC has been taking place in Ms. Krane’s Pre-K class where students have been working on building parks that are inclusive of all people. The children had a meeting with their imaginary mayor and, with the help of their teacher and a BC professor, they have begun to answer the question “How can we make things better?”

We will be talking more about this initiative and other upcoming collaborations with BC as part of our lab school designation at an event for parents next Tuesday, May 15 from 6 to 7 p.m. at the school. I hope you plan to attend to learn how we’ll be working with BC to further improve learning for your children.

Many schools these days do not teach civics and I believe that is a big mistake. Civics teaches us that “united we stand or divided we fall.” A good understanding of civics will teach children that the problems we encounter in life are “our” problems and that the best solutions come from doing the hard work together. It is my hope that in our school when a child sees paper on the floor, he or she will pick it up knowing that it is our trash and with the goal of keeping our school beautiful.

I learned a great deal from my experience in Mexico all those years ago, including the importance of civic duty for the community. The baseline understanding that we need each other in order to gain better lives must be reinforced over and over again.

William Gartside
Head of School