“The Ship of Theseus” is one of the oldest philosophical thought experiments (500-400 BCE) to explore the dilemma of what gives an object or person its identity. It proposes that a warship sailed by the Greek hero Theseus is eventually stored in a warehouse and, over the course of a century, has the various parts and wood structure replaced which begs the question, “Is it the same ship?” The motivation behind using this example is not to navigate the intellectual nuances of what gives an object its identity but to apply the paradox (or tension) to education. Is a school the same today in 2019 as it was back in 1950 or 1980? Has the profile of a student changed? Can a school be the same as it was when it was established and also constantly changing?
With any new administration, the standard metric of “the first hundred days” seeks to address how proposed goals and outcomes have played out: To what degree have you been successful? What short term goals need to be met? What evidence do you have for showing these benchmarks? As such, I felt it was important for my own growth and development, as well as a way to be transparent in our community, to reflect briefly on where I am in my role after one hundred days as Principal.
1) Personnel: Having met with every faculty member over the summer, I have a greater appreciation for the institutional memory at our school: the history, culture, and expectations from the community. Schools are all about relationship building and there is no greater resource than those who have served this great school for over 400 collective years of experience. As agents of change, it was also important to me to be present and supportive of teacher initiatives while encouraging space to explore new curricular ideas and innovative pedagogical approaches.
2) Resources: After numerous conversations with committee members and key stakeholders, we have a solid grasp of the physical plant needs of the school and parish bearing in mind numerous overlapping goals of enrollment, pedagogy, social-emotional learning, and financial stewardship. We have also secured funding to support quality research and evidence based professional development in Responsive Classroom techniques with teachers, Second Step middle school counseling curriculum, and new instruments for our expanding music program, among others. All of these improvements underscore our mission of educating the whole child while providing the necessary resources for students to flourish in secondary school and beyond.
3) Communication: Multiple channels call for more intimate and robust ways of communicating with parents and parishioners alike. Our transition to Google Classroom has served as a technological bridge between classroom face-to-face teaching and greater frequency of collaboration with classmates. This very blog serves as an example of efforts to reach more families, alumni/ae, and the greater school community. With almost 1,000 views in the first month alone, it appears some people are reading!
While it’s helpful to look back and take a mental and spiritual inventory check from time to time, it is paramount (and quite possibly more difficult) to embrace and engage in the present moment. The prayer “Patient Trust” by the Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ is appropriate meditation on the seemingly chaotic and hurried nature of our lives at times:
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
As I look back, I am mindful of what lies ahead for me. But in the present moment, as I type these words and reflect on the good work we have accomplished and what has yet to be done, I appreciate the grace that abounds and overcomes the minutiae of everyday life. I am grateful to be surrounded by colleagues whose care and concern goes beyond the classroom walls and for parents who desire the best for their child. I look back, if only for a moment, to remind myself that building the Kingdom is slow but incredibly rewarding work.
It’s a Great Day to be a Bulldog!