On Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019 we greeted students and families from around the world in true Shattuck-St. Mary’s fashion, with a campus-wide picnic, opening Chapel service, and the tradition of welcoming new students, faculty, and staff to their new home through our “Human Arch.”
Below are the remarks I gave to the thousand plus in attendance to kick-off the start of our 162nd year. Our SSM community is eager to help our students embrace disturbance and navigate transformational growth this year!
Head of School
Hello and welcome—we are glad you are here!
Tonight is a night filled with emotion. There is excitement at the prospect of seeing friends after a long summer and the opportunity to meet new ones who have just arrived. There is optimism that the year holds better grades, improved sporting outcomes, and, for our seniors, the perfect college acceptance letter. There is pride swelling in the hearts of the adults gathered here today as we continue to watch you all move from children to young adults. We lean into these feelings. They create a sense of warmth and accomplishment.
They make us feel at home.
There are other emotions that fill us tonight as well.
Perhaps it is sadness at the realization your parents will be departing later this evening—or, for parents, that you are heading home without your child. Perhaps it is anxiety fueled by the number of advanced placement courses on your schedule, a new roommate, or a concern about how you will fit in. Perhaps it is fear that you are not going to make your desired team, that you are in over your head, or that you cannot be who you really are. We tend to face these emotions much differently. Instead of leaning into them, we feel enveloped by them, overwhelmed by them. These emotions—as Sir Francis Drake might say—“disturb us.” I agree that they disturb us, and I argue we should lean into these feelings as well. In fact, our School mission demands just that.
Shattuck-St. Mary’s School is a global learning community that honors tradition while embracing innovation—our students and teachers come from all over the country and the world. We have myriad different experiences that lead up to our arrival, and, because of this fact, we have myriad perspectives on issues that arise in our community. And everybody in our community has a right for their voice to be heard. This, at times, might disturb us, because—as Drake states—“we are too pleased with ourselves” and the way we have done things. But the idea of embracing innovation means we must recognize the need for change, the need to do something differently. These innovations often arise when we are forced to look at a situation or problem or challenge from a different perspective.
At Shattuck-St. Mary’s School our mission is to cultivate creative, independent thinking in our students. Our job—I’m speaking now for my nearly two hundred colleagues—is to educate you and coach you, to celebrate with you and comfort you. And, if we are to foster your transformation to become citizens of integrity for an ever-changing world, our job is to challenge you and guide you, to correct you and teach you to be accountable. In short, our job—quite often—is to disturb you. When you learn to lean into the disturbance, interrogate it, and learn from it—you are empowered, in Drake’s words, “to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas” knowing there will be storms and knowing those storms will not defeat you.
As we enter into the 2019-20 school year—with all of the excitement and sadness and optimism and anxiety and pride and fear that a new year bring with it—it is my hope that we continue to embrace the disturbances knowing they prepare us to “push into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love” both here and beyond the Arch.