As we begin the inevitable sprint toward graduation and the end of my first school year at St. George’s Independent School in Memphis, TN, I realize how much I have learned since last July when I officially began my work as Head of School. More relevant, however, I realize how much more I have to learn, and I recognize the key source of that learning will be our students.
They have already taught me a great deal about..
- what they value most about our school.
- the importance of warm greetings and handshakes in the morning at carpool or on the way into Chapel.
- how a small group of leaders can create powerful school spirit.
- how different their lives are from my own life at the same age, as well as how some things about being young never change.
- resilience in the face of remarkable obstacles. [While there are many examples I might mention here, I wrote about a particularly poignant example in a post entitled, “Adam and Louie Showing Us the Way”, in which I shared a Chapel Talk Adam Cruthirds ’16 delivered to our Collierville Campus students in the Fall.]
- the sacrifice dedicated young people are willing to make for an outstanding educational opportunity.
Our prefects, who are my advisees, have played a particularly important role in helping me get my feet on the ground. They are by nature a generative group who are forever thinking of new ideas for the school, ways to get better, more connected, more fully aligned with the unique vision of our school. In fact, On Friday two of them came up to me during lunch to let me know a couple of ideas they had about how we can improve our chapel services. They are not the only sources of good insight though.
In a three campus school that draws from well-over fifty zip codes and from a wide economic, racial, and religious spectrum, no single set of seven voices can come close to capturing a complete perspective on the school or the students who populate it. I was in a conversation a week ago last Friday with a student in which he detailed for me his experience in a way that will inform my way of understanding how the school looks and feels to someone with a unique vantage point. Similarly I have had a couple of conversations over lunch with the first cohort of students who began their St. George’s careers in Pre-K on our Memphis Campus and now are just over a month away from graduating from High School. What struck me first is how close they are to each other and how kind they were to me. What strikes me now is just how insightful they are, and how uniquely strong they have become through the experience they have had. They have a tremendous amount to teach me and to share with those coming behind them.
So…with all this fresh in my mind, I see that creating opportunities to hear from students is vital in order for me to learn what I need to know. They have important stories. They have so much to teach me about their lives.
[I also wrote about the centrality of listening to students in a blog entry entitled: “Prioritizing Student Engagement in the Liminal Space”]