Her First Passport and Her Personal Known World

Next summer we are headed to Germany to see my brother and sister-in-law in Germany, so when I am able to quiet the daily static off my calendar look ahead, I begin to look forward to the trip. With that in mind, I am posting this one for throw back Thursday.

Ross All Over the Map

Tonight I am starting to think about the travel that will be a part of my spring and early summer. When I was a kid, I rarely traveled much more than a couple of hours from home by car.  In fact, I only flew on a couple of occasions before I graduated from high school. To put this in perspective, my daughter had more frequent flier miles by the time she turned two than I had at age thirty.

I treasure her first passport picture.

I wonder what the lasting effects are of travelling when one is young.  How does travel affect one’s worldview? Will the experiences my daughter had when she was between two and seven give her a life-long travel bug? I want her to have a desire to GO(!) when she has opportunities.

I remember when we told her in early 2010 that we were going to…

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Learning to Teach on Devil’s Courthouse

Spotted this in my FB history feed this morning. It remains relevant regarding how I perceive my work in a school, particularly as I approach my life as a leader in a school.

Ross All Over the Map

(I started my career as an English teacher at Providence Day School in the fall of 1988.  The previous summer I worked at Camp Pinnacle in Hendersonville, NC.  My experiences as a rock-climbing instructor had a profound impact on how I view teaching.  Devil’s Courthouse, so named by the Cherokee who inhabited this region of North Carolina, is an impressive spot, particularly when you are dangling from its face.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Devil%27s_Courthouse.jpg

I was at 5700 feet, 2000 feet above the cove floor, 200 feet above the base of the cliff face, about sixty feet above my climber.  I was tied into a bow-line-on-a-bite, a remarkable variation of the standard bow-line that distributes equal stress between two separate safety holds.  In this case the safety holds were chalks wedged into cracks in the rock.  I leaned out as far as I could, so I could see my climber, who was stumped by…

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From the Belly of a Fish

[I was asked to write a blog post for the National Association of Episcopal Schools blog called The Commons this week. Copied blow is the text from that post. You can find the original post HERE, as well as some excellent posts from their blog called, The Commons, HERE].

Faded fresco of Jonah being thrown off the boat and into the mouth of the fish in the background and being expelled onto the beach in the foreground. [from the Sacri Monti di Orta. Photograph by J. Ross Peters]
Tomorrow [this blog post written on Sunday, September 10] I will be speak to our seniors during their Chapel service—my topic: Jonah. The story of this lost man has sparked my imagination since I was very small because it is so visually compelling. The Episcopal mission of our schools clearly should live in such places and such moments as those that occur in chapel—the rhythm and the familiarity of the liturgy, the comfort of a community sharing pews together. However, I would think all of us in Episcopal schools might agree that the mission of our schools must exist ubiquitously, not simply confined to specific sacred spaces and specific moments in our daily and weekly schedules. Such thinking is far easier to assert than it is to incorporate into the living truth of a school.

I am working to make sure that in my role as Head of School this year that I am more consistently naming how what we do outside the walls of the chapel is at least as much an expression of our Episcopal identity as hymns, collects, and even homilies from the Head of School. For us that means discussing our three-campus model, which draws students from around fifty zip codes and includes students from a stunning range of racial and economic backgrounds, as sourced from our Episcopal connection. It also means framing our work through the new St. George’s Bunkhouse, a satellite adjunct campus focusing on helping our students develop the habits of the good neighbor, as a natural step for a school such as ours. And it means that when we are helping our students understand the importance of sportsmanship and positive cheering, we name that brand of school spirit as an essential ingredient of our school’s identity.

In working to be intentional in making the connection between what we do and our Episcopal identity, I am reminded that the work of our Episcopal schools is often counter-cultural. Our school exists in a town that has on a regular basis pulled at its seams along racial, economic, and geographic lines. Our job is not simply to chafe against that corrosive momentum, but to present an alternative to it—to value everyone as a child of God, to reach into the humanity that connects us rather than toward the divisions that turn us from each other and thus, I believe, from God. Clearly the issues that pull painfully at the fabric of Memphis are issues all over the country. The work we do in Episcopal schools is not getting easier, yes, but that only means it has never been more important.

So tomorrow I will talk a bit about Jonah, a man who lost sight of his mission, and in order to find it again he had to be entombed in the belly of a slimy fish, ask for forgiveness and grace, and be burped up on a beach. Here’s hoping we don’t have to spend time in the belly of a whale to keep our Episcopal mission in our sight.

The original post from the NAES website.

Updated reflections on The 9/11 Seawall and the The Empathetic Community

On this sixteenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, I am reposting a couple of thoughts I have had in earlier years regarding this traumatic event in our history.

Ross All Over the Map

(The World Trade Towers and the QEII Photo:Neal Boenzi/The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/09/08/us/sept-11-reckoning/towers.html#1
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[As we head toward the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, I am reposting (with some revisions) something I wrote several years ago that still reflects my thinking about the primacy of creating and sustaining a community that prioritizes empathy. Since posting this in January of 2012, I have seen many examples of people on a kind of figurative seawall facing challenges that threaten to become overwhelming. Additionally, I recognize that we have all stood on our own seawall at various points in our lives. When we are in immediate and pressing danger like those in need of rescue on 9/11, it is human nature to raise our hands and voices for help. It is more difficult to raise our hands when the challenges we face are less visible.  Living within an empathetic community makes it more possible for those who…

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