Head of School, Martha Shepardson-Killam’s Convocation word:

I asked that the Jazz Choir and Jazz Combo perform Let There Be Peace On Earth today to remind us that we can create a place where peace replaces conflict – a place where everyone feels safe to try new things and share their gifts.

The sentiment in my words this morning are ones that Heronfield students have certainly heard from me over the years. I repeat them often because kindness and the Core Values that guide our school matter deeply. We invited you to be part of our school community because of your love of learning and your curiosity.  We want to nurture both.  We also invited you to be part of this community because of the kinds of human beings you are – compassionate, kind, and willing to include others in the activities of the day.

Why do our Core Values matter?  Think about how you feel in a class filled with students who respect your ideas, who listen to you, and who do not make fun of you if you make a mistake.  Think of how it feels instead, if you are in a classroom of cliques, of students who do not value your ideas, who use your mistakes as the subject of their jokes.  The first classroom is the one we seek to create here because learning takes place in an environment that is safe.

I thought of that this summer on one of my beach walks when I saw brother and sister digging in the sand to make a moat.  Up the beach a ways was a younger girl playing by herself.  She kept looking at the two children digging and finally ran over to see if she could join them.  They tried to figure out how to get some water into their moat and the little girl ran off to get her big pail that had cartoons all over it.  The older girl enthusiastically thanked her for her help and rather than make fun of the childish pail, she told her how nice it was and how much she appreciated that she was sharing it.

That scene made me realize how important it is that we welcome the gifts that each member of the community brings to the group, without sarcasm, without criticism and without making fun of each other in order to get a laugh from others.

As an educator, most of my focus as I enter a new community is on culture: is individual voice honored, is that voice respectful to all members of the community, meaning is it used in a way that others can “hear” or is it used to grandstand in a way that divides rather than brings us together.  A school’s cultue is a mirror of its values.  All schools have moments when those values are not honored but in the schools that are healthy, in the ones that truly value each individual rather than the loudest voice – in those healthy schools when values are not upheld, the school pauses, and comes together to talk about that rather than ignore those important teaching moments for all of us. As you move through this year, remember that what you say and do is extremely important. Think of those actions and words as the building blocks of our community.  How you treat those around you matters.  Please reflect on how you can bring peace into our community, our classrooms, in your friendships, and with your teachers. We will all create a safe community – one in which kindness makes everyone feel a sense of peace and confidence in sharing their gifts with us.

Peace replaces conflict

Everyone feels safe to try new things and share their gifts.

Let that begin with each of us honoring our Core Values.

Let it begin with us.