Let me begin by wishing you a warm welcome to the 2016-17 school year! In my opening remarks to our faculty last week, I shared a message I read years ago, which for me has never lost its meaning. The message is attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but a little research leads me believe that someone else might have written it...
Dear St. Martin’s Friends and Families,
Let me begin by wishing you a warm welcome to the 2016-17 school year! In my opening remarks to our faculty last week, I shared a message I read years ago, which for me has never lost its meaning. The message is attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but a little research leads me believe that someone else might have written it. Nonetheless, I believe that the message is both essential and timeless. It reads as follows:
My son starts school today. It is all going to be strange and new to him for a while, and I wish you would treat him gently. It is an adventure that might take him across continents. An adventure that probably includes wars, tragedy, and sorrow. To live this life will require faith, love, and courage.
So, dear teacher, will you please take him by his hand and teach him the things he will have to know? Teaching him, but gently if you can. Teach him that for every enemy, there is a friend. He will have to know that all men are not just, that all men are not true. But, teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero, that for every crooked politician, there is a dedicated leader.
Teach him, if you can, that ten cents earned is of far more value than a dollar found. In school, teacher, it is far more honorable to fail than to cheat. Teach him to learn how to gracefully lose, and enjoy winning when he does win.
Teach him to be gentle with people, and tough with people. Steer him away from envy if you can, and teach him the secret of quiet laughter. Teach him, if you can, how to laugh when he is sad. And teach him there is no shame in tears. Teach him there can be glory in failure and despair in success. Teach him to scoff at cynics.
Teach him, if you can, the wonder of books, but also give him time to ponder the extreme mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun and flowers in the green hill. Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him they are wrong.
Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone else is doing it. Teach him to listen to everyone, but teach him also to filter all that he hears on a screen of truth and take only the good that comes through.
Teach him to sell his talents and brains to the highest bidder but never to put a price tag on his heart and soul. Let him have the courage to be impatient, let him have the patience to be brave. Teach him to have sublime faith in himself, because then he will always have sublime faith in mankind, in God.
This is a tall order, teacher, but see what best you can do. He is such a nice little boy, and he is my son. -- Abraham Lincoln
It is a tall order indeed! But, I do not believe it is an unreasonable one. While our teachers are experts in their subject areas, they are genuinely good and caring people who love children and want to contribute to a better world. They teach at St. Martin’s because it is our mission to teach the very values noted by “Lincoln.” And our teachers might have written a similar letter themselves, had they been tasked to create a list of important lessons.
I wonder, what kind of letters would you write, as parents? I wonder what values and lessons did I seek for my children? Now that my children are grown, I take more pride in their goodness than I do in their income levels. I admire their gentleness and strength more than I do their ability to recognize a Matisse painting, or recite the formula to calculate velocity. I love that they are gentle with their children, and attentive to their grandparents. And I am proud of their patience, and their sense of patriotism. They may not remember all of the scholarly lessons they learned, but they gained the wisdom it takes to judge fairly and to discern carefully. I love that each of them has a strong spiritual compass and a sense of moral courage.
It’s funny that as our children go through school, we sometimes lose sight of these things and focus solely on GPAs and test scores as our measures of success. Of course, we want our children to be strong scholars. They should be — and will be — as they progress through our classrooms and grade levels. But remember that our teachers are working alongside of you, their parents, to add in a sense of goodness, responsibility, honesty, and kindness. We are working to set their moral compasses, and to teach them to value truth at its highest level. Most of all, remember that we are working together.
Thank you for trusting your children to us again this year. We love teaching and guiding them.