Notes from the Head

At this time of the year, when the days are full, classes are being completed, and final preparations are being made to close out the school year, the idea of striving for peacefulness seems out of reach and even comical. Many days feel anything but peaceful.  And yet, as we talked about peacefulness in our Monday Chapel, students and teachers alike took a deep breath, perhaps wishing for this important virtue to be present in each of us. In the Benedictine way of living, a model for peace is offered up. There are three steps, and the simplicity of this model can be a goal at any age.

First, be gentle with yourself. Like many people, I can be my own worst critic, and yet I know that self-acceptance is important. I know how hard our students work both in the academic arena as well as in those important extracurricular activities. They strive to do their best. They set very high standards, and they work to achieve their goals. In the process, however, this reminder is given: “be gentle with yourself. ” Perfection is not the goal.

Second, be gentle with others. Pointing fingers, blaming others, and expecting more of others than we would expect of ourselves, do not create peace or leave anyone with a peaceful feeling. An understanding heart, a kind and encouraging word, and gracious affirmation create peace-filled relationships and give the message that “I like you just as you are.”

Finally, the third step in the model for peace is to be gentle with the Earth.  We are God’s stewards here, taking care to preserve our corner of the world. The beauty surrounding Tucson, the mountains and canyons, and the occasionally running streams remind us that we are caretakers, and so we strive to leave the world a better place.

At St. Michael’s, throughout the year, we talk at every opportunity about how to be our best selves and model well for others. Though never done with perfection, we strive to be kind, to show tolerance and understanding, to forgive as we are forgiven, to show respect, to love justice–persevering even in the face of challenge–and to handle each other with care. It’s not always easy to do this. Sometimes we make mistakes, but we practice patience because God isn’t finished with us yet. And that’s a good thing. So as we head toward our summer break, be sure to take deep breaths along the way, remembering to be gentle with yourself, with others, and with the Earth. It’s a perfect way to end our school year as we pause for some much-needed summer refreshment.

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

When I first joined the St. Michael’s community five years ago, I would take time during the summer days to wander the campus. I needed to find my way through the various courtyards. I wanted to become familiar with the environment that everyone spoke so highly of. What struck me was how peaceful the campus was. That continues to be an appropriate word to describe our unique environment. Yes, it can be noisy with more than 350 students and adults during the day, but the peacefulness remains.

Peacefulness is the virtue we are talking about this closing month of the school year. What a perfect topic as we head toward summer. The world is a very hectic place, and our students lead very busy and often chaotic lives. Our faculty and staff work very hard, often into the late hours of the evening. Stress levels can be high at various times of the year, and the end of the year certainly has its fair share. But at St. Michael’s we have many places that help to restore the soul. On Monday, I asked the students what creates a sense of peacefulness on our campus. Immediately hands went up with lots of ideas: The wetlands with the small waterfall. The many plants and flowers throughout the campus. The courtyards with the fountains. The beautiful chapel that welcomes us to worship. And I had to agree. What a gift it is that our students can come to school in an environment that offers peaceful, tranquil beauty. What a gift to work in such a place.

I invited the students to take time when life is hectic or stressful to pause for just two minutes in a courtyard, by the wetlands, or when they are in chapel. Take just a moment to breathe deeply, observe the beauty, pause, and be still. In that moment, one’s soul can be refreshed, nerves can be calmed, and a sense of peacefulness can be restored.

Often we don’t realize the gifts that we have in this place until we are no longer here. So I shared a story of an alum I recently saw. We ran into each other in St. Michael’s Church one Sunday morning. After we caught up with school and family news, I asked what brought her that day to St. Michael’s, which is not her church home. She said, “I just really wanted to be back in this church. I’ve missed it, and it was such a special place when I was here.” Peacefulness. Sacred places. Places that restore the balance. St. Michael’s is filled with them. How special that we can work, learn, play, and pray in an environment that offers peacefulness on a daily basis. Feel free to slow down. Breathe deeply from time to time, for God is present here.

Notes from the Head

We have reached the time of the year when it feels that everything has shifted into high gear. As we return from our Easter break, suddenly the end of the year is in plain view. There is so much left to do and so little time remaining. The temptation for some is simply to sit back and coast to the end. My encouragement to all of us, however, is a bit different. Let’s revisit the dependable baseball / softball analogy as a way to plan for a sweeping conclusion.

For most baseball or softball players, getting a good solid hit is always one of the main objectives when at bat. The other important objective is to round the bases for a score. There are several ways to score a run, but probably one of the least inspiring is to score on a walk from third base. It’s certainly much more thrilling to race or slide into home base to score a run. There is a greater sense of accomplishment in that way, and there are many more “high fives” coming into the dugout.

So here’s my encouragement for our young charges here at school as the final weeks of the school year loom ahead. Let’s finish strong. Let’s give it our very best until the end. As cheerleaders and coaches on the sidelines, we can be ready to give high fives as they slide into home base. And what better way to end the year than coming to the last day feeling, “Wow, that was a terrific year!” Certainly for all of us, there are some days that are better than others. In the dark days of January, it may feel that the end of the year won’t come soon enough. As I look at our students now, however, I can see how much they have grown, not only from the victories but also from the challenges they have faced. I am so proud of each and every one. They are rising to the occasion and are ready and prepared to move ahead. Their accomplishments have come through hard work and the amazing support and instruction that come from our teachers and parents.

So I invite our students to step up to the plate. Take a glance at the coaches and cheerleaders that surround the field. Focus on the end goals and make solid choices with every swing. There will be much to celebrate at the end of the day, and I will be the first in line to give each a “high five” and a hug as they cross home base. Batters up!!! Let’s hit it out of the park.

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

Typically, when we talk about the value Stewardship, we focus on our responsibility to care for Mother Earth and her resources that we attempt to use wisely. The celebration of Earth Day later this month raises our understanding and appreciation for the environment and our natural resources that are necessary to sustain our planet. As we introduced this value in chapel this week, we considered not only the care of the earth resources but also the consideration of the care for each other. What better place to carry that out than at our school, where the major business and interest is around the people who make up our community and the children we serve. When we care for each other, we are caring for God’s creation. After all, God created us to be the chief stewards of the earth.

As only children can do, our students immediately embraced the care for one  another as an important responsibility. Our students do a terrific job of keeping our campus clean. We try to conserve water and recycle paper and plastics. St. Michael’s has received recognition for being a “green” school and the students take great pride in that. What we also cultivate, however,  is kindness and care for each other. Sometimes that’s not so easy. Sometimes we say or do things that cause hurt feelings or sadness.

So I asked the question, ” What do we do when our feelings are not feeling well?” The first answer came quickly from a young student. “I just sit with my friend and listen to how their feelings became hurt. Maybe I’ll give them a hug” Others added, “I ask them to come play.” “I try to make them laugh.” “I let them know that they are my friend and I care.” And that’s what friends do. Friends care. Friends listen. Friend sit with one another. Friends give a hug. We give the support that’s needed to help heal the feelings when a person’s feelings are not feeling well.

Caring for our earth and caring for each other are both forms of stewardship. One keeps our campus beautiful and the other builds community,  showing that each person matters. Each person, adult or child, has value. Together each person brings talent, treasures, and richness to the community we call St. Michael’s School. Together we are stewards of this corner of the world we call our school. And often, it’s the children who lead us. That’s just as it should be, don’t you think?

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

As next week arrives, we will find our campus feeling a bit on the empty side. Our entire middle school departs over the weekend on long-anticipated class trips to Crow Canyon, Catalina Island, and Washington, D.C. Each of these trips complements our curriculum and will include lots of memories for our students. These are fabulous experiences and opportunities on many levels. On one level, lessons taught in the classroom will come to life through experiential learning. It’s one thing to read and study about cliff dwellers. Climbing to an actual cliff dwelling and seeing where and how early Native Americans lived is totally another thing. The study of marine biology takes on a new level of understanding when you are snorkeling or hiking in coastal areas of California. And the experience of worship in the National Cathedral, or meeting our Congressional representative, or sitting in the Supreme Court, brings a new understanding and appreciation for the freedoms we enjoy in our democratic society.

In addition to experiential learning, on another level, our students become closer with classmates and bond as a class through these shared experiences. They become more independent, self-confident, and mature as they step outside of the comfort zone of home and school. They lean on each other more and see classmates through different lenses as they share time together away from normal routines. On a smaller scale, our fifth graders are preparing for their step-up to middle school as they travel to Phoenix for a full day, visiting the state capital, sitting in the Senate chamber, experiencing the Arizona Science Center, and seeing our state capitol up close and personal following two years of studying Arizona history. And the highlight of that trip? Well, it’s the bus trip, of course!!

Certainly these experiences are an important part of the balanced education that St. Michael’s students enjoy. Class trips and field trips to places that support our classroom studies build deeper levels of understanding, not just of curriculum but of individuals as well. There is always a growing sense of accomplishment and with each experience comes a new level of growth and understanding of the world in which we live. That growth happens in mind, body, and spirit and forms the memories and friendships that last a lifetime through the times shared at St. Michael’s. It’s one of the many ways that the St. Michael’s experience makes a difference in this chapter in each child’s life. Bon voyage, young explorers! Oh, the places you will go.

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

March Madness is upon us, and l would imagine that many folks are tuned in to NCAA basketball games, even if you are not normally a basketball fan. Tournament play, both at the conference level as well as national level, becomes exciting. Many of us adopt a new favorite team, and schools not normally in the spotlight become the potential Cinderella schools of the tournament. As  a basketball fan, I admit to getting caught up in the school spirit that is seen on many levels.

As an educator, I’m always looking at various events, such as basketball games, as teachable moments for our kids. It seems that each game offers that on many levels. Sportsmanship and compassion can be found, such as the scene many saw of a player from a winning team consoling a player who had just lost a very close game. Emotions run high, and everyone understands the devastated feeling of having a season end too soon. On the other hand, we see behavior that I wish our kids did not see. The intensity and poor sportsmanship displayed at times are not reflective of the role models we want our students to follow or to be seen on our own school basketball court or athletic field. So we applaud the good and take the opportunity to address the less than desirable.

In a recent posting the coach of the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team, Geno Auriemma, spoke about the importance of attitude for his players. Of all their skills, this is the most important one that he looks for in potential players for his extremely successful program. Attitude on the court, on the bench, in the locker room, and on campus, Auriemma feels, affects how a young woman plays on the court. Poor body language and attitude translate to a poor attitude and performance both on and off the court. And that may well be true in just about every situation we find ourselves in. It’s all about attitude and how we respond to situations, whether it’s in conversations, relationships, or team play. A positive attitude translates to a higher degree of success. It sets the tone and leaves one with optimism and an expectation of success in work and in play.

As we watch and cheer on our favorite teams in the next two weeks, I for one will be observing team attitudes both on the court and on the bench. I’m going to watch body language, team spirit, sportsmanship, and attitudes of the players and coaches. I’d like to believe that those with the greatest success will be those with the most positive attitudes, but at the same time, let’s observe those that lose as well. That’s where attitude from coaches and players says it all. Where there is grace and sportsmanship in defeat, there we will likely find the best role models and strength of character. Therein lie the teachable moments for our kids. That’s where true champions can be found.

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

So much of what happens within a school day is about communication and how we relate to one another. From the time a student steps on campus and then into a classroom, the daily interaction between teachers and students begins. Our young Kindergarten students muster a great deal of courage on the first day of school as they move from spending a large percentage of their day with parents or caregivers to a new relationship with their classroom teacher.  The many hats that a teacher will wear in the course of a day include instructor, nurturer, coach, nurse, surrogate parent, counselor, friend, and cheerleader.

Teaching takes place all day long. It happens on many levels. On one level, it may appear to be all about academic instruction. On a deeper level, however, are important life skills that are constantly being taught from Kindergarten through eighth grade. Students are learning to share, to care, to communicate, and to be part of a community. They are learning that relationships take time and take patience. They are learning to be friends with others and how to mend friendships when relationships are hurt or broken. Students are learning values and establishing their own moral compasses that will provide the foundation for good choices going forward. At St. Michael’s, the faculty and staff not only teach and serve as role models for the students, but also work hard to remove obstacles to learning in order for students to reach success.  This is why it is not unusual to see faculty and staff mingling among students on the playground, in the courtyards, at lunch, or at break. Our ears are constantly open, and relationships are constantly being built, in order to foster an atmosphere in which students feel valued, respected, cared for, and supported.

It truly does take a village to raise a child, and it is an honor to be a part of this chapter of our students’ lives. At St. Michael’s,  students are discovering themselves and embracing who they are in a community of leaders, learners, and friends. It takes time and energy, patience and courage, but at the end of the day we see confident students emerge who will leave their own mark on this world.

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

And we’re off! The third and final trimester of the school year has begun. It never ceases to amaze me that we arrive at this point, and suddenly the end of the year seems much too close. There is so much left to do and a finite amount of time in which to accomplish it. In Chapel on Monday, I reminded our students that, using a baseball analogy, we are on third base and rounding the corner toward home plate. Rather than walk into home, why not run in, sliding across the plate and exclaiming, “Wow! That was an amazing year!” Our students work hard throughout the year. They play hard as well and often stretch themselves not only to try something new but work toward mastery in the process. It’s a delicate balance, trying to achieve goals while being mindful of the importance of growth and learning through the process.

All of us have difficulties at times finding that right balance. Being the often driven person that I am, I can hold myself to impossible standards.  I am well aware that many of our students do as well.  Striving to have a growth mindset rather than one that is fixed, however, enables me to allow for flexibility and acceptance of myself along the way. It’s not a matter of settling for something less. Rather, I can strive to do my best, learning and growing along the way, setting realistic goals, even at my more senior age. That’s the power of “yet.” It’s not so important what we achieve in the end, but rather what is being accomplished and learned in the process along the way. For our students, when they figuratively slide into home base at the end of the school year, my hope is that we can help them to recognize how far they have come, being proud of what they learned in the process, knowing that they have grown tremendously. So off we go, rounding third base. As we complete the year, may we all celebrate a year well lived with much progress achieved along the way.

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

On Thursday evening, our campus will be a happening place! Not only will we be welcoming visiting families as they tour our school, but we will be having a “STEMazing” opportunity to see Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math at work. Our STEM Festival will feature our students and the research they have done in proving, or disproving, scientific hypotheses. We will have student reports on famous inventors and young researchers from our Lower School demonstrating our amazing sense of smell and the integration with taste buds. Science and language arts will be intertwined as middle school students share original science-fiction stories.  In addition, we have invited the Tucson community to join us. We’ll have experts in optics, laser games, physics challenges, and brain games for all ages. Scientists will be roaming around, eager to share what they do and how their careers evolved. This is all part of our expanding STEM initiative from K-8, which is broadening our understanding of the connections throughout various areas of study, including how Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, as well as Art, Music, and Religion are linked together and complement one another.

Our growing STEM program at St. Michael’s is a result of our capital campaign and our commitment to bringing a greater presence of STEM education into our curriculum and school program. Funds raised through our capital campaign, Charting Our Course for the Future, are helping to support these efforts. Our STEM Festival is just one example of this initiative. Other examples include our growing robotics elective and presence at area competitions; our increasing presence at local and regional math competitions; and our expanding relationships with the University of Arizona STEM programs as well as with the scientific community at Raytheon. Across the board, our faculty is taking part in local and state professional development opportunities that provide tools for integrating STEM elements into classroom activities and into a variety of subjects from Kindergarten through middle school.

It’s an exciting time on the St. Michael’s campus and, as we look to next year, our students can expect to see even more opportunities to explore their world and expand their understanding of the relevance and connections between what is being studied and learned. I am grateful to the members of our faculty as they embrace this initiative and engage our young learners. It’s a team effort as we prepare our students to think critically and dream big! At St. Michael’s, there’s a balance between answering questions and questioning answers; a balance between discovering yourself and discovering your world.

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

It seems as of late, every which way we turn, we run into “us vs. them.” On a school level, this isn’t always unusual as our students learn to build healthy friendships and relationships. Things can be going along swimmingly until exclusion happens or comments are made that result in hurt feelings or broken relationships.  We try to use these important teachable moments to present a different way to be friends, to be in community. This can be difficult in present times, however, when there is a more extreme sense of differing opinions, many of which are publicly made through the news and varying forms of social media and electronic communication. There seem to be no boundaries. For many of our students, as they become plugged into electronic devices, habits are quickly formed around postings and messages that would never be said directly to someone. So how can we possibly find better ways to build bridges rather than walls? The words offered by Saint Francis provide a model for us to follow.

In our chapel program on Monday, as we concluded our conversations about justice, we discussed approaches we can take when we have disagreements with friends and relations, particularly when relationships seem to be broken or damaged. First, we need to listen. I am the first to admit that sometimes I speak before I listen and, as a result, I make assumptions that might be incorrect. Perhaps the other person feels misunderstood and unheard, which leads to the second point, seek to understand.  When we can listen and understand another person’s viewpoint or perception of the situation, we are much more likely to erase assumptions and be able to offer solutions. Talking about someone rather than to someone does not provide solutions. As we all know, it’s difficult to fix a problem until we know what it is. Communication and relationships are two-way streets, so the more we can give people the benefit of the doubt, the more likely we are to enter into reconciliation. When we can listen and gain a better understanding, we are in a position to forgive or ask for forgiveness, which begins the important process of healing in a relationship. When communication has once again been established, we can bring joy back in through generosity of action and spirit. This opens the door for love to enter in.

In this process, we can live into the prayer of Saint Francis, being instruments of peace, sowing love, offering pardon, having faith, offering hope, being the light, and spreading joy. Of course this is easier said than done, but each day offers us the opportunity to move forward, and so we begin again.

Margaret Moore

Head of School