Notes from the Head

This Sunday, October 22, St. Michael’s School and St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church will join together to celebrate our Episcopal school. Across the country and beyond, Episcopal schools and churches have been celebrating the educational ministry of Episcopal schools during the month of October. For 59 years, St. Michael’s has been committed to our mission to foster the intellectual, physical, artistic, ethical, and spiritual development of its students. It seeks to do this in a traditional Episcopal setting, nourishing a community of students and faculty from all social, economic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. Since the Rev. John Fowler first envisioned a school that would teach the children of Tucson to read, to write, to cipher, to sing, and to pray, our school has been true to its mission. Our graduates have gone on to be game-changers, not only academically but also by the examples they set in thought, word, and deed.

I have been associated with Episcopal schools for more than four decades. As a student, a parent, a trustee, and a school Head, Episcopal schools and the people within have shaped my life and that of my children. The buildings have all been different, but consistently the teachers and staff as well as the students have made the difference. Episcopal schools are inclusive, celebrating the diversity that makes our schools special. We learn from each other, young and old, and we care deeply about one another as if we were all true family. Moreover, in essence, that is what we are. Our schools ARE family. We are villages of education in mind, body, and spirit where together we not only learn about academic subjects but how to be good people with sound moral compasses. Episcopal schools have a deep tradition of inclusion and open inquiry. Our schools:

  • Affirm the spiritual dimension of learning that values both faith and reason.
  • Create and nurture a community of leaders who foster partnerships, mutual support, and professional growth.
  • Promote personal formation through moral, spiritual, intellectual, creative, physical, and social development.
  • Create supportive communities through worship, learning, pastoral care, and community service.
  • Recognize, appreciate, and support diversity within school communities.

By gathering on a daily basis for worship, for service, for study, for reflection, and for character formation, St. Michael’s, like many Episcopal schools, changes lives. There is a deep commitment throughout our halls, and that commitment is to the people within our classrooms, our offices, our community, and beyond. There is a love that exists at St. Michael’s that often goes beyond words. The intangible qualities can be hard to express. This, however, is what makes us “Soar with Eagles.” This is what sets us apart. It is what makes us proud to say, “We are St. Michael’s.” We are learners, leaders, and friends.

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

The response was overwhelming! Just as the summer came to an end and schools began to prepare to open, the hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico began to take form, producing three record-setting storms. Hurricane Harvey, the first of these, slammed into the southeastern coast of Texas, bringing devastating wind, rain, and floods. Houston and surrounding areas saw unprecedented flooding, which affected not only residences and businesses but churches and schools as well. The Southwestern Association of Episcopal Schools stepped up to support affected schools in Texas. Many of those schools were paired with unaffected schools from Louisiana to Arizona. St. Michael’s partner school, Holy Spirit Episcopal School, has now become our sister school. Our community has risen to the call.

Since the beginning of September, St. Michael’s has been collecting gift cards and raising money to support Holy Spirit Episcopal School in Houston. This K-8 school is similar to St. Michael’s, and so it has been easy to imagine how we would feel if a similar natural disaster happened here. Seeing pictures of the devastation and hearing the stories of community support have touched us. We have offered prayers, words of encouragement, pictures of compassion, and now gifts that will help people to rebuild. This week we will send over $2,500 in gift cards to our sister school which will be distributed to families affected by Hurricane Harvey in their community. Our carwash alone raised more than $1,500 for the cause, drawing support from both the school and parish community. Our hearts have been filled with gratitude for the generosity and compassion shown by the St. Michael’s community. Truly, it will make a difference for many.

And that, my friends, is what compassion is about. Compassion is to suffer with, to share the burden, to feel what someone else feels, to reach out in kindness and with care for another person. Our students come to understand compassion on many levels. When a friend skins a knee, one knows how that feels and can reach out with care. If words sometimes hurt feelings, we know how that feels, and amends can be made. When disappointment and loss make us sad, others reach out because they have perhaps experienced that as well. Compassion results in people reaching out to people to make a difference. It comes from the heart. Compassion reaches across boundaries to make lives better. When we can respond from the heart, healing begins. The compassion shown by the St. Michael’s community to the Holy Spirit community has now established a bond that extends beyond the immediate need. Together we have come to understand the value of compassion. The gift cards are a tangible reminder of a more priceless gift that comes from our heart. Thank you, St. Michael’s! Yet again, our community is making our world a better place.

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

In a world that seems to grow more polarized every day with angry, hurtful words hurled through cyberspace at lightning speed, it is refreshing to take refuge among the community of St. Michael’s. Here we can talk about the virtue of Goodness, and our students actually try to make someone’s day better by random acts of kindness. A smile, a gentle word, an invitation to join in a game, encouragement to be a part of a circle of friends. Every day we see examples of people trying to do the right thing simply because, well, it’s the right thing to do.

In Monday Chapel this week, I shared three random acts of kindness in which people went out of their way to be kind. The first occurred when a student approached me following a school event, sadly sharing that he had lost $20 out of his pocket. Now, for most of our kiddos, that’s a large sum. I felt bad for him and told him I would keep an eye open for it as we cleaned up. In my mind, I was sure it was gone. “Oh, yea of little faith!” The following Monday, that $20 was turned in by a parent who had found it on the floor. Upon hearing that, we were immediately able to connect the owner with the lost bill.

The second random act came in the form of a call to the school. A man phoned to say that he had seen what appeared to be a binder in the middle of the road being repeatedly run over by cars. He stopped to retrieve the notebook, looked inside, and identified the owner as a student from St. Michael’s. He called the school and offered to return it. He noted that, yes, the homework was complete and appeared done correctly! Not only did he return the binder to the school; he also took the time to purchase a new one to replace the one badly damaged with “road rash.” A stranger who took the time to do the right thing made something good happen for someone else.

And, finally, following a class trip to our neighborhood library, one of the librarians found a sweater left by a student. Rather than put it in the library “lost and found,” she took the time to return it to St. Michael’s. With cooler temperatures on the way, she was concerned that the child just might be looking for that sweater and need it the next morning. Once again, someone took the time to do something good for someone else simply because it was the right thing to do.

These simple but meaningful acts of kindness and goodness went so far in bringing joy and happiness to other people. Perhaps if we keep our eyes open each day for opportunities to practice our own random acts of kindness and goodness, we will have more good news to tweet about, filling cyberspace with positive words of encouragement rather than words that separate us. It would certainly make my day a whole lot brighter. It’s a reminder that we have more that unites us than divides us. Relationships are built one kind word or act at a time, and so that’s where we begin.

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

Several times a year, we place a half-day in our schedule, setting aside intentional time for our faculty to meet together, learn together, and grow together as a professional group. Although most of our teachers routinely attend workshops and conferences during the year that address their area of expertise, having time together as a faculty and staff is important.

This year we are including, as a part of our professional development, a focus on health and wellness. With that in mind, this Wednesday our topic is Mindfulness, and our facilitator is well versed in guiding teachers in better self-care through mindful practices. As we begin our school year together, this is a terrific place to launch our focus on better self-care.

So why is this important? Self-care is important because when teachers take care of themselves, the students benefit. Teaching is one of the most challenging and stressful occupations, but also one that is often the most rewarding. Our teachers change lives. They play an amazing role in guiding each student to set goals and work toward the achievement of those goals. They serve as cheerleaders, sages, guides, people of wisdom, and models of a positive mindset. Our teachers give 110% every day, all day, to the students they shepherd through the school year. Teachers play key roles in shaping young lives and leave fingerprints on the hearts of them forever. In doing so, however, a teacher’s job is never done. Work continues long into the night after the final bell has rung. And when the alarm goes off in the morning, they begin again with the same dedication.

Therefore, it is important that we encourage our teachers and administrators to take care of themselves. When we feel good, our students benefit. When we are healthy in mind, body, and spirit, we model that for our students. Health and wellness pay benefits well beyond the individual. It behooves us to encourage positive self-care because, as we say at St. Michael’s, “at the end of the day, it’s all about the kids,” and those kids are worth every bit of our effort.

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

I had the realization, as I prepared for our All-School Chapel on Monday, that none of our students had experienced 9/11. This year marked the sixteenth anniversary of the event that significantly changed our country. We did not so much dwell on the events of that day in our chapel conversation but rather on the goodness of humanity that was evident as hands across our country reached out to help and to hold one another.

The same goodness and compassion that many of us saw around the 9/11 experience was once again seen in the affected areas in Texas from Hurricane Harvey and, now, in Florida and the Caribbean from Hurricane Irma. People reaching out to those in need. Neighbor helping neighbor without regard for race, religion, national origin, neighborhood, lifestyle, or political orientation. All of that is put aside and we pull together to do what we can. It is what we do well in this country. It is when we truly demonstrate that we are united states. It is when we show that we are all Americans and stand as one. Heroes rise up. Generosity flows. Differences are put aside, and compassion is demonstrated in many ways.

As we focus on the value of Goodness this month, we need not look far to see examples of the natural goodness in people. There are so many acts of goodness, large and small, that we can point out to our young students, calling their attention to the many ways they can make a difference for someone else. When our children can see that even the smallest acts of kindness, goodness, and compassion make a large difference, they will reach out in turn to make good things happen for other people. Some people can write the large checks, which certainly makes a big difference. When I see our children look for ways to be generous, kind, and good to someone else, however, I am comforted in knowing that the examples we set as adults model a way for them to change the world, one person at a time. In that way, our children then lead us.

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Hurricane Relief Efforts at St. Michael’s

In recent weeks, major hurricanes struck Texas and Florida. The emotional, physical, and financial toll these devastating storms has on families can leave lasting effects, and the recovery efforts extend long after the storm has passed. The Southwest Association of Episcopal Schools quickly responded by offering resource information to schools in our association, pairing unaffected schools with affected schools to offer support and encouragement. St. Michael’s has volunteered to be a part of that outreach ministry. We now have a “sister” school in Houston. Holy Spirit Episcopal School is a preschool–eighth grade program with approximately 250 students enrolled. We have been in contact with the Head of School at HSES and are reaching out to help in multiple ways. So how can we help?

Although the school itself had only minor physical damage, members of their school community lost much. The Head of School has suggested that the greatest help would be gift cards that could be given to families as they begin to restore their homes and furnishings. This type of donation gives assistance to families to purchase what they need to replace and rebuild. Gift cards from Target, Walmart, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Visa, or Master Card, in any amount one chooses to donate, will be collected in the School Office and sent to Holy Spirit Episcopal School in Houston, Texas, for distribution. You may learn more about Holy Spirit at www.hses.org.

In addition, our students will be sending cards, student art, and photographs, offering our prayers and support as the recovery efforts continue this fall. Our Student Council has designated the September Mass collection for Episcopal Relief and Development, the outreach ministry of the Episcopal Church. Additional donations for both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma can be made through Episcopal Relief and Development, earmarked for Hurricane Relief, www.support.episcopalrelief.org.

Notes from the Head

The beginning of the school year is a very intense period. Our faculty returns during August, working in the heat to unpack supplies, rearrange furniture, put up fresh classroom décor, and study curricula in order to prepare engaging lesson plans. As the countdown to the first day of school began, so began the process of intake conferences, where teachers are all ears, learning as much as possible about each child from the perspective of parents. Our culminating events are our Curriculum Nights, when parents gather in class groups to hear how the year will unfold for the students. As we arrived at Labor Day weekend, everyone, including faculty, staff, parents, and children, took a deep breath, relaxed for a bit, and regrouped for the fall term. Yes, it takes a lot of energy, planning, and preparation time on the part of everyone to open the school year. It is, however, time well spent.

The important thing to note, however, is that St. Michael’s enjoys a very deep partnership with parents. This partnership is the essential piece. Our common focus is the child. Our goal, whether for teacher or parent, is to do all that we can to support the success of our students. Relationships are important. Communication is important. Trust between all parties is important. Every single teacher and every staff member wants each school year to be the best yet. To say that we are passionate about what we do would not be an exaggeration. We are willing to go to great lengths to see the light go on and a smile of understanding on a student’s face. To hear the words “I finally get it!” is music to our ears.

As we hit the ground running in our first trimester this fall, I want to thank our partners: our parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles. This partnership is the key to our success as a school and, more importantly, to the success of our students. We invest our time in them. We all believe in them. Whether we are sometimes the sage on stage or, better yet, the guide on the side, it is our privilege to be a part of this chapter in the lives of our students. Together, we will make good things happen every single day. Hand in hand, we will accomplish our goals. Therefore off we go. The year has launched. Already we are seeing big dreams coming true.

 

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

As our first week of school concluded, our fourth through eighth grade students brought their backpacks to Friday Chapel to have them blessed for the year. As a follow up on Monday, three eager Kindergarten students helped me to unpack my own backpack, which was loaded for the day. As we unpacked, the students found my laptop, my snack, my water bottle, my math book, my notebook, and my planner. These are common items that each student brings to school each day and can create a rather heavy load.

In addition, however, we found several other “items” that frequently find their way to school with our students and add a much heavier weight to their backpack and to their day. Those might include worry, fear, guilt, shame, and anxiety. Perhaps a student is worried about making new friends, or finding her way to a new classroom, or remembering her locker code, or forgetting her P.E. uniform. Maybe a student is embarrassed or afraid he will be in trouble for any one of these things. Maybe there is a forgotten homework assignment or a lack of confidence in material that is included on a quiz. Perhaps there is worry about leaving Mom or Dad for the whole day as one adjusts to a new school schedule. There are so many reasons why a student might worry, and that worry can lead to fear, guilt, shame, and anxiety. The baggage can be heavy, and that silent baggage can make or break a day for a student.

My Kindergarten helpers helped me find some other “items,” however, that we could bring to school to take away the heavier thoughts and burdens. If we can bring joy, a big smile, kind words, a positive mindset, forgiveness, and friendship for everyone, the worry, fear, guilt, shame, and anxiety may lessen or go away. When we can extend compassion to one another and a listening ear of understanding, our “backpacks” will become much lighter. Each one of us has the opportunity to make the day better for someone else. The challenge to everyone as we begin the school year is to be kind, smile, listen, be positive, and reach out to be that friend who can make something good happen for other people. It’s an easy challenge to accept. Already, my backpack feels lighter!

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

We’re off and running into a new school year. From faculty and staff to each of our students, we have accepted the challenge to Dream Big, working together to make those dreams come true. And what would be my dream for our school and for our students this year? Well, I’d love for all of us to work together to ensure that this school continues to be a place where everyone feels welcomed, encouraged, accepted, appreciated, and celebrated for who they are and the unique talents they bring to our community.

As I reminded our students on our first day of school, each one of us carries gifts inside of us. But like a beautifully wrapped gift that goes unopened, how sad it would be if we chose not to open the gifts we have been given. Would not the gift-giver feel a bit of sadness that something special was left “on the shelf?” If he has a love for singing, then let him sing. If she lights up when on stage performing, then encourage her to perform. If she shines in math class, showing excitement over the challenge of equations, then by all means celebrate that love for math. Or perhaps he thrills at the sense of inquiry that comes with scientific investigation; then let’s celebrate that gift as well. One of the daily thrills that we see in our school is the passion that is ignited on many levels by our faculty as students discover new gifts and talents in the classroom, on stage, in the athletic arena, or in academic competitions. It is our job to encourage the questions, aid in the discovery of answers, challenge minds, inspire hearts, and, in the process, be a part in a student’s discovery of self.

We are here to make good things happen for our students and for each other. Amidst the constant negative rhetoric that seems to be before us and our students every day, my dream for our school is that we will be able to demonstrate a different model. Beginning with kindness and compassion and ending in love, my dream is that our students will be an example of how a community can celebrate the variety of gifts and talents we can unwrap and share with one another, celebrating our diversity within an inclusive environment. As we all “Dream Big” for the year ahead, may we all choose to be kind, to show compassion to one another, to be a friend to many, and to show gratitude for the gifts and talents that are being discovered every day. The vision is lofty, but I believe that dreams do come true. At the end of the day, it will be our children that will make this world a better place. So off we go, as we make big dreams come true.

Margaret Moore

Head of School

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