Notes from the Head

When young prospective students and parents come to visit our school, along with other admissions materials we will give the child a little stuffed baby eagle. Not only is the eagle our mascot, but I believe it is fitting that we give a little eagle to little children who are launching their formal education with us. At St. Michael’s School, our students are in a nest, of sorts, and it is in our magical nest that we raise them up to be successful scholars. It is our job, in partnership with parents, not only to give them roots but also wings as they grow. As the eighth grade year progresses, we see the wings push out and our big eagles poised to soar. They are ready to fly, ready to leave our nest, ready to conquer the world of high school and beyond. They are empowered to be leaders, scholars, and more. Some take off on their own while others may need a gentle nudge, but off they will fly beyond our walls.

As a parent, I did not find it to be always easy nudging my own children out of the “nest.” There were days, I will admit, when that departure did not seem to come soon enough. On the other hand, just as I did when each left to go to Kindergarten, I shed more than a few tears as each left for college and beyond. My husband and I knew we had done our job in the best way that we could, but there were still millions of thoughts of things left unsaid or lessons left untaught. In spite of us and perhaps because of us, the roots had gone deep and the wings were poised for flight. Each was ready to move on at each stage of the game.

As I look at not only our eighth grade class but also our Kindergarteners and above, I know they are ready to move forward with excitement and anticipation. Each teacher looks at his or her class and takes a deep breath as the students move forward. We feel a possessiveness, for they have been ours for nine months of school. We have all done our best to teach each child, to encourage each child, to establish a moral compass in each child in order to prepare them for their next chapter. We have known them and we have loved them just as they are right now, and for who we know they will be as they grow and mature. Like parents, we are as proud of them as they grow, and we cheer from the side of the St. Michael’s nest as they soar with strong eagle wings.

As the last week of school comes, we are all grateful for the opportunity to have had each child in our classrooms and in the magical kingdom of St. Michael’s. Thank you to all you parents for sharing these gems with us and for trusting us with them as they grow. To be a part of this chapter of their lives during these formative years is indeed a privilege. What a joy it has been. Now watch them soar.

Margaret Delk Moore

Head of School

 

Notes from the Head

When I reflect back over all of the teachers I had as a student, including the professors I had in college, I can remember almost every single one. I remember their personalities, their style of teaching, and the encounters I had, both positive and negative. Their patience seemed never ending. Their enthusiasm and passion for teaching were often contagious, and they became my role models as I became a parent and then as an administrator. There were certain teachers whose influence on my education was profound. I majored in history because of two teachers who made the past come alive, and I later devoted myself to an advanced degree study on character formation because of the influence of a professor of ethics. Others taught me perseverance, particularly when the subject matter was hard, and I learned how to write through the constructive critique of my English teachers. The point is that teachers have tremendous influence on us as we progress through formal education, and often it is the more informal instruction that leaves the deepest impression. I believe to teach is to answer a vocational call. Our future depends on teachers. As teacher/ astronaut Christa McAuliffe once said, “I touch the future. I teach.”

As we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week next week at St. Michael’s, I will be the first one to say “thank you” to the men and women who give their heart and soul to our students. Our success as a school has everything to do with the quality of instruction our students. Our graduates, who go on to achieve at the highest level in high school and college, are the measure our success. When graduates return to visit, they repeatedly give credit for their success to the foundation laid at St. Michael’s School. I am deeply grateful for our teachers, for their dedication, for their commitment to each child, and for the sacrifices they make in order to put the needs of their students first. Teachers do make a difference, and each becomes a special chapter in the lives of the children they teach. To the faculty at St. Michael’s, we salute you!

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

On Tuesday, as I was speaking with a colleague, a group of students who looked vaguely familiar walked by my door. As I rushed to catch up to them, grins and hugs greeted me from alumni boys who are now juniors in high school, returning to campus for our alumni celebration. The young adolescents who left us at the end of eighth grade had grown to be young men who are eagerly planning for college in another year. They talked about high school, how well prepared they were, their dreams for the future, and their continued love for St. Michael’s. It was a proud moment for me, as if they were my own boys. As I looked at them, I knew we had done our job well.

At St. Michael’s School, we have a community of families that are in partnership with us in raising children in mind, body, and spirit. We bring students in and treat them as our own. We work to prepare them for high school, shaping them as students who will make a difference in this world. We strive to instill a growth mindset as they learn new and complex concepts. We encourage them to reach for excellence, rather than perfection. As students grow and mature each year, their moral compass becomes shaped and defined. The values they carry forward become the foundation for the daily decisions and conduct for the rest of their lives. In short, we make a difference, and our alums who live the St. Michael’s values well beyond our adobe walls are the proof.

Each year, our eighth grade class visits the Capitol during their trip to Washington, D.C. They meet with our representatives to Congress and have the opportunity to ask questions regarding the operation of our government. Following this year’s trip, an alum who met our students during their visit to the Capitol took the time to send me a note regarding his interaction with our students. “Over the years, I have seen countless middle schoolers out here, and I can genuinely say that the St. Michael’s kids are far and away the most impressive. They listened patiently as Rep. McSally and two other D.C. alums spoke to them. They then proceeded to ask some very high-level questions about government, life in D.C., and how St. Michael’s prepared us for life. All of us were absolutely blown away.” Mr. Ridings also added, “St. Michael’s provided me with an incredible foundation for success, and I am positive that my peers would echo the same.”

Our alums speak volumes as they carry St. Michael’s into the world. From our enthusiastic high school students to those who have left college for careers, their actions speak louder than words, and St. Michael’s remains deeply embedded in their hearts. For that, I am grateful for, at the end of the day, we know we have done our job well. It is a privilege to be a special chapter in our students’ lives.

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

Have you ever watched people waiting? Waiting for the train. Waiting for the plane to land. Waiting for the kids to arrive home. Waiting for Christmas to come. Waiting to grow up. Some people are calm, while others are pacing and fretting and worrying about delays. We all have had our ongoing experiences with patience as well as the opposite, impatience.

When I polled our students in our Monday morning chapel about patience, it should not be surprising that when asked who had experienced impatience, practically the entire school raised hands. Children are not good at waiting. Patience is usually in short supply. They want to be good at whatever they try to do…immediately! They want to go from a beginner to an expert in record time. And, if they don’t at first succeed? Well, it is easier to give up than to try and try again. They do know, however, that indeed to try and try again is what they must do. Perfection is not the goal, but excellence is. A growth mindset supports that philosophy, instilling the idea that the power of YET keeps the mind open to the growth that will come with persistence, practice, and patience.

We have incredible students at St. Michael’s, and they work hard, most often, to be their best. Many hold themselves to a very high standard that does not allow room for imperfection. They want to be taller, faster, smarter, better. However, all of that takes time, and it takes patience. Patience with the process, and patience with themselves. I reminded the kiddos there are two groups that have an extraordinary amount of patience in their life: teachers and parents. They identified both right away. Parents and teachers are patient as children grow. They know that with growth comes the occasional failure, and with failure important life lessons are learned. One of the most important lessons we can teach our children and students is to be patient with themselves. Why? Because God is not finished with them YET. So deep breaths…all will be well. Good things come to those who wait!

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

Last Saturday evening, we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in fine style at the Savoy Opera House, the location for our annual Gala auction. A good time was had by all. In the process of having fun, we raised friends and funds for our school. Although the Gala is months in preparation, the final days find teachers, staff, and parent-volunteers coming together to transform the Savoy into a magical place. To see the number of moms, dads, friends, and families working together was indeed gratifying. Truly, we could not have done the necessary work without the many hands that worked together. For everyone that participated in any way, my thanks go out to you. The power of the community working together was magnificent.

When I first arrived for an official visit to St. Michael’s, it was the weekend of Art Expo. As I toured and observed the school, visited classrooms, and talked with faculty and parents, I was overwhelmed by the passion for this school. Volunteers were everywhere that day, hanging artwork, putting up decorations, running errands, and organizing for the evening. There were smiles, lots of laughter, constant conversations, and a sense of joy in the work they were doing. After all, it was for the school and for the children, the key reason we do most everything at St. Michael’s School. At the end of the day, it is always about the kids.

What I have learned over the years I have worked in schools is that volunteers give their time and energy not so much out of obligation, but rather out of passion, commitment, and a desire to contribute to the cause. At St. Michael’s, we depend on our volunteers to help us carry out our program. We are partners in the process. With a calendar full of special events, as well as our routine needs such as monitoring the playground during recesses, volunteers are an essential piece. Whether it’s for an hour or two, or regularly volunteering to help with events, we are grateful for the support of volunteers. They truly make a difference.

As we get into the spring season at St. Michael’s, please consider volunteering to help with an upcoming special event such as Art Expo, an SMA event, or perhaps serving routinely as a playground monitor, helping to ensure the safety of our students. It takes a village to run a school, and every person at St. Michael’s plays a part in the successful operation. Thank you, dear volunteers, for all you do. You are amazing.

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

It was an emotionally moving morning. At 10:00 a.m., our Middle School students and faculty gathered on the athletic field for seventeen minutes in a circle. Fourteen students and three faculty members formed an inner circle, and each read a short biography of a student or faculty member who lost his or her life one month ago in Parkland, Florida, due to gun violence. Many of the students targeted at that Florida high school were fourteen at the time. Lighted votive candles for each of the seventeen students and teachers were arranged in a circle with a white carnation beside it. We prayed together and then quietly returned to the daily routine. There were hugs and some tears, as would be expected. Sadly, it was a reminder of the world we live in and innocence that is lost much too soon. Yet, as I stood in the circle with our precious students and faculty, I was struck by the compassion, love, and care that flowed among us. The circles got smaller as we moved closer together.

When I speak with prospective parents, I share with them how special this school is, and I often say that our kids are normal kids. In reality, however, our students are anything but normal. Why is that? Because they know how to be kind and because they love their classmates. All of them. In spite of differences they may occasionally have, our students would do just about anything to help a friend or member of our student community. Compassion runs deep, so when one member suffers, we all suffer. I have seen students come to talk with a teacher, an administrator, our nurse, or our chaplain because they are worried about a friend. In that same vein, adults in the community will approach a student that may seem sad, too quiet, or alone. The kindness and compassion I see every day make a difference. Every child is noticed, and rarely does someone slip below the radar. All of this contributes to making this a place where students feel comfortable, cared for, and safe. Perhaps it is why there are so many tears when we say our goodbyes at the end of each year.

Today, we remembered the fourteen young lives that ended too soon. Today, we remembered the adults who stood beside them and in front of them because they cared. Today, we were reminded that having the courage to be kind, to care, and to reach out to one another gives us all strength and makes the burdens we might carry a little bit lighter. This is just one of many reasons why St. Michael’s is special. Here in our community, we care.

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

My heart has been heavy for the last two weeks. In the midst of a day that focused on hearts and love, tragic news greeted us in the late afternoon that yet one more school had been the center of violence at the hands of a troubled teen. I shed a few tears and said prayers on behalf of those whose grief will forever run deep. Surely, everyone felt the heartache of a school, a community, and our nation.

So how should we respond in our school to such tragic news? What is the right answer? Always, our goal is to do all that we can to ensure that our students do not worry and that they feel school is a safe and secure place. In fact, even though it may be hard to remember at the moment, our schools are incredibly safe. Our students are surrounded each day by a cadre of “momma and papa bears.” We are vigilant, alert, visible, and present at all times. We have safety procedures in place, and we practice them routinely. Our students know to always follow their teacher’s guidance and lead. As law enforcement officers have instructed us, we are, in fact, the local first responders. We take that responsibility seriously. In addition, and of great importance, we know our students. We work hard to build trusting relationships with them, and we provide compassionate, listening ears. Our teachers are attuned to the emotional needs of the students and they reach out, offering support with loving care. To be sure, the open communication and partnership we share with parents on behalf of our students is a key ingredient.

The message that we continue to emphasize with our students is the importance of kindness and compassion shown toward one another. It begins with how we, the adults, model this for them. We cannot state loudly and often enough the effect that kind words and the listening ear of a friend, a teacher, or a colleague contribute to making not only a safe and secure environment for our students, but also a place where they know that they belong. These simple actions have the ability to drive out the fear that could consume us, replacing it instead with love. My prayer is that each day we may all enter this sacred space we call St. Michael’s, trusting that the One who has gone before us, also walks with us each day along the road.

Margaret Moore

Head of School

 

Notes from the Head

She came into the courtyard quietly. Her head was slightly down, and there was only the hint of a smile on her face. Clearly, there was some anxiety, some cautiousness about her, and some reluctance to breathe deeply and enjoy the moment. Then the music started. The steel drum band was in full swing, dancing and playing to the rhythms that flowed from the instruments. One by one, students got up and began to move to the music. Someone started a conga line, and another simply began to dance by himself in the middle of the courtyard. Suddenly there she was, stepping cautiously into the midst of the crowd at the invitation of a teacher, joining the dancing with the child-like spirit that infected the crowd. Then I saw it. A huge smile, some laughter, and a deep breath that allowed her to relax into the fun-filled moment. The children were laughing, bouncing, singing, moving, as if the music had become part of their soul. I watched with my own sense of joy as the students became playful children, dancing and moving with the beat of the music, simply having a great time being kids. I, too, joined in. As I looked around, from the youngest child to the oldest adult, it was a joyful sight to see smiles, laughter, dancing, and playful spirits together.

This is what I love about St. Michael’s School. Our students work hard, as do the faculty and staff. Everyone takes his or her work seriously, but at the same time we try to pause often enough simply to have fun. We are focused on academics but also are free to laugh and be silly in the moment. There is structure but flexibility. There is occasional sadness, but also a depth of compassion that touches hearts. There is space for wonder and for exploration, igniting the desire to learn more. We become community and family as friendships grow.

Each day, I am reminded of the important work that we do as I read the following statement, which hangs before me. It is affirmation for each of us who works in this place, and it describes the commitment we have to each other, young and old. It is our vocational call to the young scholars we serve. Clearly, they are our joy:

As Episcopal school leaders, we enter each day, each “crowded way of life,” not single-handedly, but with the One who has gone before and walks with us now on the road. We encounter those wounded in spirit and soul, the sad ones, the anxious ones, and for a few moments, in the humblest way possible, we are the manifestation of God to them, some Love incarnate that allows them to see more clearly and breathe a little easier. And we have done our work…for today.

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

This past weekend, St. Michael’s School presented The Lion King. The performance by our third through eighth grade students was spectacular. From the sets to the make-up, the music, and the enthusiasm of the cast, this year’s musical received rave reviews from the 900+ in attendance. The Lion King was the perfect musical to end the month of January and our ongoing conversations with students regarding the value of courage.

Courage is demonstrated in many different ways. It might be in doing something challenging or trying something that has never been attempted before. Perhaps for some of our young thespians, being on stage for the first time might have taken a tremendous amount of courage. For others, it might take courage to be kind, to be compassionate, and to speak up on behalf of a friend. Courage is shown through bravery and in the challenge of a difficult task. The hardest form of courage, however, might well be in the courage it takes to be yourself. A strong motto for our young, growing students may well be, “I have the courage to be me!”

In The Lion King, Mufasa spoke to his son and future king, Simba, challenging him to look within to find his strength. “Never forget who you are,” said Mufasa. That, too, is the message we give to our students as they grow up into their best selves. It takes courage to be yourself rather than a copy of everyone else. Sadly, our students face, almost on a daily basis, images of what they perceive they should look like or how they should behave. Comparisons are made with others rather than embracing the beauty within. Girls compare themselves with pictures seen in magazines or through social media sources. They judge themselves by what they see in others. Boys want to be taller, faster, stronger, or bigger based on comparisons they, too, make with images before them.

As Mufasa pointed out to young Simba, your strength is found within. The character of Mufasa reminds us, “Never forget who you are.” The message our students began the week with in All-School Chapel, Have the courage to be you, is the message I hope they will keep tucked in the forefront of their minds going forward. Each student here, each boy and girl, is beautiful, strong, capable, and bright in his or her own right. Having the courage to embrace the beauty within, never forgetting who they are, is perhaps the greatest expression of courage our students can show, and it opens the door to a wealth of possibilities as life unfolds for each one.

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

On Friday of last week, our middle school students, parent-volunteers, and faculty piled into cars, SUVs, and vans to head out into the Tucson community for a day of service. With more than one hundred students working at six different agency locations for most of the day, their service did make a difference in the lives of others, including some furry friends. As we have talked about the work that Martin Luther King, Jr. did on behalf of others by quietly preaching peace, justice, and equality for all people, it is important that our students learn early that no matter how big or small, acts of kindness and compassion on behalf of others do make a difference.

In the disturbing climate found in our country today, it seems even more critical for our schools to be alternative voices to the negative rhetoric that we continue to hear. Certainly, the alarming amount of hatred and degrading of so many people lies in direct contrast to the kindness and compassion we expect of our students in relation to others. Recently, when Episcopal schools were asked what big issues are being faced by our schools, diversity, polarization, and simply how we get along with each other appeared very high on the list. It is critically important in our schools that we recommit ourselves to the establishment of, and adherence to, a sound moral compass. We lead by example. We must have the courage to be the alternative voice. This goes beyond any party affiliation. We need to model for our children, who are growing up in a polarized society, that there is a better way. It begins by showing respect for everyone, regardless of differences. As we live into the baptismal covenant, at St. Michael’s we will continue to strive for justice and peace among all people while respecting the dignity of every human being. This is the message we continually say in various ways at St. Michael’s. This past week, our students carried that message beyond our adobe walls into the Tucson community. In doing so, they gave witness to those who saw them that even children can help to change the world.

Margaret Moore

Head of School