I believe that one of the most important tasks we have at SCS is to ensure that our students leave us with curiosity for learning, the courage to push themselves to grow and learn, and the compassion to consider others’ experiences. I also believe that in order to do this, we must ensure an environment at the School that nurtures and supports all members of our community to seek to know themselves as well as possible and to be accepted for that very reason- because they are who they are.
Over the holidays I was fortunate to have time to read several books, and one provided the inspiration for my words at our first assembly this week.
The book, entitled for Joshua, was written by Richard Wagamese, an Ojibway man. The book is a letter from Wagamese to his son. He writes at the beginning of his book:
…This is but the story of one Native life, as experienced against the flux and flow of Canada over forty-six years. If it teaches, that is grace. If it evokes empathy, that is a blessing. Should it enable one person, Native or not, to step forward towards who they were created to be, that would be reward enough for one Native life.
Wagamese’s story is a complex one of growing up and struggling to remember, understand, and embrace his heritage. It is was a troubling but beautiful and thought-provoking read. It was Wagamese’s realization at the end of the book of the importance of people’s knowing who they are, and the choices it affords them that really resonated for me.
When you know who you are you can choose anything…you can choose everything that the world has to offer and it will not change the fact of who you are…armed with identity, the knowing, you are empowered with choice to help make that knowing an ongoing thing. You can always learn more about who you are. You can always become more and more real.
At the the end of his story Wagamese reminds us that
As parents and teachers we need to tell our children this- that you can never be less than who you were created to be. You never have to qualify. You never have to prove yourself. You just need to be.
I reflected a lot on this particular statement after reading it. In an environment such as ours, despite conversations and advice to the contrary, so many of us put pressure on ourselves to be a certain way, to achieve at a certain level, perhaps even to adhere to a certain culture. I am not naïve to think that this is, perhaps, a perceived pressure or feeling, but I do feel strongly that we are best served when we have the opportunity to be encouraged and accepted to be ourselves, share our perspectives comfortably in the knowledge that we can just ‘be.’
In starting a new term and a New Year, I asked those at assembly to take time to consider the importance of continuing to ensure that St. Clement’s is a place where each of us can always be who we were created to be. I asked us to support one another with our diverse perspectives, backgrounds and beliefs and know that this can only make us a richer and stronger community.