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Building Foundations

On Friday I welcomed visitors to our Open House and thought I would use my blog to share my assembly message as I think it is important one for our entire community to consider.

We are thrilled to welcome visitors to St. Clement’s and hope that, beyond seeing our physical space at 21 St. Clements Avenue, they get a sense of who we are and how our community interacts and coexists.

St. Clement’s School is unique in several ways. We are a small girls’ school with our entire student body from Grades 1-12 learning and playing in one building. We share learning spaces across the ages and meet together as an entire School twice a week. We also share a multitude of facilities with our local community- something that we believe engenders a clear sense of what ‘community’ means beyond simply the one in our building and on our playground. In fact, at SCS, we believe that a School- and its impact- is less about physical space and far more about the connectedness of a community.

This notion of connectedness is an important component of assisting our girls with how they feel about themselves. Earlier this week, we were fortunate to have psychologist Dr. JoAnn Deak at St. Clement’s to work with our staff and students. Dr. Deak is the author of several books, including How Girls Thrive and Girls Will Be Girls, and she reminded us not just of the benefit of self-esteem but, more importantly, what self-esteem really is. As Dr. Deak explained, self-esteem is made up three ingredients that, when balanced, allow one to be at one’s best. These three ingredients are senses of:

1. Confidence
2. Competence
3. Connectedness

With respect to confidence, a school’s role is not simply to nurture a feeling of confidence but to ensure that our girls don’t avoid the things about which they lack confidence. They must be challenged in a supportive way to gain confidence as they live and learn at the School.

Ensuring a sense of competence is paramount because when a girl has a sense of what she can do, she then wonders what else she can do.

Finally, Schools must provide environments that model and encourage a sense of caring about things or people other than oneself.

Dr. Deak explained that often one of these areas may be out of whack and it is our responsibility to ensure that we work on getting these three ingredients back to a balanced level.

As a small school where- sometimes to the chagrin of our girls- no one gets lost, we have the great good fortune to be able to consciously and continuously work with our girls to ensure that they gain and maintain their confidence, competence and connectedness. Our success will not depend on the building of facilities, but rather the building of foundations for our girls such that they are leaving us with strength of purpose and solid self-esteem.

It is important to us that our partners in this work- our parents and families- also know and understand our SCS notion of building foundations. We hope that visitors to SCS experience a glimpse of this as they see our girls and staff interact- whether in their learning spaces or simply in the halls -for if they do, they will have had a window into our community and not just our space.

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