St. Clement’s School is an independent school: a school that is governed by a Board of Governors who work at arm’s length to support the Principal and Administration as we enact our School’s strategic plan. Our School’s tuition fees and additional funds raised are used solely to ensure that our girls’ educational experience is second to none through unique and exemplary programming, appropriate facilities and an exceptional staff. While our School follows the Ministry of Ontario Curriculum Expectations and is inspected every other year, we have the independence to enrich our girls’ experiences through additional programming, curricular and co-curricular offerings, and our small, girls’ school setting. While we are ‘independent,’ we are afforded great support, colleagues and resources through the Conference of Independent Schools- a group of independent schools in Ontario, and the Canadian Accredited Independent Schools- our national association. It is these connections that allow us to seek guidance, exemplars and support as we work.
Independence is something we wish for our girls. As our girls grow and learn, they are nurtured to become increasingly independent in their learning and life. For, when they graduate from St. Clement’s, our desire is not simply to see them off to a post-secondary experience, but to see them prepared and successful in life.
I believe our role as staff and parents in nurturing this independence at St. Clement’s is twofold.
The first is to work together to guide our girls so that they understand why they must work towards independence: while we will always love and support them, they will, ultimately be leaving us and must have the skills and capacity to take care of themselves. In nurturing independence, we must gradually equip and expect our girls to take on more responsibility, and increasingly hold them to account such that they understand that they are responsible for themselves, their belongings, and their actions.
The second role we play is to teach our girls what independence looks like, and that being independent does not mean that one has to ‘go it alone.’ Our girls are bright and strong-minded; however, they can also be ‘pleasers,’ and as such can be reticent to seek help when sorting through difficulties and problems. There are occasions when our girls believe that in order to be independent and appear strong, they should not seek other’s help- and this can occasionally be at the cost of their well-being.
As a community, our guidance of girls’ independence must also include explicit messaging about the strength and importance of seeking guidance, perspective, and assistance as they work through issues and complexity. We must support our girls, and remind them, and model for them that independence does NOT mean ‘going it alone.’