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The Importance of Place

On Friday morning, we hosted our first of three Open Houses, and this was my message delivered to our guests.

I have spoken and written a fair amount about our school’s current tag line: “The best path is rarely a straight line,” as it highlights the notion of life being a journey, and that curves in the figurative road both challenge and strengthen us. This morning, however, I wish for us to focus less on the journey and more on the notion of ‘place’ and how it contributes, just as powerfully, to who we are and who we will become.

This past week, I attended our Canadian Accredited Independent School’s annual heads and chairs conference in Ottawa whose theme was place, pedagogy and purpose. One of the sessions incorporated a panel of architects and educational planners who confirmed what I know to be true: that experience comes out of a sense of place- rather than simple spaces or facilities.

As an alumna of St. Clement’s I have seen many, many changes in the physical space at our School from a small building with an outside back court, to a much larger space with two gyms, an exquisite theatre and diverse learning spaces. I was an avid athlete during my time at SCS and enjoyed the use of local facilities. Asa result I still feel a connection to our community beyond our walls. Having said that, my path- like that of every other Clementine who lives and learns here- was created by place, not space.

When I was in Grade 13, I would have never imagined that I would return as the Principal at St. Clement’s School. In fact, on my first day of work I called the past Principal and said, “Miss Perkin, if anyone had told me that I would be Principal of SCS when I was at school, I wouldn’t have believed them,” to which she responded, “Neither would I.” I tell you this because, after coming back to our exceptional school, I have reflected a considerable amount on what contributed to my journey. I believe that this place- St. Clement’s- was a huge part of why I am here.

For me, this place highlighted the importance of a strong sense of community. I knew students from Grades 1-13, and I was known by all teachers not just as a student, but also as an athlete, and as a student-leader. This place, with its close-knit community and opportunities to work together across all grades, taught me about the benefits and importance of building diverse relationships and of supporting one another. This place, where not everything was at our fingertips, taught me about flexibility, resourcefulness, and ingenuity. It taught me that life is not- nor should it be- handed to us on a silver platter.

Our educational landscape is changing and St. Clement’s School is proud and confident that we provide our girls and young women with a rigorous academic experience that challenges our girls to be intellectually curious, courageous and compassionate and that this sets them up for success. Having said that, we are also proud and confident that our special and unique place is an equal contributor to our girls’ success.

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