“If school does not stand for something more profound than raising achievement levels, then it probably does not make a memorable difference to teachers, students, or parents.”
Terrence E. Deal
Truth. I came across this quotation a few years ago at a national conference and saved it because it really stopped me in my “teacher tracks”. When I read it, I wanted to shout, “Can I get an Amen?” to everyone around me. I mean it summarized what I have always believed about life in schools. Next to our families, school is the place where children spend the most significant part of their lives. It’s a huge responsibility, so we teachers need to fully understand the unique privilege we have in the lives of students. If Matthews Hall does not stand for something more than being on the Head’s Scholars list at the end of the year, then we need to go back to first principles.
The essence of something being profound means that it is “deep in meaning” or has “valuable insight” or “inherent substance” – each of which is so important as children swim upstream against a culture eroded by instant gratification, sound bites, peer pressure, and social media noise. As a small, family school, Matthews Hall has such a unique role to play during their elementary school years. In our own way, we believe that we do stand for something more profound than just the As and Bs of report cards.
There are pockets of excellence in schools everywhere: some do this exceptionally well, while others do that with singular focus. When my kids were in elementary school, however, I was mostly searching for a learning environment that was prepared to see them, know them and grow them as people. Yes, the foundational skills were very important, but their safety and formation as human beings were paramount.
“Safety” is also more than just supervision and security. It has to do with what we teach, when we teach it, why we teach it, or whether we “teach” it at all. Childhood is a fleeting and precious thing and it can last longer than we think. If what the experts say about the formative years is true, then our mission at Matthews Hall matters very much and we have an obligation to deliver on it.
A child’s elementary years can have lifelong physical, social, and emotional impacts. While positive experiences and environments can set a child on a stronger lifelong path, traumatic experiences, questionable content, and incoherent values during these formative years can also have a long-lasting, detrimental impact.
When it comes to setting kids up for success as human beings, their first years of school are that important.
When I speak to generations of Matthews Hall alumni – and hear their stories about the nurturing, challenging, and supportive environment in which they learned – I believe we continue to make a memorable difference and model what our founder, Kate Matthews, envisioned for her students.
All the things that were ever important to children still are. That does not change. It’s the adults that sometimes lose that tread.
Worthy elementary school years, experiences, and teachers leave a permanent imprint on the hearts, minds, and lives of kids – so much more profound than even the highest achievement!
Ric Anderson, Head of School