… from the newsletter notes of Head Teacher John Boyce
Over the last term I have tried to explain for new parents some of the reasons we do what we do here at Garin. I have written about servant leadership, holistic education (and how we focus on academic success in an holistic school), self-discipline with students taking responsibility for their own behaviour and their own success, how we care for students, and how we help members of our community to become more spiritually aware. Today I would like to look at one of our Garin sayings: making a difference.
Building the Kingdom
In the Lord’s Prayer we say “your Kingdom come”.
Some people see that as the second coming-but I am hopeful that will not happen in my time as Head Teacher of Garin! So what that phrase means to me is the need we have to keep working all the time to make our lives and families and relationships and communities (and world), more and more like the people and families and world we were created to be.
Today I would like to step past the development of individual young people in a school environment, and look at our role out in the world.
I have three quotes for you to think about.
Some of our parents may remember Robert Kennedy. In his address to the young people of South Africa on their Day of Affirmation in 1966 he told them …
Each time we stand up for an ideal, or act to improve the lot of others, or strike out against injustice, we send forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
Pope Benedict looks at it from the other side in his letter Spes Salvi …
The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. This holds true both for the individual and for society. A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through compassion is a cruel and inhuman society.
And in the seventeenth century John Donne wrote …
All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
The theme here, and a recurrent theme throughout human history, is that we are all connected, and we all need to work to leave the world a better place than we found it. This has important implications in any Christian community.
Looking out-and in-side ourselves
First it means we need to have a concern for social justice in our community and world.
It also means that we need to work hard within our community and in our families to build relationships and grow compassion. That is us looking outwards.
Looking inwards at ourselves means we have to look hard at ourselves and make a difference there too-and it means that we need to listen to constructive criticism.
That is not always easy.
At Garin we have asked for “feed forward” to help us make it better next time (and to help us not feel attacked, and so defensive and rejecting comments that were meant to be supportive).
Our discipline system is based on the “thinksheet” to give students support to look inwards and make changes themselves, rather than have that forced on them by others.
“Citizenship” and all that implies of both rights and responsibilities, is a key concept for us. We work hard to combat bullying and to get rid of manipulative words like “nerd” and “retard” and “nark”.
We avoid concepts like “blame” and “punish” as unhelpful-talking instead about “coaching” and “consequences”.
Our Young Vinnies, peer mediators, collections, Caritas fundraising, the Famine, buddy swimming, and our whanau system are all important to us because they provide ways for students to make a difference.
And one last thing we can do to make a difference, something often neglected in the modern world, is prayer. We try to make the most of situations where students can experience prayer clearly working-for the sick and dying, for people suffering and grieving-and for the good of others.
When we do these things, we are making a real contribution to building a Kingdom where we can all become more the people we were created to be-and where all people will be happy to live under God’s guidance and the new commandment, that we love one another.