By Rich Wilson
Our school mission statement concludes with the charge to develop leaders of character who improve the world they inherit. While the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur endorse the mission, they remind us that the primary purpose of the Catholic education we offer is to create disciples. As Christian educators, we are charged with developing our students into the changemakers and peacemakers Christ is calling them to be. If we do that, we can be assured they will indeed improve the world they inherit.
How does The Summit produce Changemakers?
We start with the premise that our students must embrace change. At the age we are educating children, this isn't hard to do. Children love change. Our challenge is to imbue this mindset in them so completely that they maintain this orientation to the world as they age and the resistance to change builds. Beyond that, there are several elements to the education we offer that result in changemakers marching out of the chapel on graduation day:
Thinking Deeply. Children today live in a more superficial world than children did in times past. The paradox of technology is that the more available information becomes, the more people surf it. Our teachers challenge their students to dig down and master thinking across several domains:
- Analytical thinking - taking ideas and problems apart to understand root causes;
- Creative thinking - making unconventional connections to produce ideas and works that are original;
- Practical thinking - developing plans that work in the real world; strategic thinking - assembling elements that lead to long term, sustained success.
Developing mastery of these thinking domains starts in Montessori with the cleverly designed manipulatives, proceeds through Lower and Middle School with foundational training in ways of thinking in the content disciplines, and culminates in the application of these thinking domains in the rigorous Upper School curriculum.
Collaborative Experiences. In the modern world, we get things done through others. Our students learn how to get along with others and value the differences that come with that. This involves turning away from the screens in their lives and working with others, face-to-face. This is how social skills and cultural competencies are formed.
Motivation and Drive. Belief in hard work is at the core of The Summit graduate. Exhorting and modeling a sense of urgency to get on with things happens every day in our classrooms. Children need to develop goals, get going on the path to achieve those goals and develop the stamina to keep going when obstacles emerge.
Communication Skills. What is written and what is said is how we influence the course of affairs in the world. At each grade level, children are challenged with opportunities to improve and polish how they communicate.
Leadership. Children need to learn the importance of having a vision of what can be accomplished, discerning the path to accomplish that vision and inspiring others to join them on the journey. The small size of our school facilitates development of this quality and provides opportunities to practice it.
When we put all this together, the children have the knowledge, skills and experiences necessary to go forth and change their world. Senior Caroline Kubicki's story on page 10 of The Summit magazine spring 2018 issue exemplifies the changemaker role we expect our students and alums to assume.
How does The Summit produce Peacemakers?
The elements of developing changemkers apply directly to developing peacemakers. However, there are additional aspects of the education we offer that form the peacemaking mentality in our students.
Inner Peace. We can't make peace with others unless we are at peace with ourselves. The Summit experience guides children to learn about themselves, recognize their strengths and weaknesses and accept themselves for whom God created them to be. They graduate being comfortable in their own skin.
Empathy. The first step in making peace is putting oneself in the shoes of others. The Gospel stories of Jesus's encounters with sinners illustrate His ability to see the world as they saw it and use that knowledge to encourage them to change their behavior. The empathy Brian Washington '98 exhibits through his art reveals his role as a peacemaker. See his story on page 46 of the spring 2018 Summit magazine.
Conflict Resolution Skills. At each level in our school, the teachers and counselors instruct and model how to diffuse a tense situation and problem solve possible solutions. We want children to leave our school with a well-stocked toolbox of ways to resolve conflicts.
Striving for the Common Good. In a world consumed with selfies and the drive for self-satisfaction, we teach that the world operates more harmoniously if we think and strive for what will best serve society as a whole.
Courage. Peacemaking isn't for the faint-of heart. It takes courage to wade into the fray -to quit being a bystander and step forward as a leader. St. Julie had the courage to challenge the prevailing view of her time that women didn't need to be educated. Teaching children her story inspires courage in them.
Christ commissions all of us to be the changemakers and the peacemakers in the world. Teaching children the knowledge and the skills to fill these roles and then giving them the experiences to practice these skills is the process we refer to as The Summit Way.
Reprinted from the spring 2018 issue of The Summit magazine.