Happy New Year! Though I haven’t had the opportunity to write to you in some time, I hope this post finds you all benefiting from plenty of time for family and friends over the holidays. Though it seems we have been back in school for ages since Christmas Break, we are now approaching the end of week three and the halfway point of our fourth marking period.
It is my hope that we can take a look at the previous semester in order to celebrate our successes and learn from the times we fell short. Today I would like to focus on a concept that lives and breathes in the hearts of every child at St. Thomas’: strength. Strength has many definitions; but I’d like to use a few areas of school on which I can base this discussion.
2 Timothy: Paul’s Last Will and Testament
In our 8th Grade Bible Study, students are reflecting on Paul’s writings to Timothy as he sits in prison, effectively awaiting his execution. The young men in my Bible study are trying to understand Paul’s sense of urgency as he prepares Timothy to take the lead in developing this new religion during a time of tumult and fear. Paul has demonstrated vigor and determination despite incredible adversity throughout his life; however, we now find him at an apparent endpoint. The concern and panic that his second letter expresses to Timothy is quite unlike Paul’s previous communications in which he fills the recipient with confidence and steadfastness. The boys learning with me recognized that Paul will not allow the Church he has built to fall by the wayside. He is doing all in his power, to his last breath, to see Christianity thrive. Each word of this second letter to Timothy is vitally important. Our group has discussed how we are to live our lives with a sense of urgency; we have much to and much to demonstrate to others. However, we also recognize that, like Paul, we have a mission to “walk the walk,” staying true to the beliefs taught by St. Thomas’ and the Christian faith. This was Paul’s mission given to him by God, and so it has been passed on to each generation. As people of integrity, our spiritual life commands us to demonstrate ethical and moral leadership despite the responses others may send our way. This is strength in its perennial form – our faith is paramount to our potential success.
In the 6th Grade Academic Skills Class we have been reviewing the way we learn. Cognitive psychology is not a new concept, relatively speaking (formulated in the 1970’s); however, applying this study to one’s own abilities may well be brand new to 6th graders. Students have been taking various learning style self-assessments (VARK, VAK, and Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences) to analyze their learning styles and to develop strategies for strengthening their study habits both in class and at home. Students are finding that they have compensated for the environment in which they learn and have developed one style when they may inherently prefer another. We will continue studying how these methods can be combined and how we can implement new tools in our learning practices. The self-study has been eye-opening for some as they realize their strength comes from recognizing what works best, followed by what they can do with this understanding.
While there are incredible events occurring all of the time at St. Thomas’, the fact that so many students participate in activities, competitions, and performances in and out of school (and place among the very best in these programs) speaks very highly to the determination, focus, and grit our students must access from within each day.
- Our girls’ basketball team currently stands undefeated, beating even the most competitive opponents by double digits.
- Our 6th graders celebrated a Spelling Bee victory as Matthew Ye (2nd runner up), Leanna Bai (1st runner up), and Beth Athaide (champion) represented their class and St. Thomas’ by spelling incredibly difficult words in front of the lower and middle school students (and some upper schoolers who happened by).
- Our Academic Quiz Bowl teams (FIVE teams) competed in the Strake Jesuit Tournament in January. Our top team (Beth Athaide 6G, Sugat Borthakur 8B, Roman Lewis 8B, and Luke Bowers 8B) placed 6th (for now…perhaps some scoring changes will result in even better results) among 42 teams competing, earning a place at the National Tournament in Dallas. The Elementary Team (Leanna Bai 6G, Julian Riley 6B, Brian Reeves 6B, and Ashley Tice 6G) won 4th place in the Elementary Division.
- Finally, our 8th grade history students have been writing and reflecting on the concept of strength as it applies to those who have immigrated to our country. They learned of the reasons why so many wish to live in the United States, and how Ellis Island represents this demonstration of perseverance. The writers competed in an internal competition for the Daughters of the American Revolution. Students had to create a memoir to a fictional cousin regarding this person’s arrival to the United States of America. Philemon Tan (8B) and Brooke Braden (8G) received the most votes for their entries, awarding them both first prize.
This list goes on and on, growing at an awe-inspiring pace every day. I am so thankful for the opportunity to lead such a fine group of teachers, who in turn help young men and women become the very best they can be. St. Thomas’ is a place of strength, determination, and grit. We learn through failure; and that is why we succeed in the most competitive stages. I thank you for your dedication to our community and appreciate the support you show your child as they move forward in the middle school.
Stott, John. 2 Timothy: Standing Firm in Truth. Inter-varsity Press, 1998.
Vark Learning Styles: http://vark-learn.com/introduction-to-vark/biography/
Multiple Intelligences: http://www.edutopia.org/multiple-intelligences-assessment