In the search for a private school, parents will likely encounter frequent references to a school’s mission.  A mission statement is usually no more than a few sentences that summarize the reason a school exists, its ethos.  Successful schools link all facets of their operations—hiring, curriculum, events, enrollment, fund-raising, athletics, marketing, etc.—back to their mission.

I had the good fortune of stumbling upon a thank-you note written this summer by one of our recent graduates to her high school English teacher.  Reading it was a tremendous validation that my school remains steadfast in its mission of “forming honorable men and women through a classical education grounded in a Christ-centered world view.”  I have reprinted the note with permission from the author.

“Hi, Mrs. Ernest! I hope you are having a wonderful summer so far! This past week, I was in Budrio, Italy, for a mission trip where my church youth group helped out at a sports camp. Every night, the Americans would get gelato with the Italian kids, so that we could get to know them better. One night last week, I sat down with a 12 year-old girl who told me that she was an atheist. We began to discuss her beliefs, and then I asked her about the Bible and what she thought about it. Long story short, I asked her about what she thought happened after we died. She gave me a funny answer about how she thought that she would become a ghost and that she would be able to scare people after she died. I then began to tell her my beliefs as a Christian and what I believe happens after we die. As we were talking, she seemed a bit confused and asked me if it was similar to what Dante writes about in his Divine Comedy because she said that she had read it in Italian this past year in school. I was able to have a deep conversation with this 12-year old girl about the Divine Comedy and make comparisons with the Bible, so I wanted to thank you for that. It was an incredible experience to be able to use what I learned in your class this past year and use it to teach someone about the gospel.”

As you visit schools, don’t hesitate to ask about their mission.  Specifically, inquire about the ways that it’s implemented and nurtured.  Make note of the answers and consider how they align with the aspirations you hold for your child’s development.  If you find that school leaders are unaware of their school’s mission, or unable to articulate its basic tenets, remember that a rudderless ship rarely reaches its destination.

Special thanks to Ms. Kelly Parish, Class of 2016 at Saint Thomas’ Episcopal School, and Mrs. Amy Ernest, Chair of the STE English Department

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