Mark Reed, Head of School at Charlotte Country Day School sent an inspiring message to parents, faculty, and staff to start the new school year. Learn how academic excellence, moral courage, and kindness are central to a Country Day education. This blog was originally published on CCDS’s blog, BucsBlog, and we thank them for letting us share it with you!
August 22, 2017
Tomorrow, the campus comes alive again with over 1,660 students. Whether they are just beginning their educational journey or actively engaged in the Upper School as seniors, I know that they will benefit from the routine that comes with each school day. Our students are known, loved, and cared for by exceptional teachers who are truly committed to their success. While changes are taking place around them, both on Cannon campus with construction and in the world, this is a place where they will find comfort, consistency, and support.
Beyond our campus, as I consider all that is changing in our world, I would be remiss not to acknowledge that we, and our children, are witnessing challenging times of divisiveness and conflict. Please rest assured that more than ever Country Day is rooted in the Mission, Key Values, and Affirmation of Community that have guided our work for over 75 years. And, along with you, we are committed to providing a foundation that will prepare our students to thrive and lead in the world beyond our haven.
As I explained to the faculty and staff at our opening meeting last week, you can take comfort in the fact that our school’s mission and our work with students remains grounded in foundational key values that are simply a non-negotiable aspect of a Country Day education. They remain solidly intact as we experience “change” taking place around us. Three of those mission-centered, non-negotiable aspects of a Country Day education are academic excellence, moral courage, and kindness.
I went on to explain that academic excellence can be achieved by inspiring students through rigor, relevance, and support. Our challenge is to help students find relevance in the things we are asking them to learn all the while supporting them as they struggle to reach for new knowledge through rigor. Academic excellence is achieved when our students are motivated to learn and each of us is providing the guidance, support, and tools that allow them to thrive.
Moral courage is the kind of courage that requires us to take action for ethical reasons in the most challenging situations. Instilling moral courage is core to building confident students of high character. We know that students learn by watching the actions of adults as much as by hearing their words, even when they don’t fully understand the context of what they are seeing. And, while modeling moral courage is powerful, intentionally infusing it into our curriculum and calling it out will help ensure that our students understand the necessity of it in our society.
Lastly, I addressed kindness. In particular, fostering kindness in our students as a foundational and non-negotiable aspect of a Country Day education. I was careful to explain the difference between being kind and being polite. The kindness I’m referring to comes after you discover that someone has a different political, philosophical, or religious belief. In our broader society, people tend to seek out others who think like they do, act like they do, or believe in the same things they do, often ignoring or discrediting those who are different from them. I referred to a kindness that requires us to consider humanity before our closely held beliefs. Considering we will, in all likelihood, be handing our students a very complicated world, I believe it will take a courageous type of kindness for them to help make it better. Starting here and now, where children can learn and grow that courageous kindness, we are preparing them for the world they will be leading.
You will often hear me say that at Country Day we are always working to get better and better at living out our mission. That commitment remains true regardless of any changes in our community or world. We know change is going to happen. In a volatile world, Country Day has the opportunity, even an obligation, to be an anchor or a foundation for our students and our community. Personally, I can’t find a more fulfilling way to shape the future than by shaping the future leaders who will determine the direction of our community, country, and our world.
I’m wishing your family a great start to the 2017-18 academic year.
Head of School