These two family images capture the Monaco family on roughly the same day nine years apart – I suspect you will recognize the location:
The first photo was taken in July of 2009 on the day we arrived together in Dallas. We recently restaged the photo to mark the beginning of our tenth year in Texas. Seeing the pictures brought to mind an observation shared with me years ago: nothing frames a parent’s perspective on the passing of time more than seeing a picture of his or her children.
As I look at TC ’16 (now 20 and starting his junior year at Texas A&M), Robert ’20 (now 17), and Sam ’23 (now 14) in these photos I am also reminded of the old philosopher’s joke:
“A snail entered a sheriff’s office and said he was mugged by two turtles. When the sheriff asked him what happened, the snail said, “I don’t know. It all happened so fast.”
We each see the world through our uniquely personal lens. Learning and working in the Parish community these last nine years, my family members and I have a much deeper and richer perspective of Parish, for example, than will be the case for the 175 new students and their families joining us in a few weeks. From the point of view of the snail, even the plodding turtle moved quickly. Indeed, our age, upbringing and experience are just a few factors that influence how we perceive the events, the people and the conditions we encounter.
As I pondered an organizing theme for my speaking and writing this year the word “perspective” resonated.
For one, decades offer a chronological perch from which one can both reflect and dream. As I begin my tenth year at Parish, my perspective captures both gratitude and appreciation for those with whom I have worked and served. Together, we have helped advance Parish’s mission. Looking forward, I remain as energized and optimistic about our School’s future as I did when I began on July 1, 2009.
Secondly, one of the year’s most significant events will in fact feature just this kind of perspective-taking exercise. The time has arrived for our ten-year re-accreditation from the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS) and the Southwest Association of Episcopal Schools (SAES). From September 30 – October 3, we will welcome to campus a team comprised of 14 administrators and faculty from various member schools in these two associations. This Visiting Committee has the responsibility to recommend Parish for re-accreditation to the standards committees of these organizations.
This demarcation is important to Parish in both real and symbolic terms; it signifies to external entities (such as the state of Texas and colleges and universities) that we operate both in accordance with expected standards and in alignment to our mission.
The Visiting Committee’s perspectives on Parish will be informed in part by a comprehensive written self-study that we have authored, evidence we share related to our adherence to the standards established by the respective associations, and their engagement with board members, administrators, faculty, parents and students while on campus. We look forward to their visit. We know they will be impressed by what has transpired in this community since 2009. We also will embrace the feedback they share with us as we seek to build an even stronger Parish in the decade to come.
Finally, I have been drawn to the word “perspective” as I have observed the world around me. Ironically, though technology has opened even more channels for us to expand our own thinking and engage others in civil debate, discussion and dialogue, I sense that perspectives have narrowed and hardened.
Social media trolls and talking heads on increasingly partisan 24-hour cable mediums provide the clearest example of such immutable viewpoints. I don’t know about you, but I feel surrounded more often than not these days by people shouting past one another defenses of their minimalist perspectives.
Which brings me to the start of the new school year.
Unquestioningly, education is a powerful antidote to narrowmindedness. As we prepare to welcome 1140 young people back to our two campuses, our purpose as articulated in our mission – to prepare them to impact the “complex global society” – is as vital and relevant as ever. Positioning our students of today to be the thoughtful, curious and collaborative leaders of tomorrow, however, does not happen by chance.
Our teachers, of course, play a central role. They challenge students by presenting them with contrasting perspectives; they help students become comfortable seeing complex issues from multiple angles. The influential teacher, coach, advisor or learning experience also expands our students’ self-perspective, helping them to recognize the unique gifts they might not have realized they possessed.
Indeed, our students have responsibility, too. Albert Einstein said “I have no special talents; I am only passionately curious.” While influential adults can and should cultivate curiosity, the learner has the ultimate choice: see school as something to survive or embrace it as an opportunity to discover. I pray our students return to campus intent on actively expanding their horizons, not just “doing school.”
Finally, our community collectively readies our students for the complex global society. We do so, in part, through the example we set. As we continue to tackle knotty challenges together, we can model what it looks like to honor perspectives that differ from our own. We can engage in civil discourse when our opinions diverge. Stewarding a dynamic school community like Parish’s, we will be afforded ample opportunity to do this. This year, we will embrace questions without easy answers, ones such as what it means for us to live into our mission as an “inclusive Episcopal community;” how we can best enhance the security of our campuses; and how we will evolve our program to keep it at the forefront of educational innovation.
When it comes to evaluating and choosing Parish’s pathway forward in these and other areas, not everyone’s perspectives will align. I hope, though, that we can hold one another accountable to our tenet of Honor. Simply stated, it calls on us to regard the people, ideas and opinions present before us with high respect and esteem.
We look forward to engaging with you and exchanging perspectives on the important work we do here together readying our students to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives. I hope you will choose to learn, share and grow with us.