Tag Archives: Episcopal Identity

Forging Bold Leaders with Inclusive Mindsets

“In most cases, the blessings of our resources afford us the opportunity to stay comfortably tucked in our enclaves insulated from the messiness of our world… Put challenging issues before [your children] at a level appropriate to their age. Text them editorials on contrary sides of an issue; share informative video clips. Discuss all of this at dinner. Do what you can to help your children become aware that they are part of a larger, complex global community – not above it, apart from it, or absolved of responsibility for it.”  

– Parent’s Night Comments, September, 2016


A lot can happen in six months.

When I wrote and delivered the statement above as part of my Parents’ Night remarks in September (referenced in my September 2016 blog post), Colin Kaepernick had just a week earlier kneeled for the first time during the national anthem. An already divisive election season – to which I also alluded in my comments that evening – was still two months from yielding a generally unexpected result. The drumbeat of headlines and news stories on domestic Executive orders, travel bans and immigration policies had yet to register a social media click.

Indeed, our children live in a complex global society.

In this space throughout the year, as well as in my chapel talks to the community, I’ve highlighted boundless thinking. I’ve pondered the characteristics of individuals and organizations that, like Parish, embrace such a mindset of hopeful optimism and possibility. I’ve offered examples of how our program, alumni and community demonstrate it.

While some may find my musings uplifting, I recognize that for others, a bleaker world view may prevail.  Images of society riven by divisions and boundaries flood our senses from a variety of sources.

As educators (and parents), we’ve been presented an opportunity. I would frame it using questions:

  • Will we watch our children slide passively into one of the isolated and insulated ideological camps which characterize our present national profile?
  • Or will we explore and evaluate with them the contours of today’s knottiest issues so that they become bold standard bearers of civil discourse and architects of collaborative solutions?

In my September remarks, I offered my answer as both a dad and Head of School:

“I want my sons and the students who graduate from Parish to live and lead with a boundless spirit, unencumbered by fear; I want them to modulate ambition and empathy; I want them to be guides to the middle ground where solutions, compromise, and steady – if at times deliberate – progress is made.”

– Parent’s Night Comments, September, 2016


No one would mistake “deliberate” progress for boundless accomplishment. But when it comes to building intentional, mission-aligned programming to prepare our students to navigate and mend the evident fissures in our complex global society, I think a steady advance is noteworthy.

At Parish, three interwoven programs buttress the formation of impactful leaders.

First, daily chapel instills time-tested lessons in love.  Love for one another, love for our neighbor, love for those with opposing views and, yes, even love for our enemy.

PLeads_GirlPowerLunchSecond, a robust homeroom, advisory and experiential learning program complements the ethical foundation chapel establishes,  using the ParishLeads framework to build student capacity for relationship building, empathy and awareness of difference.

ParishLeadsFrame

 

Finally, as I wrote in  January 2016, we have initiated complementary programming in the area of Diversity & Inclusion. Guiding this effort has been the revised mission and diversity statements approved by the Board of Trustees in 2015. Now in her second year, Director of Diversity & Inclusion Tyneeta Canonge has convened several groups to assist in the development and implementation of initiatives in this space: Divisional Diversity Committees, The Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board – comprised of parents, a school Trustee, and faculty and staff members – and a thriving Student Leadership Diversity Board in our Upper School.

D&LFocusAreas_blogTogether, these groups have helped craft action steps in several key areas identified in the accompanying chart.

In doing so, we have kept in mind the developmental needs and readiness of our students. We have also evaluated closely the time allocation deemed appropriate for the work.

The below visuals offer a summation Diversity & Inclusion programming developed and implemented thus far this year.

LS_D&IMS_D&IUS_D&I

 

This work of forging bold leaders with inclusive mindsets has – especially in these unsettled times – left segments of our constituency uneasy. Some feel chapel need not be every day, or that it is too Christian, or not Christian enough. Others think an advisory period committed to ParishLeads usurps time from our academic purpose. Some believe we are not moving swiftly enough to be a more inclusive school community –  defined as one which is whole, unified and loving, but at the same time sensitive to and respectful of opinions and backgrounds of difference in our midst. Meanwhile, others believe we are moving too quickly or that our program content serves more to divide than to unify.

We accept this feedback and appreciate it. We will continue to improve our communication on programming in this arena. Notably, I am pleased to introduce a new blog resource within our Diversity & Inclusion webpage – Voices & Views – where you will find resources, examples of activities in which students have been engaged, and news on upcoming programming (third trimester activities are now posted).

Enriched by this feedback, our mission-driven commitment to this work will remain steadfast.  Tomorrow’s complex world demands the boundless, collaborative and attuned leaders we believe it will yield.

Purposefully Inclusive

In just a few months, the oldest Parish students – the class of 2016 – will receive their diplomas and move a significant step closer to the “complex global society” which awaits them. Lost in the relative imminence of this event is this reality: today, the youngest students at Parish Episcopal are the class of 2030! This fact, which I frequently share with present and prospective parents of young children, never ceases to fill me with wonder. Today’s 5 year old PreK student will leave Parish in 2030, graduate from college and then, in 2034 (assuming a 4 year collegiate experience is still the predominate path), will enter the “complex global society” to which we refer in our revitalized mission statement.

Since August, I’ve used this space and my speaking opportunities to unfurl our refreshed mission statement and reflect on the theme of purpose. As we begin the year’s second half, I invite you to further reflect on our purpose as a school – an even more compelling exercise when considering our youngest learners.

What will that world of 2034 look like? What will the most daunting challenges be? The world is inarguably complex. Just reading the headlines dominating the news over the vacation, one sees a wide range of complicated issues demanding impactful leadership: the geopolitics of the war on terror; environmental sustainability; national and local infrastructure rebuilding; and income and educational equity and access. The list seems endless and certainly will be populated in the next two decades by a set of yet unforeseen challenges.

Indeed, our world will demand creative learners, bold leaders, and individuals impassioned and prepared to make a positive impact.   Of these outcomes, to which Parish purposefully aspires, which one will be most essential? Is there a most important word or set of words in our mission statement?

The interconnectedness of the three outcome phrases makes this question provocative but nearly impossible to answer definitively. In fact, I could argue that the most important word isn’t in the above phrases but is tucked away in the midst of the statement. The word is “inclusive.”

While much of what tomorrow’s world holds in store for our PreK students of today remains unpredictable, this much seems certain:  the country – and Dallas – will be much more diverse (as indicated in tables below).

USPop_DiversityDallasPopProjections

 

Tomorrow’s bold leaders will need to think inclusively, bridging the gaps between people of different ethnic backgrounds, religious affiliations and socio-economic classes as they develop impactful solutions.

Tomorrow’s creative problem solvers will embrace the diversity of thought which stimulates innovative thinking. America’s top companies are investing in diversity and inclusion not because of political correctness but attentiveness to the bottom line. As the Diversity dividend analysis by McKinsey (right inset) suggests, purposefully inclusive companies outperform competitors.

McKinsey_DiversityDividend

Fortune Magazine recently released its list of the 50 Best Workplaces for Diversity with many recognizable and well regarded companies on it. Among them was Boston Consulting Group, whose President and CEO, Rich Lesser, said “we believe that passionate, open-minded people of all backgrounds ensure that BCG approaches problems from a broader perspective and challenges established ways of thinking.”

We at Parish share such sentiments and strive to live into the “inclusive Episcopal community” language of our mission statement. While we have much work to do, purposeful strides have been made.

  • We are an increasingly diverse community, with 21 different faith groups represented on campus and 27% of our students representing different ethnic and racial backgrounds.
  • This year, we appointed the School’s first Director of Diversity and Inclusivity. In this role, Tyneeta Canonge engages each of our constituencies – from the Board of Trustees, to parents, students, faculty and staff – to ensure programs, policies and perspectives reflect a commitment to inclusivity.
  • In April, 2015, the Board of Trustees approved not only our revised mission statement but also the School’s first Diversity Statement, which articulates that our bold leaders will demonstrate “knowledge of and respect for the rich variety of people and points of view which exist in our complex global society.”
  • For the 2015-16 school year, we granted over 2.5 million dollars in financial aid to 12 percent of our student body in our quest to ensure our community is socioeconomically more reflective of the broader Metroplex.

ParishDenomination2015-16ParishStudentDemographic2015-16

Each January, our Tri2 Legacy Event and Global Blast (visit link for participation/volunteer details) unite our community to celebrate the diversity in our midst. I invite you to join us on the afternoon of January 27 for our Global Blast activities and that evening when the Academy of Global Studies welcomes its second distinguished speaker of the year, Ambassador Brian Bowler, UN Ambassador to Malawi.

Building an inclusive community at Parish requires intentionality, fortitude and effort. But it’s among our most important imperatives. I recognize this when I look into the eyes of one of our 5 year old students and consider the world in which they will lead and serve.

Places Are Purposeful, Too: Parish and Daily Chapel

In my last blog post, I explored how lives of impact and purpose, taken on the whole, are actually comprised of the daily purposeful choices an individual makes.

Institutions, like people, are living entities. As such, they also have purposeful daily choices to make as they aspire to be the best version of themselves.

In the midst of cataclysmic changes in our complex global society, especially in the world of education, and given the context of the “perfection pressure” to which I alluded in last month’s First Monday, schools like Parish must carefully evaluate what they do purposefully.

You are aware of our conscious attempt to “Reimagine School,” a process well underway in pilot form across all three divisions with more systemic changes to come in the next five years. More on that will be forthcoming in the months ahead.

For today, however, I’d like to focus on another element of our culture, one which we uphold each day with the same purposefulness with which McRaven’s SEALS made their bed: our intentional spirituality and daily chapel.

Today’s world asks much of us, our children included. Last month, I referenced the milieu of academic and social factors complicating student lives and shared sobering statistics signaling that today’s fast-moving world poses a particular set of challenges to their mental health.

SpiritualChild_LMillerDr. Lisa Miller, whose book The Spiritual Child I commended in my August letter, notes that the “grooming” of students for what she calls the “A-train of success,” has left many with “severed spirits” devoid of a connection to the transcendent. She also cites recent brain research demonstrating that children possess an innate spiritual capacity – akin to their cognitive and physical capability. Left neglected in the first two decades of life, this spiritual capability will be underdeveloped and negatively impact an adult’s mental well-being, vital relationships, and a sense of higher purpose.

One antidote to this disconnect, Miller writes, occurs when parents, schools, churches and communities surround children with a “field of love” comprised of their collective love and support. Here, “in that relationship space our children find the spiritual values lived out…and their own spiritual development flourishes.” Parish’s inclusive community is a huge field of love comprised of teachers and coaches who counsel and advise, not just instruct; administrators who know students, not just manage them; and parent volunteers who coach, connect and care for grade levels of our students, not just their own children. Beyond this, however, Parish embraces its role as an Episcopal School and weaves spiritual formation into all aspects of our program. Our ParishLeads programming promotes self-reflection and acting with empathy and compassion within its framework. We require religion classes in each division. And, yes, we attend chapel daily.

It’s important our community understands what our daily 20 minute chapel is and what it is not:

Chapel_Is

Indeed, daily chapel IS a wonderful, and perhaps underappreciated, blessing. As the world moves more quickly and demands more from us, how fortunate we are to have this time to lift our eyes from our screens and to do lists, embrace reflection and practice decompressing.

And, therefore, it is important that we do chapel every day.

Now, I hear occasional grumbling from constituencies who wonder aloud or under breath, “does chapel need to be every day; wouldn’t one (two or three) day a week work just as well?”

No, purposeful choices by their very definition involve commitment and discipline, both of which can at times be more difficult than embracing the more pleasurable alternative. I’m doubtful one’s personal trainer would accept a once a week fitness plan. It is unlikely that Admiral McRaven would approve of his SEALS making their beds to specifications just three days a week. And certainly, eating healthily each day is less enjoyable than indulging in daily desserts!

But, over time, daily, purposeful choices pay dividends. I believe it to be the same with chapel. What our 6 or 16 year old might question now about daily chapel will at 46 or 66 be valued for its shaping influence.

We will stride fearlessly into the future, adjusting our program nimbly to meet the challenges posed by our rapidly changing world. As we do so, though, our center will hold. Our foundation in faith and recognition that tomorrow’s leaders will need the restorative energy of a rich, spiritual life will keep our Episcopal identity, daily chapel and intentional spirituality among our most purposeful choices.

A Purposeful Life Begins With Purposeful Days

Last month, I reflected on the disciple’s Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, in which he told Jesus’ earliest followers that they were God’s handiwork, created to do good works uniquely prepared for them to do.

Indeed, each of us has a particular purpose to serve in this world; we are custom-designed, fitted with gifts to be used to impact the world in a way only we can.

And it starts here at school. When you experience school as an opportunity rather than a burden to survive, you begin your journey to living purposefully. Through both your triumphs and your struggles here, you will uncover the particular gifts God has given you and explore ways they might change a life, enhance a community, or make a team or organization stronger.

I’d like to look today at the foundation of purposeful living, which, not surprisingly, you play an important role in constructing for yourselves.

This is Admiral William McRaven, who is now the Chancellor of the University of Texas system, but before that spent 37 years in the Navy. Among a variety of leadership roles, Admiral McRaven oversaw the operation which resulted in the death of Osama Bin Laden. Admiral McRaven gave the graduation address at UT a couple of years ago; perhaps some of you have seen it. Here is his first suggestion on where living a purposeful life begins:

Now I know what the beds of the three boys in my house can look like on occasion. I hope the world is not counting on them yet!

But in all seriousness, Admiral McRaven serves to introduce my point for today: Living a purposeful life begins with living purposeful days.

I have a couple of opinions in this regard to share with you:

Purposeful People Make Purposeful Choicesarrows

Think about people you would identify as difference-makers in their communities, families, or professions. I’d submit that if you look more deeply, they make purposeful decisions each day. That is, they hold to certain daily or almost daily commitments which help structure their lives and focus their energies on the task of achieving their vision and impacting their world for good.

For McRaven and the SEALS, making their beds to perfection every day was a purposeful choice. In their world, a successful mission rested on doing the little things correctly – every single time, not some of the time. Making their bed to specifications reinforced that.

But here are some others:

Entertainer Ellen DeGeneres has found that 20 minutes of Transcendental Meditation every day focuses her mind and restores the super supply of energy she needs to muster each day to entertain her fans on television.

President Obama is the leader of the free world; he has perhaps the most stressful job and hectic schedule one could have. But he makes purposeful choices in how he manages his time. Not only does he make room each day for 45 minutes of exercise, but he has breakfast with Mrs. Obama each morning and dinner at home with the family each evening when he is not travelling.

13virtuesMany of us recognize the name of founding father Benjamin Franklin. But beyond the kite and the key we know he used to learn about electricity, he is perhaps known best for teaching others that leading oneself is the first step to impacting the world. By age 20 he created a list of 13 virtues to which he adhered. He purposefully charted his weekly choices to see how well he did and scheduled each of his days to the hour.

Now I am no Biblical expert, but I have never read scripture which suggested Jesus made purposeful choices to do yoga daily, swim laps, or write poetry as part of his plan to live a purposeful life.

JesushealsBut if you look at our Scripture readings today (Luke 6:12-13; Luke 9:18, 21-22, Mark 1:35) you see just three of dozens of examples of what Jesus did do purposefully: Seek solitude and Pray.

Jesus’s work was draining.

He ministered to the sick, the outcast, and the poor

He managed the feuds, jealousies, and anxieties of his disciples

He challenged the choices and intentions of the religious leaders of his time.

Moreover, Jesus understood His life’s purpose. Everything He did, he knew, was leading to His death on the cross. So He made the purposeful choice often, if not daily, to seek solitude and pray.

What purposeful choices do you make each day?

valueswordle

Typically, the things you choose to do purposefully align with your values:

  • If you believe a healthy body leads to a sharper mind, like I do, then carving out time for exercise will happen
  • If you love to learn and expand your thinking or imagination, then finding time to read might be something you ensure happens each day
  • If you value creative expression, then you might listen to or practice your music each day; draw; or write in a journal

Maybe you are still seeking the things or things that enable you to be you best, most impactful self each day. Finding it may require time and, as our Framework language suggests, some self-reflection.

In closing, though, I can suggest a place to practice purposeful choice-making: right here at school.

Now, my world at school is filled with a lot of meetings – some of which I look forward to more than others, some of which are on topics more exciting to me than others. But each day, in alignment with my own personal mission to be a person of impact, I seek to enter each meeting – whether excited by it or not – with an intent to leave a positive contribution behind. Sometimes that positive contribution may be as simple as my presence and full attention. Other times, it will mean that I choose to enter in; to make a comment or lend an idea which might help the group accomplish its task better or more thoughtfully.

What if you approached each class this way? Certainly you enjoy some subjects or types of classwork more than others, just as some meetings are easier for me to embrace than others. But you can choose to enter into each class – favored or not – with the purposeful intent to help make the activity or experience there more valuable – because of your attention; your input; or your support for others.

When you commit to this, you will be constructing the foundation of small, purposeful choices which lead to living a life of greater impact down the road.

When Ben Franklin rose at 5 AM each day, he didn’t worry so much about how he made his bed. But he did ask: “what good shall I do this day?” and when he jumped into that same bed at 10 PM, he asked “what good have I done this day?” I can think of no better questions to ask yourselves when you consider coming here to your classes, your practices, and your other commitments, and I pray you come to master the purposeful choices which lead to a purposeful life.