Letting Our Lives Speak: Living Out Our Mission

Welcome back to school! For those of you who are returning, we look forward to seeing you after a long time away. And to those of you who are new to Friends Select School, welcome to the community. I’m sure you and your child will soon feel at home and among friends. 

Last week Friends Select welcomed almost 20 new faculty and staff to our community. They spent the week getting to know our school, learning about different aspects of the community and receiving helpful and important information about their new roles and how FSS works. Although I’ve been here for five years, it gave me a real boost to take part in welcoming new faculty and reminded me of what I value most about this community. You can tell a lot about a community by the way it welcomes people. While there was time allocated for the “who” and the “what” of FSS, there was almost a whole day dedicated to “why.” Why have we chosen to teach? Why are we committed to Quaker education? What is our purpose as a school? For us, that “why” is our mission. What I found so inspiring was hearing the many ways in which our mission as a school resonates with our new faculty and staff. Our mission reads: 

We believe in the Quaker values of respect for all, simplicity, the peaceful resolution of conflict, and a constant search for truth. In the words of George Fox, we seek to teach our students to "walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone." We work to achieve balance between the needs of individuals and our community, in an atmosphere of cooperation and concern for the betterment of all. We value the rich diversity of our urban setting and the opportunities and challenges it provides for the education of our students.

Sitting in the library with our new colleagues, I thought about our children, learning in our city’s neighborhoods, from experts, from incredible pieces of art, from people’s achievements in science, but also from neighbors, workers, and regular Philadelphians who have stories to tell and skills to share. I thought about how the skills of collaborating, listening, respecting others, and cooperating are being nurtured every day in our classrooms, and I thought about our Quaker values. Reading newspaper headlines on any given day can help all of us see that we are living in a world which is in need of more simplicity, peace, stewardship, equality, integrity, and community. Clearly, we are living in a world that would benefit from more of us actively working to understand and seek the good, the “light,” or that of God in others. 

This year, lower school will deepen our practice of Meeting for Worship by continuing to develop our comfort with sitting in silence, waiting for a message, and discerning whether it should be shared. We will be revising our social studies curriculum with an eye towards further embracing the city and understanding the perspectives and lived experiences of those we interact with as we move through the city’s neighborhoods, museums, cultural institutions, and parks. Our stewardship efforts will focus on learning about homelessness and working to address it across divisions in age-appropriate ways. On a daily basis, during group discussions or when resolving a conflict with a friend, we will continue developing in our students the ability to truly listen to others, consider their perspective, and reach a compromise. In partnership with you, we hope to teach our students—your children—to understand and appreciate the nuances of Friends Select’s educational mission so that, as a school community, we will “walk cheerfully over the world,” letting our actions and our lives illustrate our collective “why.”