Michael Gary Speaks
At the close of last school year, we finally had the opportunity to gather together and honor nine of our dedicated faculty and staff who retired during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was wonderful to be in community to lift up those who served Friends Select School for so long, and I was especially grateful to benefit from their shared memories of a collective 215 years of service.
The common thread for these lifelong educators was the importance and effectiveness of establishing caring relationships with students before any teaching happens in the classroom. As head of school, I rely on my own similar personal educational philosophy: care before content. It has been my experience that you must demonstrate first to a student or colleague that you care about who they are in order to truly connect with them.
It can be extremely challenging to focus on wellness during these times of turmoil in our society, especially with the ongoing need for flexibility as we try to maintain regularity for our students in the changing landscape of COVID-19. Fortunately, Friends Select faculty and staff consistently make a positive impact on our students while making them feel fully supported. Thanks to their tremendous efforts, our community continues to deepen our roots as a Quaker school, and we continue to produce thoughtful and responsible individuals.
“Care before content” has driven our efforts to improve the mental health and wellbeing of our students, faculty, and staff through the Friends Select Wellness Program. Each week, our counseling team has provided messages in our Heads Up bulletin for employees, which connect our community with resources, articles, and organizations that enable us to better care for our inner selves.
Our counselors have also enlisted outside mental health professionals to host weekly faculty and staff processing groups to provide safe and confidential spaces for sharing perspectives, encouragement, and feedback. And our support team curated a faculty and staff in-service day focused on self-care and mental health so that they may take care of their inner selves just as well as they take care of our students and each other.
The care we are providing for our community is truly a manifestation of our mission: “The aim of education is preparation for the whole of life: the vigorous development of intellectual and physical capacities as well as those of the spirit.”