Head of School Blog

A Mid-Month Pause Refreshes the Spirit

Jill Singleton
When our small group of teachers and administrative staff gathered last summer for a three-day retreat designed to help us develop weekly Community Time assemblies and a Mid-Month Gathering as part of our broader spirituality programming, none of us could have detailed the many ways in which these opportunities would enrich our lives and our community. I was struck by several comments shared by parents at the December Gathering, and requested their thoughts in writing to be shared in a blog designed to inspire even greater attendance. Enjoy these reflections from parents, below, as well as a couple of original poems written by students.

“The mid-month assemblies are like brief meditations—on community, on values, on life choices. I find them compelling and thought-provoking (plus it is always a treat to get to share a school experience with my children). Themes such as abundance, independence, interdependence, gifts, and following one’s conscience are so thoughtfully chosen. I appreciate that these topics are presented as explorations—questions as relevant to a 40-year-old parent as to a second grader. No doctrine, no sugar-coated clichés—just inspiring observations and down-to-earth rituals like the Examen, where two people stand up and briefly describe the high and low point of their day. Plus music–and it’s all efficiently packed into less than a half hour—over by 9am. Jill often talks about things that have happened in her own life, including moments of vulnerability. What a tremendous message this sends to the children: that the adults in their lives struggle with the same work that they are being asked to do. I really appreciate that the All Saints way is not to try to guilt kids into being good or nice but rather to help them connect with their own internal sense of right and wrong, strengthen their self-awareness and build their confidence that they have all the answers they need within their own hearts.”

“I would really encourage every parent to come to one of the Spirituality Assemblies, because I think most will be struck, as I was, at how different it is from every other school event they’ve attended. The low level hum, the excited chatter from students and parents, the applause and cheers after presentations and performances, are missing. The entire group of assembled students is calm, still, quiet and tuned in to the moment. The songs, prayers and statements are simple, profound and positive. Being there gave me a completely different and very impressive window into the life of the school, and I recommend everyone take a look if they get the chance.”

“I stood in the back of the sanctuary for the Mid-Month Gathering. Snow was falling, but it felt very warm and welcoming in the church, as children sang, came up to speak individually, and share thanks for the things in their world and in school. Children and adults gently waved their hands in appreciation – my son explained that in kindergarten at All Saints, he learned that this movement means ‘applause’ in American Sign Language, but this was the first time I had seen this gesture made by a large group of people. It was serene and celebratory. As the children exited the sanctuary to return to their classes, Mr. Mauldin played Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” on the organ– a beautiful way to begin a December day.”

“While watching The Gathering I kept thinking about how fortunate we are to have our children at All Saints. I have always been impressed with the academic learning that goes on in the classroom, but being at The Gathering drove home for me the breadth and depth of their educational experience. Here they were, practicing their presentation skills in a venue specifically designed to celebrate respect, community and conscience. The strength of character that my children are developing at All Saints makes me feel confident that they will make decisions both big and small throughout their lives based on a solid understanding of who they are and what is important to them. I am truly grateful that my family is a part of this special community and so happy that I was able to be there this morning to celebrate the wonders of All Saint with everyone present.”

“I believe that one of our responsibilities as active parents, members of our community and school, is to attend and participate in events that we are invited to support initiatives. So with this said, I attended Tuesday’s session partly out of responsibility more so then doing something for myself. It turned out to be one of the best gifts to myself. To my surprise it was a heartwarming experience that touched me in many ways. I was impressed with the assembly, the children’s poise, eloquence and talents. I was a proud parent regardless that my children were not present, but proud of the children that participated, proud and grateful that my family is part of the All Saints community and overwhelmed with emotion that one day soon my children will be in that assembly displaying their emotional growth and talents to our community.”

Among several reflections, two Fourth Grade students shared poems they had written on the topic of our conscience.

Just Me
By Jackie

There is a little voice inside of me,
bright as a light.
My inside voice makes me a better

Even in situations just so tight,
When I am about to do something
I stop and ask myself, “Should I?”
And my conscience will be right.

When I close my eyes I see
her, a bright burst of light, then
graceful blue lines.

When I disobey myself I feel
bad, as if I am a snowman
ready to melt.

When I listen to myself,
I am energized.
My conscience let’s out a big Whoop!

By Creed

Courage, the hardest
thing to master for people
friend, anybody.

Out of all qualities
courage is the most special
to have or to show.

Courage is like a flower-
practice it and it will grow,
don’t and it will die.

Your conscience guides you
through the days and weeks and months.
You have to listen.

We hope you’ll mark your calendars and join us for the January Mid-Month Gathering scheduled for Tuesday, January 21, 8:30am in the church. Can’t make this date? Check with your child’s teacher about attending one of our weekly Community Time Assemblies instead.

Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? I’d love to hear them! Email me: jsingleton@allsaintshoboken.com