Mission Matters

This series of articles was written for the Birchwood community by Head of School, Charles Debelak, and can be found in the Birchwood School of Hawken 2020-21 Clipboard Newsletter. The purpose of Mr. Debelak's Clipboard articles is to provide parents with information about sound educational principles and child development issues gleaned from history, contemporary research, and Mr. Debelak's 40+ years of educating, coaching, and counseling children, young adults, and parents.
0ur school mission matters. It matters because our mission embodies our beliefs about how children grow and how they learn. It matters especially during this pandemic when restrictions and limitations abound. As the centerpiece of how we think about education, it permeates our decisions for curriculum, pedagogy, materials, and professional development. When we hold fast to our mission, we provide the level of education and character development for which Birchwood is known.

Our mission statement claims that we are equipping children with the attitudes and skills to become. The term become is purposely vague, as in answering the question, “Become what?” It is vague because no one can predict the life our children will face or the framework of their adulthood. But the term becoming is not so vague that we cannot invest in their attitudes, their knowledge, their behaviors, and their life-skills so that whatever situation life presents, our children will grow, thrive, and flourish.

In elementary and middle school we do not have the final word on the person each child will become. Life takes too many twists and turns for Birchwood to make any definitive statements about the contributions we make to each child’s life. Nevertheless, we can plant seeds. We plant when we tell stories about great men and women. We plant when we examine inspirational quotes or thoughtful poems that engrave virtue into children’s minds.

Day after day, week after week, year after year, we can plant seeds of growth through our curriculum, through instruction, and through the loving relationships, we endeavor to create with each child. We plant seeds that help frame a mindset toward growing, thriving, and flourishing. We believe these seeds foster productive internal conversations that guide children to grow when facing diverse environments and situations.

Our mission envisions children engaging with both favorable environments and adverse environments. Favorable environments provide opportunities to flourish. In these settings, children discover possibilities to realize their potential and develop their talent.

But our mission also envisions children facing adverse environments, times when work is hard, filled with disappointments and failure. Here they must learn to dig deep inside of themselves to find the reasoning, the fortitude, and the resolve to overcome and achieve.

We believe that in carrying out our mission, as we plant “seeds” for growing, thriving, and flourishing, we help create an internal conversation within children’s hearts and minds that will impact how they view the world long into the future. These seeds will help them navigate any environment they confront and turn their situation into an opportunity for becoming.