August 24, 2018
Since my days in high school, my father and I have talked about taking a father-son trip to Machu Picchu. Twenty years later, the stars aligned for us to realize that dream this summer and explore a place that is equal parts breathtaking, inspiring and spiritual. It was an unforgettable journey, made more special by the relationship we have with one another. Since returning, I have reflected on countless memories of hiking ruins together, learning about Incan culture, and catching up over conversations at local restaurants. Part of the joy of the trip came from our experience with those who guided us at different parts of our journey. As I consider the school year ahead, I have found myself drawing many parallels between the care and stewardship provided by our guides, Joel and Martina, and the nurturing support of the amazing faculty and staff who will help guide your children’s journeys in middle school this year.
Though our time together was short, our guides’ impact on the trip was unmistakable. I was grateful and most impressed by how Joel and Martina balanced their sharing of insights into where we were traveling with taking the time to get to know both my dad and me. When our guide learned that my dad grew up in a small village in rural India, he continued to seek out my dad’s personal stories. This had a particularly powerful impact on my dad, who felt a greater sense of belonging in a foreign country and was able to draw connections to his own experiences growing up in a rainforest in India. Our guides brought plenty of expertise throughout the journey on everything from geography, to restaurant recommendations, to never-ending content knowledge on the Incans. However, they also were very intentional about giving us some time to reflect and pause, taking in the different places and their meaning, especially while in Machu Picchu. I also appreciated how they considered the different needs and wants of both my dad’s and my experience. From conversing in only Spanish with just me (while speaking English to my dad) to finding an Indian restaurant in Cusco to appease my dad’s withdrawal from Indian culinary spices, the guides were able to differentiate our experiences.
At St. Anne’s, our teachers are far more than providers of content to our students because young people need more than that in their school experience. Our middle school teachers truly love working with middle schoolers, beginning by getting to know their stories so they may have a greater appreciation of them and be able to best challenge and engage them. With classrooms of students who possess such diverse experiences and backgrounds, I admire the ability of our faculty and middle school staff to support the different journey of each child. Part of that journey will involve being there for the "aha" moments and transformative growth that will happen while performing on stage or writing that first research paper. Also part of that journey this year will be helping your child navigate the inevitable challenge that will await them, be it academic, artistic, social, athletic or emotional in nature. Just as they will be there to celebrate and reflect on the successes, our teachers will be there to listen, process and help empower students to problem-solve or seek out the help they need. Though every child’s journey is unique, our experienced faculty have developed a great perspective and loaded toolbox from which to draw for all students. Middle schoolers crave independence as they develop their decision-making skills, and I admire how our faculty provide the encouragement, listening skills and mentorship to push them in safe ways out of their comfort zone.
Over the course of the year, our faculty will serve as teachers, yes, but also as coaches, advisors, club leaders, and literal guides on outdoor trips. As we step into a new era of expanded programming at St. Anne’s in the Hills, our center for outdoor and environmental education, it is such an honor to be a part of a faculty who possess natural skills as guides and understand the importance of how to check in, differentiate, and support a wide variety of students in their growth.
So, as we wrap up an abbreviated first week, here’s to a great adventure ahead for us all!