The Effort Behind Success

November 12, 2019

With the close of every trimester comes a veritable crescendo that always makes me marvel at our students and faculty. This fall is no different.


On Wednesday, many of you will witness our middle school fall drama students put on their end-of-trimester comedic production.  I have no doubt that the latest Mr. Lemire special will entertain and leave all of us in the audience in stitches, given the comedic nature of this show.


In two weeks, we’ll head off to Thanksgiving Break courtesy of our music department, chorus, bands and musicians led by Ms. Valet, Mr. Craig, and Ms. Gilbert, with plenty of cameos from our faculty and staff. Every year, grandparents who attend always come up to me and share how impressed they are with the quality of performance, wondering how our kids do it.


This past weekend, one of our First Lego League teams took second in robot design and first in the Core Values competitive categories. They are off to state in December to compete because of their success this weekend. None of the students on this team, known as the Madmakers, had ever been in a tournament before, which makes the accomplishment that much more impressive! Good luck to our other team, The Spirit Shapers, on Nov. 23 when they compete in Erie.


And last Thursday, we had our fourth annual Top Chef assembly with a theme of cranberries. The event included live streaming of the chefs in action projected onto the big screen in the dining hall, Sodexo staff mentors, cameras, interviewers, and a timer. Our eighth-grade winning team prepared a cranberry meatball dish that left the judges stunned and desperate for the recipe!

In all of these cases, audience members experienced the events in a vacuum, only seeing the final performance.  Being in our halls every day, I am grateful to get a window into the time, effort, and perseverance that our students and faculty demonstrate every day to be able to deliver these performances.  What I have learned from these windows is that these performances cannot simply be chalked up to unique abilities or happenstance.


The official school day might start at 8:00 a.m., but we’ve got students who are here at St. Anne’s at 7:00 a.m. for chorus or band during the week (in addition to those meeting early with teachers!).  On several mornings and in the afternoon, you might also see our robotics club prepping with Ms. Hund and parent volunteers, trying to design an effective robot that will meet the challenges presented and score well in competition.  At break and BLOC (study hall), you’d be hard-pressed to walk into the MS commons, amphitheater or History Hallway and not see students rehearsing and using memorization tools to prep for the fall production days and weeks ahead. Even our Top Chef champs from the 8th grade shared with me that in addition to the individual meeting with their Sodexo mentor, they prepared their recipe multiple times prior to going live.  These stories aren’t always highlighted, but they are behind the successes of our students and faculty.


Perseverance and giving your best effort have long been core values at St. Anne’s and in our middle school. In fact, a quick read of our recently completed Portrait of a Graduate includes phrases like “a commitment to learning” and “resilient through challenges.” Furthermore, when I visit other high schools and speak with admissions representatives and principals, I hear these same descriptors of our graduates. The resonance of these messages is never lost on me.


How does this hard work get nurtured, though, some might ask? Yes, students bring with them their own internal motivations, which is part of the equation. However, opportunities to pursue passions and interests in activities like robotics helps. When Jason Lemire provides autonomy and trusts student voices in the writing of his plays, students buy-in and are willing to put in more time to make the plays so successful. While not all aspects of school life might elicit the same natural motivation for a student, the hope is that students become increasingly comfortable with putting in the time on task, taking advantage of help, and seeing the positive results. I am always in awe of the St. Anne’s middle-school faculty who make themselves available before and after school, in addition to break time and BLOC to provide the time on task needed for students to be successful. By making themselves available, they not only capitalize on their strong relationship with the student to nurturing a hardworking mindset in their students, but they also make working hard more accessible.


We’re not quite to Thanksgiving yet, and there is still work to do, but I am so grateful to be in a community that values hard work and supports its students in learning what it means to persevere to enjoy success.