State of the School AddressHello, my name is Virginia McWilliam and I am the newly appointed Pedagogical Chair. I work alongside Fran Cameron who is the Administrative Chair. I am deeply grateful for her grace and incredible talents in the work of helping direct the school into the future.

The horizon for many of the teachers at the school is somewhat defined by of the immediate responsibility and scope of their direct work with the students. In my heart I feel as if Fran and I are asked to have a more distant horizon in mind. It is as if we are asked to place ourselves along the ridge of the beautiful Holyoke range out there in the dark and observe the comings and goings of the school in a broader context and find relationships between activities that might otherwise be missed as having a relationship. We’re being called to be like the lad who climbs the mast in the era of wooden sailing ships who helps navigate a true course and to redirect to avoid obstacles in the way.

We’ve had an eye on our future for a few years now. The recent governance shifts have been one outcome and there are many others emerging. There are many wonderful initiatives arising now within the school community that have been stirred into life by this process of renewal.

The principles we have used along the way are so eloquently reflected in the morning verse that is spoken daily by the students from Grade 5 through 12. The mantra has three parts:

In the first the students are asked to look into and observe carefully the world around them.

The second part asks that the look inward and observe the nascent capacities they have to address this world.

The last part turns to ask that we each have the grace and strength to take up the work and learn from what we do each day.

Most of the students say this mantra everyday somewhat unconsciously, but as an adult I have slowly come to understand its quiet power and I am grateful for the strength its repetition provides. We have been seeking our future as a school by looking out into the world. We see amazing initiatives and beautiful examples of human beings everywhere we look. But we also wonder:

Where are the institutions we can trust?
Where is the leadership that inspires?
What in all we hear is true and can be trusted?

While we struggle to develop the capacities of right perception and discernment, we can at times feel lonely and somewhat lost. Finding like-minded people with whom we can unite seems important. How do we build communities that still stay open to differences so the world does not become a place inhabited by communities that are alienated from each other? We have been examining as a school how, looking into the future, we ourselves, as teachers, can strengthen our inner capacities to help prepare the students for the world they will enter into.

This week I discovered a jewel in a Krista Tippet podcast to which I was listening. Krista Tippet leads many intriguing conversations on “Becoming Wise,” and “Civility, Culture and Faith.” She shared a definition of beauty given to her by a poet: “Beauty is something in whose presence you feel more alive!”

I realized once again why beauty is such an essential part of a Waldorf education. Here, at Hartsbrook, we wish to be a place of beauty where you and your children can feel alive, so that we go out every day into the world alive, carrying the spirit of goodness and with capacities to offer the healing the world so desires in its quest to be a truly human place.