A Reminder to Be Encouraged

This week many of our Middle and Upper School students are turning in first drafts of papers, or preparing for finals, or finally realizing how much homework they’ve forgotten to turn in. It’s normal to be a little stressed, but this year I’m noticing more and more extreme anxiety of the kind that makes students nervous, unhappy, and unsuccessful. Today I decided to address it directly in a little reminder about what school is really about.

Dear Middle and Upper School Students,

I can’t help but notice a lot of anxiety and worry in our Junior High and High School students right now, and I wanted to be sure to reach out to you as we wrap up the semester.

It’s that time of year when a lot of assignments are coming due and finals are looming on the horizon, which means you all have a lot on your minds. For many, school has been a place where you have felt that you need to perform, or achieve a certain level of excellence in order to be successful.

In some ways this is true: the goal of any school is, of course, to teach you new things, and you learning those things is important to us. However, I want to encourage you to remember that the true heart of any good school is simply learning, not achievement. Your teachers are not here to demand excellence beyond your ability, nor do we feel disappointed in you when you try hard and fail.

Every semester, someone decides it is safer, easier, or better to attempt to plagiarize an assignment than turn in an honest but poor one. This is, I think, an excellent example of having learned exactly the wrong thing about what’s important about school. Plagiarism is so hated in academia not just because it is stealing, but because it reflects the desire to get a good grade over any desire to actually learn what you’re here to learn. It shows that you believe that school is about achieving a certain image no matter how and however false, not mastering the new and wonderful things set before you.

As you work to finish up the semester well, remember a bad first draft is simply a first step in learning to write a better one, and a low test grade is an encouragement to get the help you need from your teachers or your friends, so that you can master what needs to be mastered. Reach out, get advice, work hard and, rather than anyone thinking the less of you, you will make us proud.

I’ve met with every single one of your teachers this week, and I can tell you that this is a group of people who love you dearly. They know you by name, they think about you every day, and they want what is best for you. You do not need to approach your upcoming assignments in fear, but should look at them as an opportunity to grow, to get better, and to learn a new thing.

In 2nd Timothy we are reminded that, “…God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” My hope for us is that we are a community that will refuse to give in to fear, but be typified by love and sound minds.

So be of good cheer. You can do this.

Cate Gilbert
Head of Academics
The Saint Constantine School

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