MAESA Matters January 2019


Happy New Year from MAESA. We hope the new year has brought with it a sense of renewal and energy for the remaining months of the academic year. It is flying by! In this season of Epiphany as we celebrate Jesus among us as a light in the world, let us strive to continue the work before us in our Episcopal schools.

The poem "The Work of Christmas" by Howard Thurman reminds us of our mission during Epiphany and at all times. Thurman was an influential author, philosopher, theologian, educator and mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the civil rights movement.

The Work of Christmas
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.
2018-2019 MAESA Event Dates
Next Up:
MAESA Choral Evensong February 10, 2019 at Washington National Cathedral hosted with St. Albans School and National Cathedral School . The Rev. Scott D. Parnell, Chaplain at Christchurch School , will be our preacher for the MAESA Evensong. Scott leads the chapel program, teaches several biblical classes, coaches JV soccer and earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry before being called to the priesthood. He is the faculty sponsor of Christchurch School's Political Thought Club. The aim of the club is move beyond debating partisan policy and grapple with the values that motivate us, with the ultimate goal to foster empathy across the aisle . Please contact us if you haven't been a part of this special service in the past, or are looking for more information for your school or choir director.

MAESA Scholars Fair April 26, 2019 hosted with National Cathedral School . Please share this date with your faculty and students grades 4th-8th in preparation for attending our annual Scholars Fair in April. We return to NCS and are grateful to them for their second year as host. MAESA will be looking for a host school in 2020 & 2021. Let us know if your school would like to host this springtime MAESA event in the future.
In the January edition of "Why I Teach in an Episcopal School " we hear from Michelle Bruch, second grade teacher at Grace Episcopal School in Alexandria, Va. about how being a person of faith teaching at an Episcopal school allows her to respond to students not only academically but also when they face obstacles in their young lives. Next, in "Spread The Word" St. Patrick's Episcopal Day School in Washington, D.C. shares news about the participation of several of its faculty members in the NAIS People of Color Conference as well as the Washington, D.C. based Big Ideas Fest (BIF). Read about how innovation, collaboration and risk taking are inspiring their faculty.
We'd love to feature one of your faculty members or a school activity in MAESA Matters. Contact us to be included.
"Why I Teach in an Episcopal School"

By Michelle Bruch
Grace Episcopal School
Second Grade Teacher

Most academic skills can be taught more or less through a lesson plan.  If I want to teach fractions, for example, I might start by demonstrating how we can take a whole pizza and divide it into several parts.  I will show my students how to move from a concrete principle to an abstract understanding in a logical, systematic way.  I will demonstrate and model for them how to solve specific types of problems, and then they will solve problems in small groups and eventually on their own.  I will know they have mastered any given objective when they perform well on an assessment.  It is rewarding to guide students along the way as they become more proficient and independent in their academic skills, and I can see evidence that my simple lesson plans are effective.
            Yet there are lessons that children learn that will never be on a lesson plan except the lesson plan God writes specifically for them.  Children come to us as educators and tell us, “My mom and dad broke up,” when they are coping with their parents’ recent separation.  Or they come into our class in the morning and say, “It was not a good weekend because my grandma died.”  Or an eight-year old boy quietly and discreetly takes a box of tissues and places it on his desk because a beloved dog passed away, and he silently mourns the loss of his companion.  
            Our life here on Earth has this way of knocking us all down at times, and it is at those times that our faith in God sustains us and helps us find meaning in the challenges we face.  I teach at an Episcopal School because my deep faith in God is the most powerful tool I have as an educator.  I have to veer off script at times, and at these times I have the most human and spiritual interactions with my students.  “God loves you,” and “I believe in heaven,” I say with tears in my eyes as I look directly at a student and give him or her a hug.  I wipe my tears away, get a tissue, take a deep breath, and we pray together.  I can feel the power of the Holy Spirit at these times.
            Spiritual growth and development are messy, and there is absolutely no concrete to abstract trajectory.  I cannot measure on a simple assessment whether my instruction was effective, because faith journeys must not be instructed but modeled. Being part of a community that regularly worships together, prays together, and learns about the life of Jesus is fulfilling to me, and pushes me to reflect on my own journey as a child of God. 
            I love teaching at an Episcopal School because I hold myself to a high standard as a professional to prepare my students for success in their future academic endeavors.  I spend the majority of my time preparing, executing, and reflecting on their academic progress so they are prepared to grow up to take positions as service-oriented leaders in our community.  In the midst of the classroom, however, is a wooden cross and we pray each day before school begins, as well as before we eat lunch.  We set aside time to thank God for the goodness he brings to us.  When I teach with God’s love, my heart is full of compassion and empathy.  I can be certain that a child’s experience of acceptance and unconditional love in a faith-based community will nourish his or her spiritual growth and foster resilience and goodness on the complicated journey to adulthood.  In my classroom, as in my heart, God plays not a peripheral role, but rather, a common core and as he lovingly and steadfastly directs from above. 

"Spread The Word" News From Our Schools
St. Patrick’s Faculty & Staff
St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School Washington, DC
St. Patrick’s Educators Learn, Lead at National Conferences 
Ten members of the Day School faculty and staff attended the National Association of Independent Schools' People of Color Conference. They travelled to Nashville, Tennessee, where they gathered with more than 6,000 educators from across the country. The four-day conference featured workshops, seminars, and speakers focused on improving the climate at independent schools with respect to diversity and inclusion. Throughout the conference, attendees were reminded of the variety of backgrounds, experiences, and emotions that exist in schools. The conference empowered educators to ensure that students feel that their voices are always heard, even during the difficult process of discovering their identities and how they relate to their school communities. Our St. Patrick's community will be stronger and better together, in celebration of our unique selves and our shared experiences. 

As part of the conference, Assistant Head of School for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Erica Thompson, Kindergarten teacher Samantha Fletcher, and Academic Technology Coordinator Jonathan Fichter presented to a packed room of educators eager to learn about how St. Patrick's has developed an identity curriculum, leaned into the discomfort of conversations about race, and created more spaces for teachers to share their equity practices within our community. Our three educators left their session confident that our community is taking the right steps, even as we still have much work to do. 

Five other Day School teachers attended the Big Ideas Fest (BIF) in Washington, D.C., whose theme was “Democratizing Access to Education.” Participants heard from speaker Sara Goldrick-Rab about her desire to reveal #realcollege and the true experiences of college students pertaining to food and housing insecurity and from David Leonard about the intersection between civic responsibility and the public library. Rapid-fire presentations provided inspiration and opportunity for deeper insights to create more valuable solutions. Morning meditation sessions started each day of the conference with openness in mind and body. 

Grade 2 teacher Danielle Wade and art teacher and Design Thinking Specialist & Design Lab Coordinator Elizabeth Markowitz were co-facilitators for the conference, trained by the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education. They have also deployed their skills at St. Patrick’s, working with faculty and administrators to bring what they learned to life here on campus. Elizabeth observed, “Facilitating gave us an opportunity to be on the front lines of change, to grow as provocateurs, and to be inspired by the open risk-taking of the participants.” Danielle added, “The most important part of BIF isn’t the change you create, but the change it creates in you to see yourself as a warrior for educational justice and innovation.” 

As participants returned to St. Patrick’s, they were not only reminded of the value of collaboration but were reinvigorated by the process of opening themselves up to be vulnerable, creative risk-takers. 

Let us hear from you!
Katherine F. Murphy 
MAESA Executive Director