MAESA Matters January 2021

Greetings from MAESA.

As we celebrate Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th, many MAESA schools will mark this day in chapel with readings and sermons for students of all ages about the meaning of Epiphany. Younger children might understand Epiphany as a time when the Magi brought gifts to celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus. Older students may understand that Epiphany is the manifestation of Christ in the world for all humanity. Merriam-Webster defines an epiphany as "an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure." There are parallels in this definition with the work of education, such as the spark or realization a teacher witnesses when a student learns something new. As we begin a new calendar year in the midst of this very different academic year, let us pray that we will see with fresh eyes what God is calling us to see. May 2021 be filled with "illuminating discoveries" directed by God's love in the world working through each of us.

This month MAESA is pleased to share a reflection from St. Anne's School of Annapolis' Middle School Head, Karl Adler. In response to the question, why does he teach in an Episcopal school, Mr. Adler shares some of the motivation and inspiration that drives his work. You'll see him pictured below with Daisy, a Golden Retriever who joins him occasionally at school in this very different year, and, according to Karl, lifts spirits wherever she goes.

MAESA Schools Prayer Rota for 2021
In December MAESA shared our "We See You" video celebrating adults in our MAESA schools. We also created a MAESA prayer rota at this link, which assigns a week of prayer to each of our MAESA schools. You can pray for each of these MAESA schools during the designated week at your school's chapel service, and also in your daily prayers for the rest of this school year.

"Why I Teach in an Episcopal School"

By Karl Adler
Head of Middle School
St. Anne's School of Annapolis

Why I teach in an Episcopal School, or What's so funny about peace,
love, and understanding? 

Each day I drive to work with a few routines. I balance toast and coffee on my lap, try to time certain traffic lights just right, and continuously scan the radio, flipping between the five or six preprogrammed stations. The searches are designed to break up the morning news –but I am also looking for a song or two to reflect the mood I am in or to help me find an ‘anthem’ for the day. Knowing this writing assignment was looming, I recently came across an old favorite, “(What's So Funny ‘bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.” Elvis Costello's version is full of drums and guitars, with snarls of irony and attitude. I love this song because it is a great mixture of early 70’s British rock and an underlying sense of defiance. But despite the discordant clanging of guitars and drums, the defiance in this song is not against the establishment, but against cynicism. Despite a dark and bleak world, the song seems to find resolution in that there's nothing funny about these concepts and the song ends triumphantly. The song worked as my anthem for that particular day, but it also works for the larger idea of why I teach in an Episcopal school. 

As I walk through this wicked world
Searchin' for light in the darkness of insanity
I ask myself, "Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred and misery? 
I teach in an Episcopal school because we, too, are working against that world-weary cynicism. In fact, we are charged by our mission to teach directly the concepts of peace, love, and understanding. We do this in many ways both big and small. We welcome and greet each other each day in morning meeting, spending time recognizing each individual. We celebrate shared experiences inside the classroom and outside on the playing fields, on the stage, and even on the four-square courts during recess. We teach to individuals, promoting critical thinking skills, but also addressing the whole child with a balanced social and emotional curriculum. We value each person and recognize that each brings value to our school community. 

And as I walk on through troubled times
My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes
So where are the strong and who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony, sweet harmony?

We foster concepts of social justice, conflict mediation, and the recognition and embrace of differences. This is seen in the way we resolve conflict among students with peer mediation training, strengthen connections between younger and older students in a mentor program, and apply restorative disciplinary practices. We also challenge ourselves to review our curriculum to ensure that it reflects a multitude of voices and that it helps students and ourselves understand that people different from us have different experiences and hold different truths. 

And each time I feel like this inside
There's one thing I wanna know
What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding

An Episcopal priest and good friend of mine used to explain to students that prayer is “practice for hard times.” Well, this past year has given plenty of opportunities to pray. The global pandemic, racial injustice, environmental disasters and the increasingly divisive tone in our national politics are just a few reasons. But in these “troubled times,” I feel the work that we do in Episcopal schools is the “sweet harmony” that is mentioned at the end of the song. Episcopal schools produce graduates who are prepared for the future academic challenges and yet are instilled with a sense of purpose. We produce graduates who value community, social justice, truth, peace, love . . . well, you know how the song goes. 
Plans for MAESA Events in 2021

MAESA 2021 Choral Evensong Remix: Since MAESA will not be able to hold Choral Evensong at Washington National Cathedral this month, we are working to convene the MAESA choral directors and provide a chance to connect. MAESA is collaborating with our host, St. Albans School and National Cathedral School, and their choral director, Brandon Straub, to plan a late January Zoom gathering of MAESA choral directors. This time will allow our schools to share how they are reimagining weekly chapel to reflect various virtual formats and also to engage our increasingly diverse school communities. We are also gauging the interest in inviting upper school choristers to collaborate on a piece of music virtually that could serve as a capstone to the year.

MAESA Scholars Fair 2021 Our annual Scholars Fair would have been hosted at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School in Washington, D.C. This annual scholastic fair for students in 4th-8th grade is a highlight of the year. We know our schools' 7th and 8th grade students especially rely on events like this to build their confidence and resumes as they apply to high schools. MAESA is looking at the possibility of holding a Scholars Fair virtual showcase. Stay tuned for more information as we work to plan this type of event for our member schools with 4th-8th grade students.

MAESA Early Childhood Educators Workshop MAESA will continue to assess the plans to offer the MAESA Early Childhood Educators Workshop in the spring. Please stay tuned and we will be in touch as our plans develop.
Let us hear from you!
Katherine F. Murphy 
MAESA Executive Director