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.