An Unexpected Lunch Guest

Last week three administrators and two faculty members from the Early Childhood Division were privileged to attend the 2013 Biennial Conference of the Southwestern Association of Episcopal Schools in San Antonio.  Besides excellent workshops to peak my personal interest in improving Early Childhood chapel services, all three plenary speakers were inspiring and engaging.

If you’ve ever attended such a two-day conference, you know it can wear you out.  Each minute is packed to achieve the most benefit for 600+ educators from around the Southwest.  Typical for me, by noon on Friday I was tempted to skip the post-lunch speaker.  The half-day of travel on Thursday following an early morning Eucharist at ASES, a late night, good food and lack of physical activity was making me long for a little nap. So I calculated my plan carefully—eat quickly and bolt for my room.  Just as I finished my last bite of lunch, everyone at my table excused themselves.  Within seconds, to my surprise, the featured speaker was being seated next to me for his lunch, leaving just the two of us at the table.  I couldn’t very well leave him alone!  That would be rude.  As he got us to make his way to the microphone, he whispered to me, “I hope I don’t put you to sleep.”  I had no choice…I was obligated to stick around to prove he was not boring.

As you may guess, it was the best decision I could have made.  Salome Thomas-El, principal of a Philadelphia inner city school and author of “The Immortality of Influence,” gave one of the most impassioned speeches I’ve heard in years.  He quickly engaged the audience with humor and wit that only an educator could appreciate.  And there I was with no notepad to take notes—after all, I didn’t intend to stay! The only napkins were cloth, and to make matters worse, there were no matchbook covers.  So I improvised, using the room key paper holder to record a few gems worth sharing.   Here they are in no particular order:

  • If a child experiences challenges and joy, any obstacle (poverty, violence, neglect, low expectations, excessive pressure) can be overcome.
  • Failure can be motivating.  Success can be paralyzing.
  • A good chess program can supply intellectual capital.
  • Every child deserves to have at least one person be crazy about him/her.
  • “Anonymous” is the Achilles Heel of a school.
  • Students must know teachers care.
  • The message of a good teacher:  “I’ll be there for you to see you be successful.”

The whole time he was sharing his insight, all I could think about was how All Saints’ measures up. I left knowing I had experienced a “God-moment.”

Fr. Bridge


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