Character education continues to be an ongoing priority here at St. George’s School. Drawing inspiration from our Mission, we are working hard to infuse the Core Values into all of our programs and interactions. A related goal is to develop a positive and healthy school culture that is open and respectful. We want all of our students to feel safe, both physically and emotionally, just as we want to recognize and celebrate diversity within our community.
In the past few weeks, there have been several powerful opportunities to advance this important process. At the Junior School, for example, our first Man of Character Assembly provided boys with the opportunity to recognize classmates for demonstrating the Core Values. Last week, in acknowledging Orange Shirt Day, we educated our students about the residential school system and its impact on Canada’s indigenous people. As one Grade 4 boy noted in his reflections on Orange Shirt Day: “We have to remember that there was a time in Canada’s history when people were not allowed to be who they were.”
At a recent Senior School Assembly, I spoke about Gender Equality Week, noting that equality for men and women is a basic human right that benefits everyone. On a similar note, in last week’s x-block presentation, David Hatfield spoke to the boys about masculinity and mental health, and a panel of male faculty members, along with a current student and a recent graduate, shared their insights and experiences. A key takeaway was the importance of friendship and of talking about one’s feelings.
As well, in the coming week, the Senior School will be celebrating its fourth annual Pride Week, focusing on the theme of intersectionality. In addition to an x-block presentation, we will be creating a rainbow crosswalk as a sign of our commitment to diversity and inclusivity. Regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, everyone within the St. George’s community should feel welcomed, valued, and respected.
I recently had a conversation with an Old Boy who shared with me some of the challenges he has faced as a member of a visible minority. Although he thoroughly enjoyed his time at the School, he sometimes was confronted with unkind or even racist comments from his classmates. Attributing this behaviour to ignorance and a lack of real-world experience, he stressed the importance of education. “If we want to prepare young people for a globalized, interconnected world,” he continued, “we must embrace diversity and create an environment in which people are comfortable being themselves.”
Those words continue to resonate with me. They remind me of the comment made by the Junior School boy about Orange Shirt Day, and they certainly reflect the thinking that informs so much of our work here at St. George’s. By focusing on character education and celebrating diversity, we can do an even better job of advancing our Mission of ‘building fine young men, one boy at a time.’ We may have a ways to go, but I confident that we are moving in the right direction.