In Mind, Body and Spirit, our mission is to prepare students to succeed.
Much food for thought is built into our new mission statement, which was approved by the Menaul School Board of Trustees during the May 2014 meeting. This pithy phrase is a product of a yearlong process in which our whole community worked together to develop this mission statement as one piece of a new strategic plan, which you can see here.
This statement is dense with meaning, so I will unpack it a bit and explore how it reflects the important aims of a Menaul School education.
MIND - What is the work of the mind in school? An education at Menaul School is very much about mind – we know what kinds of minds thrive and succeed in today’s world. While not a perfect list, we could agree that curious minds lead students to discovery and a sense of lifetime learning. Curious minds ask questions, look deeper, research on their own, challenge the accepted way of thinking and ask “why” to uncontested “truths.” The work of the mind is also about creating order. Brain researchers tell us that discerning a pattern is the natural function of the brain. Organizing our reality is part of an organized mind’s work. "MIND" implies critical and creative thinking and the joy of exploring the world's great minds in each discipline. “Is this truth?" “What is reality?” “Why am I here?” Menaul graduates praise their Menaul School experience with comments like, “At Menaul, I learned to organize and express complex thoughts,” and, “At Menaul, I became a thinker, a writer and a poet even if I work in the sciences.”
BODY - The joy of physical activity – dancing, running, jumping, throwing, shooting and walking - is one piece of the body experience. Learning to care for and respect the meat and bones as a gift from God is a significant part of each person’s path to maturity. The Apostle Paul in Corinthians reminds us, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” The clear implication is that our bodies are gifts from God and important. Health classes, physical education, athletics and the arts all provide opportunities for students to explore and stretch their body’s limits and to use their bodies for good.
SPIRIT - The spiritual side of life is the most complex, interesting and difficult to define. Are we spiritual beings? Menaul School says, "Absolutely – yes." Do we have a standard definition for "spiritual" – absolutely not! The Apostle John says in his Gospel, “The Spirit blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but it cannot tell where it comes and where it goes.” Writers across the ages identify spirit as real, and at Menaul School, we explore spiritual truths first from the Christian scripture and traditions, but we also explore ideas from other writings like the Torah, Koran, Confucian Analytics, Vedas, and modern interpretations. Culture, history and science do not make sense if we don’t openly discuss and explore the effect of faith in human history.
The idea of SPIRIT parallels the Hebrew concept of heart, which is defined as the center or core of one’s being. Our program challenges students to develop "heart" through community service, because we truly believe that the only way to teach empathy is to have students meet human needs face to face. An education of the heart has many facets but is certainly part of our spiritual journey.
After taking these complex ideas apart, let me finish with a reminder that MIND, BODY and SPIRIT are connected inexorably and completely. We cannot talk about MIND without including SPIRIT, nor talk about BODY without discussing its connection to our MIND. It’s a mad and wonderful circle that describes the growth of an individual. I look forward to seeing how this mission plays out in the minds, bodies and spirits of our blessed Menaul School students.
“Body and mind, and spirit, all combine,
To make the Creature, human and divine.”
- Ella Wheeler Wilcox