By Bob Gillingham
Head of Lower School

One of the joys of working at the Lower School is simply walking around campus. For many years, I’ve considered our Mission Hills site my second home–the historic campus never fails to lift my spirits and to remove the “busy-ness” veil from my eyes. There’s always something new to see, and I’m always pleasantly surprised.  

Encountering examples of successful collaboration throughout our campus are some of my most fulfilling moments. We’ve worked very hard to create situations in which the students learn to work with others toward a common goal. Early attempts can reveal poor conflict resolution skills, uncooperative attitudes, frustration, and even anger. Over time, however, the students learn to compromise and realize that working together can be much more powerful and productive than working alone.

On a recent jaunt, I saw the most beautiful example of collaboration–artwork bracketing the office doors in our glass display cases. As I admired the artwork adorning the cases: colorful, uniquely-patterned quatrefoil windows, I realized that I was staring at a perfect representation of our goals for student work at the Lower School. The overall presentation was of high quality with every part of every window precisely drawn and cut. The individual parts themselves, four to a window, were all unique, full of individual expression, and multicolored but collectively essential for the overall shape of the windows when assembled. 

Furthermore, when all of the windows were assembled together, under the careful direction of our art teacher, Sarah Blalock, they became one lovely mural… literally a window on the Lower School.

We hope to inspire excellence in student work and to help them internalize this mindset so that they may enjoy the fulfillment that comes with trying one’s best and succeeding. But, we also know that much of what they do in their lives will be in concert with others, leveraging the power that can arise from such synergy, but also developing the skills to work through difficulties, resolve conflicts, and reach common ground.

Later, with these lofty goals in mind, I happened to find a teacher who, while supervising the building of survival huts, had overheard a conversation between two students not known for their long record of collaboration. Their difference in opinion appeared to be too vast to recover when at last they both stated, quite miraculously, that their finished product would be vastly better if they each incorporated their peer’s ideas. We were stunned (but also delighted).

The 21st Century is here, and its demands are vastly different from those of previous centuries.  Thinking critically, working collaboratively, communicating well, and leveraging creativity will ensure that our students, your children, advance as far as their minds can see.