Last Sunday in Meeting for Worship, what rang out to me in the silence were the core values of Sidwell Friends School. I found myself grounded in the following statement, and I put it on paper as soon as I got home.
It begins with a voice. The inner voice. The voice that tells us what is in our heart. Quakers believe that there is “that of God” in every person. It is by listening to our inner voice that we may appreciate the greatness that is within us. We understand that it is through the guidance of our inner voice that we let our lives speak.
In Meetings, both for Worship and for Business, we share what is in our hearts with our community. We honor the voices that we hear through listening with an open heart, mind and spirit. All voices are held equal. We witness the affect that others’ voices may have on us and how we may affect others. It is through this process that we are able to appreciate the power of our own voice.
Teachers, administrators, and parents join together to help students develop their voices. Whether putting their words on a page or vocalizing them, we teach students to articulate their passions. Although they must remain guided by their unique inner voices, we share with students the wisdom and truths that we have gained from experience and teach students how to grow from their own experiences. We instill in them an understanding of the significance of speaking truth to power and provide them with the skills and the confidence to do so.
We recognize as well our responsibility to use our voice as a community. The depth of our values and the richness of our history have made our communal voice an authoritative one. We not only let our life speak as a community, we are also committed to speaking out for peace, for social justice and for environmental stewardship in a world in which the chorus is in equal parts necessary and far too hushed. As we engage in our work as advocates, we speak with one voice.
The statement both grows out of and further inspires the following queries that represent to me areas that we could each help the school grow from Good to Great:
• Do we as faculty, staff, and administrators consistently model being guided by our inner voice?
• Do we hold all voices equal in Meeting for Worship? In Meeting for Business? In daily interactions?
• Do we consider how what we speak will affect others? Do we aim to us language that is sensitive to all in our community?
• Do we effectively mentor students in how they can articulate their passions outside of the classroom?
• Do we develop in each student a confidence in his or her voice in and out of the classroom?
• How do we encourage the school to use its voice as an institution effectively? How can we continue to voice or institutional values to students?