This week, Mrs. Marcia Renken, principal, shares what is at the heart of an Academy education.
A distinctive aspect of a Sacred Heart education is the commitment to the nurturing and development of the whole child. Long before the term “whole child” became a buzz word in educational research and circles, the development of Habits of the Heart were a guiding principle in the designing and opening of Sacred Heart schools beginning in France. St. Madeleine Sophie Barat founded the Society of the Sacred Heart believing that “in order to reach the mind, you must first touch the heart.” The building of a relationship, akin to the feeling of family, was the best way to guide and support “our children,” a term used by the RSCJ community in lieu of “students.” Her vision was to create an environment that would feel like home while the children attended classes. Today, at the Academy of the Sacred Heart, it continues to be important for every student, adult, and family to feel loved and accepted. We continue to listen, learn, teach, and grow in our understanding of how to make this happen.
It is that belief in and commitment to the Habits of the Heart that ensures we schedule time, within the school day, for conversations, discussions, and reflections about topics of oneself: Who am I? Who do I want to be? What is my place in the world? How can I affect change? What is my calling? There are a wide range of topics. Each student keeps a notebook for personal thoughts and reflection. Hopefully, it is their safe place to express themselves.
In Primary and Lower School, these conversations occur daily in homeroom and in Assembly. Even our youngest learners can talk about these high-level and deep conversations in simple, yet profound ways. They have ideas and they want to share. Their view of the world and dreams can take my breath away. Their words give me pause and can often help realign my priorities, take time to enjoy the simple things, or just stop and appreciate all that surrounds me.
The time we give to these conversations in Middle School is referred to as Living the Goals. Weekly, we meet in Cribbin Hall as a Fifth and Sixth Class group and a Seventh and Eighth Class group. These students have a unique perspective of the world around them, near and far. They are more aware of their parents’ perspectives, which may influence their understanding or point of view. Additionally, many are becoming more keenly protective of their place in their peer group: Do I fit in? Will they like me? Will I be accepted? Can I share my idea?
They have thoughts and opinions but may be hesitant to take the risk. This is a part of their personal development. What I appreciate about this heart curriculum is watching and listening as someone decides to take the risk and share. This naturally gives others a sense of freedom to share. These conversations continue in their afternoon homeroom time, as well.
Currently, we have begun a project called, “Kindness Rocks.” After conversations and taking action to practice acts of kindness, small perhaps, yet impactful, we have now moved to using custom-painted and signed rocks to give messages to each other within our school community. Messages meant to inspire and cultivate a positive atmosphere of love, support, and community are being shared.
While this is not necessarily a new idea, it is a new project for our school community. The project began with the Seventh and Eighth Class students and the faculty and staff. Each painted a rock with an inspirational message. For the past four weeks, they have chosen a random rock for the week which hopefully holds a special and needed message for each person.
The Third and Fourth Classes began to paint their rocks this week. Once completed, they will exchange among themselves. Next week, First, Second, Fifth and Sixth will join in the project until finally our Little Acorns, Pre-Primary, and Primary students will complete this school-wide initiative. Everyone will have to wait for the culminating activity. Watch for news of a “Spring Rock” event.
The Habits of the Heart curriculum is often referred to as the hidden curriculum. This is only true in the fact that we do not order a set of books or purchase a set curriculum. Rather, this most important part of our days is rooted in the wisdom of St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, the courageous efforts of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, the RSCJ who keep the vision and mission alive, and the faculty and staff that wholeheartedly choose to follow in their footsteps.