Learning and Giving: Reading With Robes and the Gift of a Heathwood Education

Thursday, October 1, 2020

As a graduate of the Class of 1990, a parent, and an employee, I have spent most of my life deeply connected to Heathwood. We bleed plaid at my house and truly love Heathwood Hall.

So when I was asked recently by Middle School Head Maria Croley Madden to share my thoughts about school spirit and what it means to be a Highlander with Middle School students, I realized there was so much I could say about the Heathwood experience that I needed to identify some organizing principles so my thoughts wouldn’t be all over the map.

I could have addressed the rigor of academics, the closeness of our community, the character of those who teach and learn, or our gorgeous space. All those are all plentiful gifts, but as I reflected, I came to feel that the true essence of Heathwood lies within the experiences and opportunities we share in this community. Heathwood offers those in abundance.

I had one such experience on Wednesday. Mr. Chris McDuffie invited me to join his 8th-grade Civics class for an event called Reading with Robes. Students in 16 different schools across the country gathered in a room with a local judge to participate in a virtual meeting with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. This unique and incredible opportunity was arranged by Heathwood parent and Federal Judge Michelle Childs. The experience was surreal.

Together, we spent the hour listening to Justice Sotomayor read passages from her autobiography, and engaging in questions and answers -- out of a total of 6 questions that were selected nationwide, the moderator used 2 questions from Heathwood students! Justice Sotomayor then shared how she ends each day. She asks herself two questions:

       --What have I learned today?

       --Who have I helped today?

In that moment, I realized she had just explained in two words all that we are striving to do at Heathwood Hall: learn and give.

Heathwood is about curiosity, engagement, and service to others over self. Heathwood is about pursuing academics and striving for all that is meaningful, relevant, and important. Heathwood is about seeing God in others, reflecting on our shared blessings, and striving for balance. Heathwood is about finding joy in creativity and the pursuit of enlightened thinking. Heathwood is about relationships, respect, fun, and hard work. Heathwood is about learning and giving.

Heathwood is a place that allows the light in all our students to shine no matter where they are on their path as we work together to teach, to learn, to grow, and to give through moments of experience and opportunities for all of us to impact one another. It is a gift. 

Even though spirit week for Homecoming looks a bit different this year due to COVID, the love of being on campus with my Heathwood family fills my heart and energizes my spirit. The moments of opportunity and experience are all still here. And together as Highlanders, we learn and we give.