Recently, I had the good fortune of connecting with Jason Brooks, Head of Upper School at The Episcopal School of Los Angeles. Jason is a Harvard-educated, academic, who speaks multiple languages, and is deeply dedicated to the students in the halls and classrooms of ESLA.

In our first call, we exchanged ideas about diversity, community, leadership, and education. He spoke poignantly about his school’s values as they courageously challenge the status quo of race, equity, and social justice. ESLA is on a journey to transform ‘community’ into ‘kinship.’

In our second interaction, I learned about Jason’s brand new podcast called Beauty@Work. His creation invites listeners to see and honour the beauty at work around us. His passion project illustrates his beliefs: the pursuit of beauty is a faith journey.

In just two brief interactions over the last two months, I am riveted. My mind has swirled around the concepts. I am inspired to take a deep dive into the intersection:

Beauty in Community.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Photo by Terri Bleeker on Unsplash

Learn Forward names belonging and changemaking as two of the most important journeys of a child. When we weave the threads of those two journeys together, often with faith too, we realize community.

In our school, a ‘culture of community’ is a hallmark value: entwined with humanity. When I walk into a Grade 5 math lesson the connective energy is palpable. Students are discussing parts of a whole. Ordering fractions becomes holy work. They work together.

Our beautiful Educational Assistant sits offering a mini-lesson to an individual student and Mr Eapen is making 1/4, 1/6, and 1/8 feel like goals at a hockey game. It could simply look like a math lesson from a workbook, but rather it is a dynamic and communal experience creating a belief ‘We Can Do Hard Things ~ Together.’

You see, Mr Eapen is creating a community, a sense of belonging that encourages risk-taking and whole-hearted learning. The students are working with and through the big challenges of community: diversity, growth, change, disability, and the almighty hormones. It often looks messy. It’s true. Rude words, careless interactions, apathy and disconnection, or vicious stories speak in the space too. Being together is challenging. But, look deeper.

It is a beautiful mess.

Every day and each simple interaction with a lesson, an assignment, a quiz, or a test transforms. It becomes so much more.  The space holds all sorts of truths in learning about connection, conflict, creativity, hard work, self and others. Students are being and becoming as they practice being noble humans in our community: the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers. It is an experience of beauty.

Will You Look Deeper?

We all could understand our lives as complicated, stressful, unfair, or even vicious.

Yet, is there something more?

If beyond the fractions there is a community, how can we begin to reframe our experiences? What if beyond the details, there is art? And beyond the frustration, there is a sunrise? Maybe beyond the tragedy, there is holiness? What if beyond the words, there is faith?

Join me for the next Learn Forward blog series:  Beauty in Community.

For the sake of the children,