February 3, 2023 | Nancy Van Epps
by Head of School, Abby Hall Choi
I recently attended a presentation where the speaker used the Gospel story of Mary Magdelene’s anointing of Jesus’ hands and feet as a springboard for a discussion of the pitfalls of making assumptions. Several Gospel accounts report that some of Jesus’ disciples chastised Mary for using expensive perfume when the money could have been employed to help the poor. Jesus responded, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” Not realizing that Jesus’ crucifixion was near, some disciples had made false assumptions about what He would want.
With humor and eloquence, this speaker launched into an exploration of the ways in which assumptions hurt people in the contemporary world:
He further considered current Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging practices that are rooted in the avoidance of making broad inferences based on superficial or scant information.
Would it surprise you to learn that the presenter was an eighth grade Mustard Seed student, Carter Benedict, ’23, giving his Homily Exhibition?
“Of all of our exhibitions, the Homily Exhibitions really speak to the heart of what is special about our school,” says Grade 8 Math Teacher and Technology Manager Sam Choi. “The student homilies were stellar this year! The depth and the poise that the students demonstrated was especially remarkable when you consider that this class was in COVID lockdown for all of their fifth grade year and half of sixth grade.”
In feedback provided after worship, Director of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, and Spanish Teacher for Grades 2-8 Tania Oro-Hahn noted that Carter had made complex concepts around developing emotional intelligence accessible and interesting. He provided relevant examples.
The cultivation of the ability to speak comfortably in front of an audience begins in Preschool at Mustard Seed. Throughout the year, children sit on the birthday pillow and join their teacher in front of the group to receive their birthday book. At this time of year, they are encouraged to be brave and stand alone in front of the group, like Daniel and Esther from the Bible, while the rest of the preschool students, family, and faculty sing to them.
“Here are the words to ‘Dare To Be A Daniel,’” says Dr. Jessica Smith, Preschool & Sixth-Eighth Grade Music Teacher and Worship Coordinator:
Dare to be a Daniel.
Dare to stand alone.
Dare to have a purpose firm.
Dare to make it known.
“When we first started this song, only a few children were brave enough to stand in front of everyone at worship. As of last week, almost every child had been willing to take a turn.”
By the time Mustard Seed students reach Lower School, they are ready to address their fellow classmates and families in the Community Room about their chosen country as part of the Global Expo. The speech is only a few sentences, but entails conveying technical information to a relatively large audience.
When students give further academic presentations to their class in fourth and fifth grade, they receive immediate feedback from their peers and their teacher. They learn to hear both praise and information on areas that need work.
“Shakeh has modeled behavior for Middle School students,” says Sam. “She showed them the value of connecting with your audience with personal stories. Our eighth grade class this year really exemplifies the values expressed in our Portrait of the Graduate.”
In closing, I thought you would enjoy this video of our chorus practicing after school with Dr. Smith, and images from our reading buddies with their Kindergarten and first grade students.