A Year of Listening to Learn

Last month, a ninth grader emailed me requesting a meeting in regards to her research for a Voice and Vision project. The class was tasked with designing a poster to advocate and educate on an issue of their choosing. Of course I was eager to meet with this student to learn more about their work, but I wasn’t prepared for the sophistication in which this student used our time. She was clearly prepared with her agenda, and not only wanted me to listen, but also talk through possible actions as a result of her research. I enjoy receiving homework from my students!
As a new member of the Ellis community, my main objective this year was to listen to learn. From parents and faculty to staff and students, I am so happy that so many members of our community gave me the grace to do so. While I wanted to learn about all of you, it was clear that you all wanted to learn about me as well. You found out that it took me a while to understand the power of mindfulness. Merriam Webster defines mindfulness as "the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis." I converted two years ago when I realized that it is more than taking deep breaths. As such, I started our Mindful Mondays community homeroom so that we could learn from each other about various mindfulness activities. I wasn’t sure if people would volunteer, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the sign-up sheet to lead Mindful Mondays full. We were able to breathe together, write thankful notes, laugh, listen to music, learn about sleep stories, receive lavender sachets, and many more activities. I am thankful that so many of you volunteered to share with us; I know it was a difficult ask on a Monday morning!

Whenever my family and friends ask how it’s going in Pittsburgh, I mention similar stories. These are the special moments that I have cherished during my first year at Ellis. The people of The Ellis School are amazing individuals. They enjoy sharing their love of learning with each other, as well as anyone who is willing to give them a listening ear. I hope that everyone knows that I will always be a willing listener because I too enjoy learning, and then planning action. Herbert Spencer’s quote, “The great aim of education is not knowledge but action,” has grounded me as a school administrator. I am grateful that many students have found a home in my office and are eager to share their thoughts with me. It feels good whenever a student says, “Ms. Finigan, I need to meet with you about…” More often than not, these meetings are to share an idea for Ellis’ Upper School. Our students are truly changemakers, and I’m looking forward to more learning opportunities next school year.