Last weekend, I completed an obstacle course mud run. While it was encouraging to test my perseverance and strength in a new way, the best part was the end. Not because it signified the end of the run, as some might think, but because of the unexpected moment waiting for me after I sludged through the last pond. I came out of the last obstacle to hear, “Mrs. Schultz! Mrs. Schultz!”
One of my students had been standing near the finish line waiting for her sister; she ran toward me yelling, and wrapped her arms around me (yes, still soaked in muddy water, covered in sweat and grass) in the biggest hug she could muster. That interaction gave me more validation than any medal I could ever receive.
I recalled my first staff meeting as an Ambleside teacher: I was terrified. Could I rise to Ambleside’s rigorous expectations? Then, after much discussion, questions, and answers, Mrs. Romine said something that put my heart at peace: “At the end of the day, the only thing that truly matters is that each student knows they are safe and cared for…”. I knew I was right where I needed to be.
I hold onto this idea, in the same way, I did as a first-year teacher in public school. New to the classroom, I was overwhelmed by the mandatory assessments, checklists, and data. I was taught one of the most important aspects of successful teaching is to see growth in a child’s test scores. When I stepped into the classroom, I had four students who were homeless, and one whose parents had just packed all their bags the night before and walked out – leaving him behind. I quickly realized providing an atmosphere where students felt safe and loved could do more for them than any test score could. Their test scores on paper couldn’t tell you the growth I saw in the classroom.
“Thought breeds thought; children familiar with great thoughts take as naturally to thinking for themselves as the well-nourished body takes to growing; and we must bear in mind that growth, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, is the sole end of education.”
Here at Ambleside, the focus isn’t solely on intellectual growth. Our aim is to teach the whole child. The conversations, the mentorships, the Chapel Buddies all point to a greater purpose of growing our students physically, intellectually, morally, and spiritually. I can’t think of any other school where someone in leadership would step into the classroom so the teacher can help walk two students through the process of restoring their relationship. Or, where older students would actually be excited to play, spend time with, and invest in younger students.
Last Friday, we had Chapel in person for the first time since March 2020. This was also my very first (in person, all school) Chapel as a teacher at our school. I greatly enjoyed Chapel as a parent, but as a teacher? Whew! Not only do I get to see my son worship with his Chapel Buddy, but so many students that I now know personally and love deeply, all worshiping together. As Beth Willis said, “the love in that room astounds me.” Relationships matter here.
Ambleside is a community, one that builds and fosters relationships that reflect Christ, not just in word, but indeed. I am filled with gratitude for such a place that doesn’t just care about the intellectual parts of our students, but for their souls.