Stuffing Your Backpacks

Stuffing Your Backpacks
Karen Ristuccia
With the turn of the calendar to September—and despite warm weather, lush flora, and the still anticipated autumnal equinox, summer seems over. Classes are beginning, soccer and cross country practices are multiplying, and the liturgies of this season abound: buying new clothes, returning to closely monitored schedules, amassing school supplies, stuffing backpacks. As our Wilberforce community prepares for September 7, and the official first day of school, I want to weigh in on the latter practice—stuffing your backpacks.

No, I am not going to enjoin our students to protect their spines by carefully balancing their backpacks and/or keeping the bag's heft below 15% of one's bodyweight, although these are great recommendations. Instead, I am going to ask our community members (students primarily, but by extension parents and staff members as well) to add the following five qualities to their "mental backpacks."Addressing our students I say, "Include these five qualities in this all important 'backpack'":
  1. Humility—No matter how well you did last year or what triumphs you experienced over the summer, come to school with a readiness to learn, to celebrate others' successes, and to expand, reorder, reject, and create ideas and opinions.
  2. Wonder—Be on the look out for the beautiful, the unexpected, the unfamiliar, and the inexplicable.
  3. Anticipation—Expect to grow, to change, to labor, and to connect. "Education is life," Charlotte Mason reiterated.Life is exciting, challenging, and transforming.
  4. Curiosity—Come with a desire to know, to listen, to learn, to apply, and to share. Every day, and in every class, pursue the "Why" question.
  5. Collegiality—You belong to a community of learners, not just in name but also in practice. Learning at our school is purposeful: directed to building up one another and God's kingdom. Remember, we have different gifts, perspectives, and experiences: we need each other.

Education at The Wilberforce School unites basic ordered knowledge with foundational skills and qualities of mind and heart. To achieve this rich and inspiring end, students need TWO readied backpacks. Summer barbecues may be over, but an intellectual and relational feast awaits.