Upper School Director's Blog: December 2019

In December, we find ourselves turning towards warm fireplaces and festive lights as a defense against grey skies and wet, cold days—especially as we get closer to the winter solstice and the longest night of the year. It is no coincidence that the solstice is a time for festivities, such as Toji, the Japanese holiday filled with pumpkin dishes and hot citrus baths, or Yalda, when Persian families share pomegranates and poetry, or the celebrations of Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa—each with their bright candles and heartwarming traditions. This is a time when human beings push back against darkness in its multiple forms, filling their communities with light and filling their lives with meaning.
Here at Gill St. Bernard’s, part of our mission is to live meaningful lives, and our core values provide the blueprint for how to achieve that mission. Making choices for our families that are based upon the ideals of courage, integrity, respect, compassion, and excellence will help us look back later in life and know that what we did meant something to those who follow us. That’s what we teach in our classrooms and homerooms and locker rooms—from Dr. Lutz’s literature class to Mr. Prevost’s programming class, from Mr. Corona’s math class to Ms. Isusi’s painting class, and from basketball court to stage curtain. True excellence cannot reach its pinnacle without true meaning.

It is perhaps ironic that we separate ourselves from the school for a while to think about these holiday moments, to light the candles that banish ignorance and ill-feeling among us, or to ponder the gifts we have been given; the truth is we learn these lessons best when we are together. Together we bring warmth and light to those around us. Together we search for answers—about differential equations, as well as differences of opinion; about the United States Constitution as well as what constitutes a good life. Together we “rage against the dying of the light,” in Dylan Thomas’ phrase, and help each other make the world a little brighter every day. So, stoke the fire, light the candles, and trim the tree. Soon the days will grow longer, and the space between us will grow thin.
Gill St. Bernard’s is a private, coeducational day school for students age three through grade 12, located in suburban New Jersey. Each of the three school divisions provides a rigorous, meaningful, and age-appropriate curriculum, and all students benefit from the environmental learning opportunities that exist on our 208-acre campus.