What do we want when we are choosing a school for our children? Yes, our children need to be ready academically to take ground and build a life for themselves. But I want more for them. My hope is that they face the battlefields of life with more in their quiver than academic preparedness.
I want them to learn to be brave. To be challenged to try new things, to see the world through different lenses, and to settle comfortably into their own skin-no matter who is watching. I want our children to discover their gifts, their value, and to feel alive in a world that needs them.
I want them to trust. Our children are growing up with countless ropes around them-people and perspectives tugging at them, vying for their allegiance. They need a safe place to learn from wonderfully imperfect mentors who encourage and inspire rather than condemn. Our children need tangible peace. They need a reliable respite from the chaos imposing itself onto their lives. They need quiet so they can hear their own voices and the gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit. I want them to grow to trust that voice and their ability to navigate the life God gave them.
I want them to be forgiven, and-can I say this? To be children. Our children desperately need to play and to be silly and to not grow up too fast. They need high standards, yes. But they need mercy when they fail and permission to try and try again.
We hear so much from institutions about rigor and demands, but I want to know a school’s vision for pouring as much into our children’s hearts as it does their minds. And I want to know they back up their promises.
So, I chose St. John Berchmans.
As a parent, we know when our children are happy at school. We know the names of all their teachers, and we can count all the blessings associated with each name. The stories of Coach Keel and his vast life experience. The hours of after-school tutoring with Mrs. Maniscalco, who imparted a true love of math to my fearful daughter. We hear it in their laughter about Mr. Yatcko’s sayings and the beautiful way he lives his faith. We welcome the questions that begin Mom, did you know . . . and end with a fascination of something they held onto to from Mrs. Vitacca or Mrs. Knight. We hear them quietly sing the sweet songs they learned from Mrs. Barr.
We know we have found the right place when we know we are going to find faith, hope, and love on the other side of the door. When we call our principal in tears because our child is struggling, and she gently talks us down from the ledge. When we overhear our children’s Zoom calls with their teachers and wish we could be in those classes with them. When we feel like we and our children have a true support system.
Every school has its own culture. Every family has its own idea of what their children need. But if your list is close to mine, I invite you to come find the joy my children and I have found at SJB.