One of the regular joys of my week is watching students take the stage to speak or perform during our Chapel and Upper School Announcements meetings. Like any live performance, these moments are high-wire acts, in which the audience and performer are bound together by the performer’s courage to step out into the unknown, risking a little pride to test their skills and conquer their fears.
The courage our students regularly show in speaking and performing for their peers says a lot about the community of trust built at Episcopal over the decades. Seen from a leadership perspective, the presence of strong trust in an organization is essential to its health and growth.
In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni identifies an “absence of trust” as the root cause of all other organizational dysfunctions, leading to fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and, eventually, to an inattention to results. In a school setting, one could say that a fundamental absence of trust could lead to an absence of learning. On the flip-side, well-developed trust within an organization can lead to tremendous functionality, and meaningful and sustaining relationships for its members. This close link between trusting relationships and tremendous results is what I see every day at Episcopal.
vulnerability-based trust...is when team members trust the intentions of each other enough that they are willing to expose their own vulnerabilities because they are confident their exposed vulnerabilities will not be used against them.
In particular, our students demonstrate a willingness to embrace “powerful vulnerability” in ways that resonate with Lencioni’s analysis. Another writer who has elaborated on Lencioni’s particular focus on the power of trust and vulnerability is Chade-Meng Tan, Google’s former mindfulness guru. According to Tan, “vulnerability-based trust...is when team members trust the intentions of each other enough that they are willing to expose their own vulnerabilities because they are confident their exposed vulnerabilities will not be used against them.” What better description could be given of the students who put themselves forward in the Episcopal community every day, and for the students and faculty who validate their efforts with applause and good-faith dialogue in and outside of class?
During seventh grade, I lost my grandmother to a short battle with cancer. My grandmother spent two of the last four weeks of her life in the "Butterfly Wing," a hospice care unit at the Baton Rouge General Hospital that specializes in having patients come in at the last minute when things take a turn for the worst. I will never forget when my sister and I brought our grandmother a bouquet of flowers on Easter morning. She was only getting sicker and rarely made any expressions, but I still remember the huge smile that came across her face when she saw those flowers. My grandmother lost her battle to cancer a week after Easter Sunday. I remember the day she moved down from Shreveport she asked me to paint her fingernails. And on April 15th I sat next to her hospital bed holding her hand and painting her nails a beautiful light pink as she took her last breath and passed away. I am at peace knowing she died doing something she loved: having her nails painted. But even knowing this, it was still extremely difficult to watch my family members suffer a loss during such a joyous holiday season.
While I was at the Alzar School I was asked to identify a need in my home community. I knew I wanted to get involved with the Butterfly Wing. I noticed the lack of joy the area had when my Grandmother was there. I wanted to create a team at Episcopal that would be willing to learn more about Hospice Care and help bring a more joyful environment at the Butterfly Wing.
We are excited to celebrate members of the Episcopal Class of 2017 as they make their college enrollment decisions!
Sophie Conners will enroll at Louisiana State University this fall. Congratulations!
Lauren Hicks will enroll at Loyola University Honors Program this fall. Congratulations!
Meredyth Yorek will enroll at Louisiana State University Honors College this fall. Congratulations!
Bailey Stevens will enroll at Sewanee: The University of the South this fall. Congratulations!
To kick off Service Week, Madison discusses a little-known, yet relatively common neurological disorder, Tourette Syndrome, and the misconceptions and stereotypes associated with the condition. Using a fictional story she wrote followed by an online quiz, she walks you through both the emotions felt by students with Tourette Syndrome and the physical challenges that those with the disorder face every day. In order to further raise awareness within her community, she has, with the help of Caroline Crawford, designed t-shirts that will be sold and worn at the Walk for Tourette’s Awareness that Madison is hosting in April. Not only will this further raise awareness, though, but all of the proceeds donated will go to the Tourette Association of America to help spread awareness across the nation and fund research on the disorder.
Madison Ruston is a current senior at Episcopal School of Baton Rouge and is a member of the Honors Thesis program. She is a scholar, swimmer, and Writing Fellow and is passionate about math, science, and research.
As we enter March, National Women’s History Month, I have felt inspired and grateful in considering so many talented women who have shaped our school community and contributed to its strength over the past five decades. Having had the privilege of working here for a significant percentage of Episcopal’s history, I have benefitted from the mentoring, modeling, support and companionship of many highly effective educators and have made friendships that I pray will endure once my time of employment is complete. Regrettably, that is not possible with one of my most treasured friends; how I miss Kay Fenton!
Kay was an unforgettable colleague whose example continues to challenge and motivate me and whose impact on Episcopal is enduring. She taught high school mathematics here for eighteen years and served as our Math Department Chair for much of that time. Her final year with us was tremendously challenging for Kay and all who loved her, as we witnessed her valiant battle against an aggressive cancer that ultimately took her life.
Kay was smart, witty, creative, and fun. She loved her family, shopping, and sports; it would be difficult to find a more loyal, enthusiastic fan of the LSU Tigers or Episcopal Knights! In the classroom, Kay was efficient, demanding, and passionate about her students’ understanding and progress. Her standards for her students were very high, but she took seriously her responsibility to motivate their hard work and build their confidence. While she felt frustrated by any of her students who were inconsistent in completing homework she assigned (particularly the few who were strong enough to make A’s on their tests without doing that work), she was tireless in her dedication to those who worked hard while struggling to excel. As a result of her skilled teaching, those students often surprised themselves and shined with success when it came time for their AP exams.
During her years with us, Kay unified and motivated our Math Department to strive for excellence. She worked as a consultant for the College Board, served as a reader for the AP calculus exam, conducted numerous AP Calculus workshops, and mentored math teachers across the South. In 1997, she won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics and brought honor to Episcopal with this prestigious achievement.
My two sons, both Episcopal alumni, had the blessing of having Kay as their teacher for Honors Algebra II and AP Calculus during high school. They both valued her impact on their education and their lives and mourned her loss to our community. In addition to our family’s relationship with Kay at school, she was our friend at church, where she worshipped regularly. She also was a frequent passenger in our car for away Episcopal football games. I am convinced that her lucky blue and gold shaker made the difference in some close games for the Knights along the way.
As I remember Kay, I am inspired by two important ways that her legacy endures for our school. I am certain that she would be so very proud to see Stephen Anderson, her former student, capably leading our Mathematics Department and setting similar standards for excellence for our math program and our calculus students. She saw Stephen’s potential to become a first-rate teacher when he was still in high school. Kay’s influence also perpetuates through the Kay Fenton Award, a tuition-remission scholarship presented each spring to an 8th grade student who has been an exemplary math student and demonstrated strong character and leadership during middle school. The recipients of this award have become some of our most outstanding high school scholars and leaders and have excelled in their college experience. What a tribute to Kay to have these quality young people honored with an award bearing her name!
In this month designated as a time to honor the impact of strong women in our country’s history, it is fitting to recognize the contributions of intelligent, dedicated women of strong character and purpose who have worked to improve our school and facilitate its ongoing progress. Kay Fenton’s legacy serves as a stellar example for all of us who love our work as educators and believe in the impact that our efforts and care can make on the students we serve.