The Power of Awe: Montrose community digs deep into essential questions
Montrose School opened the school year with its usual favorite traditions -- a handshake line welcoming all new students and faculty to the community, an all school Mass, and the "reveal" of the Student Government's theme for the year. The campus, located in historic downtown Medfield, bustled with the energy of the largest enrollment in school history.
"What a day! This was my 24th 'first day of school' at Montrose, and the excitement never dims," said Head of School Katie Elrod.
As always, the root of this first-day excitement lies deeper than the splendid changes that come with a new year: The profound mission underlying a Montrose education -- to educate young women to pursue the truth in all they do -- is what makes this perennial vivacity so palpable.
At the August faculty workshops, Mrs. Elrod reminded teachers, "The mission of Montrose School is based on an ancient and true principle -- that we are unique, unrepeatable, and called by God to become the best version of ourselves to shape our changing world for the good. To seek our purpose in this life is the greatest God-given responsibility we have. This is the definition of what we mean when we say Montrose students are called to greatness. Greatness is not about perfectionism, ego, or one-upmanship. Greatness is about embracing our inherent dignity and living in a way that inspires others to do the same. It is living a life of generosity with a noble purpose."
Mrs. Elrod spoke to an all-school assembly on the first day of school and asked students to consider: What is your essential question? She explained that an essential question is one that is universal, that is debated and discussed in school and in the greater world. Essential questions -- which never cease to provoke man's awe about human existence -- thread through the core texts of Montrose's rich liberal arts curriculum. They draw students to greater engagement with the world around them, their own God-given purpose, and the meaning of human connection in community.
Mrs. Elrod shared with the girls her essential question for the year -- What do girls need to help them become the best versions of themselves for others? As she explained to the girls, this question is based on two truths:
"First, you originate from a divine source -- you were thought into existence by a loving God who unconditionally loves you. He made you unique and unrepeatable, called to greatness and to inspire greatness in others. Your time here on earth is to discover what your purpose is. This is a grand adventure called life. Montrose is an important stop along the journey to help you discover how you should live. Know that your role is critically important.
And second, know that you cannot do it alone. Your flourishing is dependent on others' flourishing. Your mentors, teachers, classmates, and teammates are part of your journey -- each of them is also unique and unrepeatable and has an important contribution to make to this world. Part of your task is finding out what their questions are and how they relate to yours."
Mrs. Elrod shared three tips to help every girl begin the school year well as she seeks to discover her essential question: To ponder the important questions raised by their teachers in every subject; to seek counsel from people -- asking others for feedback and getting to know their essential questions; and to remember the singular importance of prayer as a conversation with the One who loves us the most.
The Student Government team finished the day with girls leading the all-school assembly as they do weekly throughout the year. The student leaders revealed their choice of this year's theme: awe. The choice is apt, given that the power of awe is at the root of the search to discover the essential question -- What is my purpose? Montrose's LifeCompass Parent Educator Deborah Farmer Kris noted in a talk to parents last winter: "Awe is what we feel when we encounter something vast, wondrous or beyond our ordinary frame of reference. It evokes a sense of mystery and wonder. And, given its documented benefits, awe might be our most overlooked, undervalued emotion." The experience of awe can remind us that every person's divine dignity originates from the awesome creation of God, and inspire us to seek our own essential questions.
ALEX RIDER '18 IS THE COMMUNICATIONS ASSISTANT AT MONTROSE SCHOOL. AFTER GRADUATING FROM MONTROSE, SHE WENT ON TO HILLSDALE COLLEGE, WHERE SHE EARNED A BA IN ENGLISH AND A MINOR IN CLASSICAL EDUCATION AND SERVED AS THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF THE SCHOOL LITERARY MAGAZINE. SHE PREVIOUSLY INTERNED AT THE ABIGAIL ADAMS INSTITUTE IN CAMBRIDGE, WHERE MONTROSE HEAD OF SCHOOL KATIE ELROD TEACHES AN ANNUAL SEMINAR.