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Scott's 1 Big Idea

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Scott's 1 Big Idea is a way for me to share what's on my mind, foster an institutional conversation about things that matter to our community, and promote dialogue between the school, our current parents and guardians, as well as alumni, partner schools, and the wider Providence community. 

I encourage you to take a read, comment and contribute to the conversation, and repost and share with your own network. I hope to see you in the comments on LinkedIn!

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Scott McLarty

Head of School

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Another Year: Transitions, Thresholds, and Meaning
Danielle Roumbos
Scott's 1 Big Idea

Can you feel it? Does it feel like an end? A beginning? It’s just the end of the school year, right? Just

This time of year is beautifully complicated. The full range of emotions and bodily experience is encountered as another school year comes to its inevitable conclusion. That’s because “school year” is a code word, a short-hand for the complex process of young people growing, learning, trying, failing, succeeding, yearning, confiding and confusing. It is hormones and neural pathways, friendships developed and challenged, muscles and tendons stretched and new ideas and skills tried. We don’t build widgets; we foster the holistic human development of the young people in our care. It’s beautiful, messy, hard, and rewarding. 

May means we are all in transition. Exhaustion accompanies frenetic energy; sadness mingles with joy; hope rubs up against loss; the anticipation of summer lures despite the busyness of today; possibilities emerge even as missed opportunities linger; days feel like an eternity and weeks like a flash. Something is ending; something new is beginning.  

I like to think of it as a threshold. A threshold is “the plank, stone, or piece of timber that lies under a door.” You walk over and through a threshold. It requires taking a step and moving forward. Often, we pause and take a deep breath before crossing a threshold. Sometimes we know who or what is on the other side. Sometimes we don’t. That can make us wary of thresholds. Crossing a threshold can feel like loss and gain at the same time. Although anyone can feel this at the end of a school year, it is especially acute for seniors leaving for college and their parents.  

The Irish poet, priest, and philosopher, John O’Donohue speaks to this in his short essay “Thresholds”:  

A threshold is not a simple boundary; it is a frontier that divides two different territories, rhythms and atmospheres. 

Indeed, it is a lovely testimony to the fullness and integrity of an experience or a stage of life that it intensifies towards the end into a real frontier that cannot be crossed without the heart being passionately engaged and woken up. 

At this threshold a great complexity of emotion comes alive: confusion, fear, excitement, sadness, hope. 

This is one reason why such vital crossings were always clothed in ritual. 

Cultures build rituals around thresholds. Threshold practices are surprisingly common around the world.  

  • Shinto torii gates in Japan mark the transition from the secular to the sacred at the entrance of Shinto shrines.  

  • In Jewish tradition, a mezuzah is a small parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah, placed in a decorative case and ritually affixed to the doorposts of Jewish homes.  

  • In Indian weddings, crossing the threshold of the groom’s home, called griha pravesh involves several rituals.  

  • In Scotland, the New Year’s custom of "first footing" involves the first person to cross the threshold of a home after midnight bringing luck for the coming year.  

  • In Catholicism, Holy Doors, like those in St. Peter's Basilica, are opened during Jubilee years. Pilgrims crossing through these doors’ thresholds seek indulgences and spiritual renewal, symbolizing a passage into a state of grace and reconciliation with God. 

  • In some indigenous American traditions, entering and exiting a sweat lodge represents a symbolic journey. The lodge itself is a sacred space, and crossing its threshold is part of a purification ritual, symbolizing a spiritual rebirth and a connection with ancestral spirits. 

At Providence, we intentionally design threshold experiences.

  • Our faculty and staff begin each year with a day of service together, bringing us together to live our mission to “steadfastly serve all.”

  • We start every school year with Mass of the Holy Spirit and end it with baccalaureate mass and graduation.

  • We start each morning by greeting families and students at drop-off and begin every academic day together at 9 AM with a prayer and recital of our mission statement and one of our five values.

  • Each May is packed with celebrations and ceremonies acknowledging accomplishments and expressing gratitude.

  • When campus re-opened in 2021, we wanted to joyfully ritualize the threshold that is the last day of school for our seniors, so we began planning epic water balloon fights.  

  • Our new house system will provide opportunities to build new rituals and practices that can bind us together as a community and mark important transitions.  

As we move between “two different territories, rhythms and atmospheres in the coming weeks, let us be mindful of the threshold we are crossing together. Maybe consider these 10 Ideas for Reflecting at the End of the School Year.  

You won’t receive Scott’s 1-1-1 weekly during summer break, but it will hit your inbox in the middle of June, July, and August.  

See you in June, 

Scott