News from Penny B. Evins

Start of School Student Prayers Message, 2014-2015
“Be More Awesome” 

Be More Awesome. The video we just watched said it and I charge all of us at SPSG to 
be more awesome during this 2014-15 school year! It is truly a thrilling sight to have all of you together in this space.  As I mentioned last year in our final all-school gathering, I hope you took some time to do “nothing” on purpose and rejuvenate in mind, body, and spirit. Now that you are well rested and back, we are ready for action.
I have spent the last several weeks in conversations. Adult conversations are oftentimes called “meetings” or “retreats” and having had many conversations with our SPSG faculty and staff, I am truly humbled, honored, and feel privileged to be a part of this learning community.  The teachers’ efforts have been nonstop. They choose SPSG to work with each of you. Simply said in the video, teachers see the person others can become someday.  Our faculty and staff are here to help each of you learn from each other, stretch yourselves, and leave your comfort zones.  With their care, you will be poised to improve and change the greater world.
Our faculty and staff are terrific human beings. Get to know them and allow them to know you.  Let’s show our appreciation and make some noise thanking the fine folks, teachers and staff in this room who have prepared for what will be a great school year. When we see others that are not in this room, please thank them.  They readied our school for you.
Because you, our students, are magnificent, it is a pleasure to come to work. I had the joy of getting to know many of you last year as well as many of our new students during their time on campus both last year and this summer. However, I look forward to knowing each of you, new and returning Gators, better as we build a stronger SPSG community.
We teach because we enjoy fostering relationships with you and forming opportunities for learning.  Last Wednesday, our faculty and staff spent an entire day team building. We were given fun but challenging tasks, laughed often, and had to trust each other.  We were risk takers. In doing so, we gained empathy and were reminded of what you as students are asked to do at SPSG; we want you to feel comfortable taking healthy RISCs.For those new, or those a bit rusty from the summer months, our mission states core values of Respect, Integrity, Spiritual Growth and Creativity (RISCs) as guides on our moral compass.
If we respect each other and model integrity, or stay true to ourselves, we will grow in spirit and feel safe being creative as we try new things.  Perhaps this is a simple recipe, but I choose to believe that our guiding principles will help us hold each other and ourselves to our best this year. We are not striving for perfection. In fact, many of our recent adult conversations, meetings, and retreats talked about the importance of mistakes and how active learning, being a participant in school, means we are going to make mistakes.  This is how we learn.
You are most fortunate to be a student in this era.  When many of us were in school, we weren’t given permission or praise for mistakes. Somehow, effort and perfection were confused and these are not the same thing.  As mentioned in the video, we all put our pants, jumpers, or clothes on one leg at a time, no matter who we are, but some dance in the process.  It is easy to judge the dancer, one who is creative and different. I believe such judging will get in the way of our being more awesome.  What if we put our judgments aside and begin not only with new school supplies, schedules, and books, but also with open minds and attitudes.
Let’s be open to forgiveness and the ability to learn from our mistakes. Open your heart to new relationships and possibilities. Think of your potential and abilities in a range of subjects.  Many will ask you how well your first day is going.  Do you like your teachers, your friends, your schedule, your (fill in the blank)? This very question asks you to take first impressions and form judgments.
We welcome a plethora of new students, faculty, and staff today.  This is what makes a community ripe with possibility. We are a part of something bigger than ourselves. Respect, Integrity, Spiritual Growth, and Creativity. If we model these and strive to live with these as our core values, I have no doubt that we will learn about ourselves, each other, and be the SPSG we want to be.  So, if asked to form a judgment and answer the first day question, I will say “Yes, I’m having a good first day. I am trying to be more awesome with you.” Therefore, the question I choose to put before each of you is this: Did you try to be more awesome today? Were you a good first-day-of-school friend, learner, and classmate?  Are you going to give it your best this year and claim greatness?   Simply said, let’s be more awesome as we take healthy RISCs together this year.
Let us pray-
Dear Lord, thank you for returning us to our SPSG community.  Help us to place predispositions, prejudice, and fears aside as we partner with each other to be more awesome. For as we just heard in the video, everyone is a teacher and everyone is a student. Help us to learn from and with each other in the coming days and year ahead. Help us to be the best SPSG we can be.  In your name we pray, Amen.