Vital Words: March 30, 2015

Dear Friends,

Over spring break my wife and I were in Paris when the world learned of the wreckage of the Germanwings flight. Being in France brought the event closer and made the heartbreaking news even more dramatic. Europe can sometimes seem to be a small continent and it grew even smaller as we learned that there were victims from 16 countries, with the largest number of fatalities from Germany.

Especially affecting was the news that among the passengers was a group of students under the care of two teachers from the Joseph-Koenig Gymnasium, a high school in Haltern, Germany. We do not yet know the names of the students and teachers but we see pictures of their town and their school, and it feels very familiar. As we mourn the loss of all the passengers and struggle to understand what prompted the actions of the co-pilot, my thoughts are with those two German teachers.

Over this spring break Berkeley Carroll had 62 middle and upper school students traveling on four different trips to Costa Rica, Spain, India and Florida under the care and supervision of 13 teachers and administrators.

None of us come into the teaching profession fully knowing what will be expected of us. Along with the teaching comes the equally necessary but sometimes mundane tasks of lunch duty, monitoring study halls and, more and more, the demanding job of supervising trips. Our emphasis on global education has meant that we have changed the courses in our school and a large component of the curricular revision is the commitment to get our students out into the world.

When taking students on trips, children and parents are placing a great deal of trust in the school and the teachers. Asking teachers to take students on trips puts them in the position to provide oversight, give guidance, return everyone home safely and, yes most importantly, teach the necessary lessons to lead students into new ways of thinking.

I am reminded of the special responsibility that we place on our teachers every time a grade, class, or team steps out of the building. We take students of all ages on buses and subways in pursuit of helping them develop a better sense of the world they live in. I know also that every time a group leaves our school we could not be providing these kinds of experiences without the dedication and bravery of our teachers.

Much of what we do in school is aimed at aiding our students in making sense of the world they inhabit and will inherit. We may never fully comprehend how and why this Germanwings tragedy occurred but we cannot stop trying to help our students understand the world they can impact and improve.

The sacrifice of two young German teachers again reminds me how grateful I am for the special breed of person courageous enough to be a teacher. And because of all the special responsibilities that come with being a teacher, we will keep our students safe and continue to stride out into the world.

Bob Vitalo