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Part of Something Beautiful

Terry Shields

The theme for our boarding program this year is, "Part of Something Beautiful."  At orientation, we discussed how puzzle pieces are pre-cut to yield only one pre-determined outcome no matter how many times it is put together.  We contrasted that with a mosaic which is created by fitting tiles of different shapes and colors together to form something beautiful depending on the decisions of the artists.  Like a mosaic, each student’s school year is comprised of many choices and our collective brilliance will depend on how we choose to put all our tiles together.  As a reminder that we are responsible for determining our individual and collective achievement this year, each dorm created a mosaic that will be the centerpiece of our dorm meetings and circles each Sunday evening. 

I was reflecting on this theme when I visited our Bement families in Asia this summer.  It was thrilling to be welcomed by our families in Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong and to learn and experience the sites, language, food, and culture with our students as guides.  I was there in late June soon after President Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and just as President Trump imposed tariffs on trade coming into the United States.  It was interesting to hear and read the response, which similar to reactions in the United States, ranged from supportive to dismissive.  What intrigued me was the lens which was the basis of their perspective; envisioning the best future for their country, family, and self.  

On our van ride returning to Beijing from the Great Wall, one of our recent graduates asked, “So what do you think Mr. Shields?” It was an inquiry more profound than my thoughts on the expansive Wall.  He wanted to know my impressions of China and its future as a country.  The ensuing conversation, sharing my observations and listening to his hopes for and potential contribution to that future, accentuated the mission of the Bement School.   We are shaping minds and hearts that will impact individuals, communities, countries, and ultimately, our global future.    

Earlier that morning, I had visited Tiananmen Square.  Though quiet that morning, the meaning and past of that space conveyed a powerful notion of people and country.   My experience there prompted me to watch a documentary on the history of Tiananmen Square leading up to the student protests in 1989.  That’s when it struck me that the college-age students in that film could very well be the parents of our boarding students from China.  More so, given that our students are influenced by the lens of their parents, the voices and experiences of those students are present in the space, conversations, and lessons of our classrooms. 

This is the beauty of a Bement education.  We are a diverse population of students and families who bring a diverse abundance of thought on the future of our world.  Whether student, teacher or parent, we are a part of something beautiful and what we teach, learn, and share here today will shape the world everywhere someday.

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