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Life’s Greatest Challenges Require Rigorous Inquiry

Life’s Greatest Challenges Require Rigorous Inquiry
Corinna Crafton

Today’s Middle School blog marks a departure from my past approaches. I have enjoyed sharing highlights and developments regarding a particular aspect of the important work we do in Middle School.

Life’s Greatest Challenges Require Rigorous Inquiry

Today’s Middle School blog marks a departure from my past approaches. I have enjoyed sharing highlights and developments regarding a particular aspect of the important work we do in Middle School. On one occasion, I have turned the pen over to a student-blogger for a fantastic journey into the power of introversion and observation. Over the past few years, I have written about our advisory program aimed at developing strong character and life skills, shared examples of programs and projects that build resilient academic risk-takers, and explored some of the many opportunities we provide to build leadership capacity through service learning. 

I shall be doing none of that today. Instead, I write about something that is both very personal and highly relevant to this month’s theme of rigorous inquiry. I must admit, I struggled with the decision to move into uncharted terrain – writing about myself. A discussion today with a dear colleague provided the confirmation I needed to share this aspect of who I have become, for it is indeed “mission aligned” and, while difficult, offers an example of the necessity to cultivate learners who are passionate and tenacious in seeking answers to life’s most complex and challenging questions.

During the first weeks of school in September 2017, just after I assumed the position of Middle School Head, my husband was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. I found myself simultaneously learning the ropes of my new and exciting job while processing devastating news and diving headlong into an ocean of research, data, opinions, second opinions, third and fourth opinions. And then began the logistics of learning to support a spouse needing intensive medical intervention while continuing to develop and grow in my new position. I found myself quickly immersed in an endurance test and wondered on many a late evening – How much can I handle?

The short answer is, a great deal. We all can and do confront sudden life changes that demand swift learning as we go. Embracing the reality that we do not have all the answers in a crisis, acknowledging that we know very little, in fact, about so much, is just the beginning to learning. Maya Angelou wrote, “I've learned that I still have a lot to learn.” Seeking to know and demanding of myself the skilled inquiry I expect to see in my students was indeed put to the test. And it still is. Angelou also wrote, “We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated.” 

And so, here we are, two and half years on and my husband remains in treatment, both of us knowing a great deal more about his illness and taking comfort in that knowledge. We keep reading and asking questions and trying new treatment protocols. All of this rigorous inquiry has informed the critical decisions we have made and given us peace in knowing we’ve engaged fully in the process. Most importantly, however, we have learned to be grateful to those who’ve taught us so much along the way.