Letters from the Headmaster


Cre·a·tive (krēˈādiv/) adjective

  1. relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work - "change unleashes people's creative energy"

One of my many joys of being headmaster of Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart is the privilege I have of seeing the world through a boy's eyes again - what a gift this is! Inspired and moved by the role that wonder plays in a child's life, I marvel at our students' ability to be creative, compassionate and courageous. Youth holds the answer - there is little pretense, less fear of failure and a willingness to take appropriate risks which in turn allows for healthy growth. All children possess an innate creative energy. As Pablo Picasso said, "every child is an artist - the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."

Creativity abounds at the Academy in springtime. This past week, our seventh and eighth graders celebrated their poetry, their music, their knowledge and their artwork at Evening of the Arts. Few things make my heart soar like watching our young men recite their poetry, which as Mr. Keating from "Dead Poet's Society" reminds us, we write "because we are members of the human race and the human race is filled with passion." Thanks to the generosity of PAPA, our young men also had the honor and joy of spending time with New York Times bestselling author/illustrator Matt Phelan. In addition to educating our boys about the process of illustrating a picture book, Phelan affirmed that children are the best artists stating, "unfortunately, there comes a point in many of our lives where we critique ourselves as artists and become deflated by our prospects... While all children love to draw, an illustrator never stops." The creativity that we possessed as children could quickly be replaced by a need for procedure and explanation. According to Phelan, rather than being afraid to make mistakes, it is important to remember that frustration is a part of the creative process. "Don't use erasers," Phelan shared with the boys. "Erasers halt the creative process and force you to go backwards. Instead, just use light lines and keep on moving forward. Correct and build, gently as you go... Just go - just draw. When you have settled on the outcome, commit to it." Herein lies the essence of Princeton Academy's Learning Principle #4: boys learn best when they are not afraid of failure.

Recently, I had the privilege of hearing Sir Ken Robinson, author of Out of Our Minds, The Element and Creative Schools, present as the keynote speaker at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Annual Conference. Robinson emphasized the importance of fostering creativity in the learning environment - the process of having original ideas that have value. He declared that "if you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original." Nurturing the active and creative minds of our young men is a mission priority at Princeton Academy. In the classroom, in the studio, in the MakerSpace, on the fields, in conversation and in thought... We shine a special light on the creativity of our young men. Cherishing the creative force within is one powerful way we bring out the best in boys.

Rik Dugan