My Summer Homework Assignment

Dear Hill-Murray Community,

The homework assignment I gave many of our students and faculty at the end of the year was to truly take some time away and find ways to relax and rejuvenate. What brings me joy and newfound energy may differ from others, but it’s crucial for us educators and leaders to take time to recharge. We would never let our electronic devices run dangerously low on battery so why would we let our lives!  

For me, it’s reading. Books have always been a source of renewal and energy in my life.  John Coleman, in the Harvard Business Review stated, “It’s reading that demands time for reflection, challenges assumptions, and opens our eyes to new perspectives and ways of being, both personally and professionally.”  After hearing a few individuals I deeply respect recommend the book Tattoos on the Heart by Fr. Gregory Boyle, I dove in. Books often come into our lives exactly when we need to hear a particular message or learn an important lesson. Father Boyle’s message of unconditional love, redemption, hope, and fighting despair while working with young gang members in Los Angeles touched me deeply, and I encourage you to add it to your summer reading list.

In addition to the many books I have on my list to read this summer, I am also reading The Teachers’ Saint – The Life and Times of St. John Baptist De La Salle. Both Aaron Benner and I have been accepted into the Brother John Johnston Institute of Contemporary Lasallian Practice and will be spending time this summer with educational leaders across the country at Lewis University.  We will be growing in our understanding of what it means to be a Lasallian school and how that has such a positive impact on the student experience.  As you know, Hill-Murray was started by both the Benedictine Sisters and the Lasallian Christian Brothers and the spiritual heritage of these two founding orders continues to impact Hill-Murray in so many beautiful and positive ways.   

As a Catholic school leader, being intentional about connecting deeply with my faith is very important to me.  I am going to challenge myself by getting out of my comfort zone with an 8-day silent retreat in July. The retreat is on the beautiful grounds of Mundelein Seminary in Illinois and is centered on meditation and contemplative prayer rooted in the Ignatian Tradition, a Catholic spirituality founded on the experiences of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order.   

I took my first silent retreat about a year ago, and it was a deeply moving experience. I hope to return from my retreat with the clarity that comes from time away, time with Sacred Scripture, and time being surrounded by nature to reflect. I’m confident this will help me become a better leader, colleague, parent, spouse, and friend.

I hope you, too, find some well-deserved time away or open space on your calendar in the next few months to find yourself, your passion and your energy. Finding a way to recharge over the  summer months is the best kind of homework assignment – one that doesn’t take a ton of work, but reaps wonderful and transformational rewards. 

Melissa Dan