One of my proudest moments as a parent began with my daughter Madelena coming home from school upset. She was a second grader at St. Anselm School at the time, and she was having a tough time with one of her classmates.
“Maybe I don’t want to go to school anymore,” she said.
I reminded her that she was strong, beautiful, and intelligent. I told her that everyone needs help figuring out their own way, including her classmate — even if she and my daughter didn’t always get along. That seemed to do the trick; my daughter didn’t bring it up again.
Then one day I received a call from the parent of another classmate. It turns out Maddie had been passing on the same advice.
“Maddie talked to my daughter in the bathroom and encouraged her,” the parent said. “I wanted you to know that that’s the kind of daughter you’re raising.”
I couldn’t take all the credit. Over the past nine years, I’ve seen how St. Anselm’s teachers and administrators truly make it a priority to show students the importance of being a leader. Today, Maddie is a seventh grader at St. Anselm, and I continue to be impressed at how her Catholic education has emboldened her to use her voice to speak up for others.
In the age of social media, I believe it’s more important than ever to teach children to be responsible, disciplined leaders. Anyone can post online without considering the consequences. When every moment gets captured and shared, it’s easy to make snap judgments without considering sympathy or forgiveness.
That’s why it fills my heart with joy to see Maddie serving her school and her classmates, whether as a lunch aid, safety aid, or altar server. Those experiences have shown her that being a leader isn’t about being selfish or simply telling others what to do.
Instead, Maddie has learned to distinguish facts from feelings, take the initiative in solving problems, and make sacrifices for others. She’s become more aware that she’s one piece of a larger community — a community full of people who deserve time, attention, and respect.
These are all lessons that St. Anselm teachers emphasize in the classroom as well. Each of Maddie’s teachers have used the Discipline with Purpose Program to encourage self-restraint and personal responsibility.
It’s reassuring to see the same lessons I teach my daughter at home being reinforced in school. You can even see it in the relationships between teachers and their students — commanding respect, but without fear or intimidation.
And as a result, Maddie has gained a newfound confidence in her abilities and the power of her words. And I am very proud and very grateful that Catholic education helps give my daughter the courage to continually pursue that bigger picture — as a student, a woman, and as a leader.
Denise Kowalski lives in Philadelphia, PA with her husband Mike and their four children. Her daughter Madelena attends St. Anselm School in Philadelphia.