Candles and Mirrors

Ryan Masa

Originally posted August 17, 2018
The photo above was taken last Monday morning by Tim Humphrey, one of our grade 5/6 teachers. It is a stunning image of our campus. I love how it captures two beloved Assets landmarks, our Monkeypod tree and Play Structure, while also including a new one – the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg K-4 Village being enveloped in a warm sun kiss.  

What’s most striking to me is the light. It’s gorgeous. As if the sun came out to bless our new K-4 Village the day before our grand opening event, where Kahu Davis beautifully blessed our doorways, ground and the children who now grace them.

The photo also reminds me of a poem that my wonderful wife Lucy first introduced me to. Edith Wharton wrote, “There are two ways of spreading light: to be The candle or the mirror that reflects it.” I’ve been thinking about these words a lot lately as we open the K-4 Village and a new school year. Light can brighten, warm, energize, ignite, and guide. I like to think that light is the gift that we give to each other at Assets. Teachers, students and parents alike. We often think of how teachers give this gift to students, which is true. It flows in all directions though. On the first day of school Wednesday, a young student ran up to me, gave me a big hug and asked if I missed him. I had. And in that moment, his joy filled me with incandescent light.    

Maybe most importantly, light makes visible what once was dark. We often talk about how when students struggle in school, they can start to draw inappropriate and inaccurate conclusions about themselves as both learners and individuals. As the educators, parents, coaches and charismatic adults in our children’s lives, it’s our job to be the mirrors that reflect the light we see in them back to them. Shakespeare described our potential for this when he had Cassius proclaim to Brutus:

And since you know you cannot see yourself
So well as by reflection, I, your glass,
Will modestly discover to yourself
That of yourself which you yet know not of.

A child’s self-image is a conclusion that he draws about himself. We must be the candles and mirrors that provide the child with evidence that helps him see himself rightfully.

Which brings me back to the new Harry & Jeanette Weinberg K-4 Village. Yes, these new buildings are exciting for our youngest students. But it would be a mistake to view them solely as a gift to the young. My hope is that they serve as an unmistakable mirror for all of our students. The same way the Alewa Heights campus was never just about the high school students. I hope that our students see these bright, large new buildings with lovely furniture as a statement that their school and community view them with pride and as individuals full of agency, gifts, expectations and worth.

I invite you, in the spirit of beginnings, to join me in challenging ourselves to bring brighter light into our world by thinking of ways we can be stronger candles and sharper mirrors in our many roles as parents, educators, spouses and partners, colleagues, sons and daughters, siblings and community members.

With aloha,