Cead Mile Failte: A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

This past week, Mr. Sinchak and I attended the IB World Conference in Dublin, Ireland. The opportunity to connect with IB educators from around the world in my ancestral home was more incredible than I could have ever imagined, and journeying with the world’s most enthusiastic traveler was such a gift!  I learned so much. However, the central message of the trip was actually quite simple: the critical importance of loving relationships, particularly in families and schools.

Keynote speaker, Dr. Sue Roffey, is a teacher, psychologist, academic, social activist and honorary professor at University College London. Years of research have led to the conclusion that it is the qualities of relationships that matter to well being more than anything else. Her call to action included ensuring that parents and educators fit our expectations to the child rather than shoehorn the child into our expectations. She emphasized the importance of learner agency, free and unstructured play, and the fact that when students feel valued, there is an increased atmosphere of cooperation and belonging.

Many sessions featured curricular connections to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. The IB aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. The UNSDGs promote this global perspective, calling us to work towards equality and sustainability as a united world community.

Ultimately, the message from the conference was that our aim in education should be nothing less than designing atmospheres where humans – children and adults alike – can flourish. I will never forget the inspirational stories of flourishing that were shared by our IB colleagues in Saudi Arabia, Sweden, and elsewhere around the globe.

I left Dublin and spent Sunday in a picturesque, sleepy little town southeast of the city. Mass was led by a priest who, if I had to guess, was in his late 80s. He had a quiet, understated way of speaking. Lucky for me, I grew up with quiet, understated Irish relatives. I know that it is often the quietest of souls who have the most profound things to say. 

Father’s homily centered around the importance of love. He quoted ancient philosophers, theologians, and local characters. What struck me to the core was when he said, “Lack of love shrinks a person.” Later, when time came to receive Holy Communion, he said something like, “All are welcome – even if you don’t regularly receive, please come up. Let God do the healing.” This quiet, Irish, Christ-like octogenarian had said it all. Decorating the altar were signs made by the schoolchildren – beautiful multicolored signs that shared the message: God loves us all the same. 

Who knew that I would cross the Atlantic to experience multiple messages of the importance of relationships and of love? My deep wish is that all of my students – former, current and future – feel loved and accepted the minute they walk into my classroom. May all in our community, upon entering the doors of LCA, feel that they are welcome. May they know the truth shared by Irish schoolchildren: God loves us all the same.

~Eileen McGuire, Dean of the International Baccalaureate Program

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