Last February, I had the opportunity to participate in the Educators New to Quakerism retreat at Pendle Hill, just outside of Philadelphia. Pendle Hill is a Quaker study center that offers various programs in a community guided by Quaker testimonies. The programs range from resident-term programs to short retreats or sojourns. The campus is beautiful, the food fresh, and accommodations simple, yet comforting. I had the chance to meet and network with educators from a wide variety of Quaker schools across the world.

Having been at FSM for some time now, I have learned a lot about how the Quaker testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and justice are integrated into the content I teach, as well as the daily life of our school. Even though I felt this to be very natural for me as a teacher, it is an entirely different way of thinking about education from what I had been used to. I’ve enjoyed weaving these testimonies into humanities, especially in the area of social studies. I love how the 7th and 8th graders linked the actions of leaders during WWII and the Holocaust to the theme of integrity, and how the 5th and 6th graders automatically discuss justice as we study the Dakota Conflict of 1862.

Even so, I found my experience at Pendle Hill to be educational. It was nice to have the time to deeply consider the Quaker testimonies we teach at FSM and to discuss with educators across the country (and even the world) how these look in each of our schools.

I learned new ways to connect my classroom to Quakerism, including the use of Worship Sharing and how to use the Friends decision-making process with students. Worship Sharing, similar to a Meeting for Worship, allows each student to share ideas or opinions on a topic/issue, each followed by silent reflection.

I had the opportunity to practice this with my peers, and intend to use the method in my classroom when appropriate. As far as the Friends decision-making process, I see several areas in Middle School where I’d like to guide students in this type of meeting more regularly, including Middle School Student Council and our advisory program.

For me, the experience was not only educational, but also reassuring. Through the readings, discussions, and community activities, I learned that so much of an education rooted in Quaker values is also progressive in nature. Many of the very things I value about the FSM program include a connection to service learning, a focus on the whole community, and learning through reflection, collaboration, and student inquiry. Each of these is supported in Quaker beliefs as well as our mission. I am grateful to work in a community that actively carries out its mission each day. As a teacher, I find inspiration in experiences like last week’s retreat, and cannot wait to pass on this inspiration to my students.

– Melissa Andersen – Humanities Teacher

Learn more about Pendle Hill.