Giovanni Virgiglio is the Albany diocesan superintendent of schools.
Giovanni Virgiglio is the Albany diocesan superintendent of schools.

As the 2021-22 school year approaches, I want to challenge our diocesan school community — students, families, administrators, teachers and staff — to consider the power of perception.

How we perceive our environment de­termines whether we see obstacles or opportunities; challenges to be overcome, or roadblocks that hinder pro­gress.

This fall, take a moment to observe the trees, how they respond to change and to the conditions that await. The leaves could just turn brown, whither, and fall to the ground. The growing season is over and the cold, dark winter months lie ahead. Spring cannot be any further away.

And yet, their vibrant colors celebrate the changing season, remind us to appreciate the bountiful harvest, and be grateful for all that has been achieved during the summer months. So, do we look forward with anticipation to the quiet beauty of new-fallen snow and the clear, dark skies that allow us to see the brilliance of the stars? Or do we begrudge the cold, the slushy roads and waking up to dark mornings?

Our attitude — the mindset we bring with us at any point in time — can make the same event either a pleasurable experience or a terrible annoyance. This pow­erful tool is within each of us, and I urge you to harness that power, celebrate life and make the most of this school year — even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage.

Former National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones spent decades capturing beautiful images of nature and people around the globe. He noted that beauty and opportunity were “always there, if I was open enough to see it.”

Our Catholic faith taught us just that. We do not look at the Crucifixion of our Lord as a day of sadness or defeat, but rather as the ultimate act of love to all of us and the prelude to the magnificent Resurrection.

There is goodness all around us, and by celebrating what is right in the world – and in our communities — we open ourselves to seeing God’s grace.
When sixth graders hold the door open for their classmates, they are showing third graders that kindness is all around them. When second graders line up quietly and respectfully, kindergartners are seeing how the older kids act and try to be more like them. When juniors march in Washington, D.C., freshmen are learning the value and dignity of every human life.

When a teacher spends a lunch period helping students with a project, those students begin to learn the importance of giving of one’s time and talent — even if their young minds may not recognize it at the time. When a volunteer sets the altar for daily Mass, students witness their faith in action.

When we deal gracefully with the limitations and safety protocols imposed by the pandemic, we show others that we can adapt and persevere through hardship.

All of us in Catholic education strive to always become better — personally and professionally, spiritually and academically. It is part of why our schools were able to achieve and maintain system accreditation, and why we are looking forward to the Cognia (formerly AdvancED) re-accreditation process in the spring of 2022. The reviewers will affirm our commitment to continuous improvement and ensure we are meeting or exceeding the accreditation standards we met five years ago – the first diocese in the state at the time to achieve such a distinction. This process will also afford us the opportunity to set our strategic goals and priorities for the future, charting the path to ever-increasing levels of Higher Powered Learning.

The idea of seeing what our hearts and minds are prepared to see is a powerful premise that can prepare us for success no matter what change or challenge is put before us. We cannot predict or control the future, but we can prepare both physically and mentally to make the most of the days, months and years ahead of us.

By shifting our perception to see everyday actions in a new light, we can be inspired to achieve higher. Our outlook becomes more positive and we want to continue the virtuous cycle by paying it forward for others.

We are blessed to start each September with a fresh slate — an opportunity for renewal that allows us to bring forward the successes we achieved last year, and leave behind any difficulties or distractions that weighed us down in the past.

Success builds upon success and I am ready for our most successful school year yet. Are you? When your perception of the world allows you to see opportunities for success, there’s no limit to what you can achieve.

Giovanni Virgiglio is the Albany diocesan superintendent of schools.

 

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