Redefining Courage

Posted by Dr. Beth Reaves

I recently realized that the way we use the word “courageous” at WSG is atypical. If you look up courageous, you will find some variation of the following definition: “not deterred by danger or pain; brave.” Similarly, courage is “the ability to do something that frightens one.” These definitions suggest that one must be faced with a dangerous or painful obstacle in order for one to demonstrate courage or be courageous. And while we at WSG certainly agree with the dictionary, we also understand courage to be something more.

At WSG, our school motto is “in the spirit of courageous women.” It refers to the brave women who inspired the founding of our school: Claudine Thevenet, Cornelia Connelly, and Mary McLeod Bethune. Each of these “founding spirits” overcame danger, grief, and oppression to educate and empower young women, but they also had the strength of character to do and be more than their circumstances would otherwise allow. It is that quality that we add to our definition of courage. To us, courage is the inner strength to be the very best version of yourself no matter the odds.

Every month, teachers at both campuses recognize students who exemplify the spirit of courageous women with Courage Awards. Students who demonstrate behavior that reinforces school values are acknowledged during our Morning Prayer Assembly at the end of the month. The awards are presented by individual teachers who describe the student and their commendable actions before naming the student. This presentation offers an element of suspense and surprise, and it is a wonderful opportunity for the student’s peers to recognize and celebrate her efforts.

After sitting in on a recent Courage Awards presentation, I started thinking about who I might acknowledge with an award. Of course, all of the staff at WSG are worthy and deserving of awards for the hard work they do every single day, but I have been particularly impressed with the positive spirit and energy of one faculty member over the past few months.

This teacher embodies one of our core values: joy. When I joined the eighth-grade retreat a few weeks ago, it was evident to me that this teacher creates a learning environment that permeates joy and makes our students feel happy and safe. This teacher easily engages with students, and they have formed deep connections with her. Her teaching style is fun yet firm, and she is focused on helping students understand how to make good choices for the health of both body and mind. She also shares a lively and competitive spirit with the girls; she’s always down to play yet another game, run another race, or dance to one more song. Like many of our students, she exudes a boundless energy and enthusiasm that is contagious.

I am inspired by this teacher’s commitment to uplifting our girls and helping them grow in every aspect of their lives. My Courage Award for radiating and inspiring joy at WSG goes to our physical education and health teacher, Mykel “Coach” Lawhorne.