Small Acts Build a Kinder World

At Sacred Heart Schools in Chicago, even the youngest students learn kindness, respect and generosity through Sacred Heart’s Goals and Criteria.

Built into the Sacred Heart Schools education are big ways the students exemplify the foundational Goals and Criteria of this Catholic, independent PK-8 school for students of all faiths. In addition to its rigorous curriculum, Sacred Heart teaches and upholds timeless values in its students.

“When I think about how Sacred Heart instills the qualities of kindness, compassion and generosity, I think about our youngest students. Even the smallest interaction can have a big impact,” says Elizabeth Coleman, Ed.D., head of the primary school at Sacred Heart.

Within a holistic education, Sacred Heart’s five Goals and Criteria build a foundation of academic, spiritual and social life. Through a personal and active faith in God, respect for intellectual values, social awareness that impels to action, building of community as a Christian value and personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom, even the youngest students learn to affect change with their gifts and talents.

Everyday actions build kindness

“How our teachers interact with each other and the students demonstrates and models compassion, and our youngest students are always listening and watching,” Coleman says. “The way we greet each other in the hallway and the way we know about even the little things in students’ lives help each child feel seen and heard, by God and through us, too.”

By witnessing acts of kindness — concern for a peer who is sad, for example — even preschoolers are empowered to express compassion. When kids feel loved, they can give love, too. “I really do think this is something that makes our school different,” Coleman says.

“I want Sacred Heart students to see themselves as leaders who can affect positive change. I want them to dream big, but also know their simple actions can have a dramatic impact on their communities and the world. That’s where it starts,” she says.

Values-based learning

Parents know that their child’s cognitive needs will be met through strong academics at Sacred Heart, “but they also want something deeper,” Coleman says. “They recognize that education is not something that happens just in the mind but involves the whole being, including emotions, beliefs and values. Learning is a social process and they want their kids to grow in many different ways.”

The value of this is emphasized through the challenges of COVID, Coleman says. “A school can post its curriculum online or teach remotely, but students really miss the whole experience of being in the classroom,” she says. “Younger students, especially, need that environment to thrive and really learn.”

Photo Credit: Sacred Heart Schools

Families want their school to reflect their values and attend to their child holistically. “They want a school that cares about their child as a person who can develop empathy for others. We try in very intentional ways to instill these values,” Coleman says, adding that when parents tour the school and witness how members of the community interact, they know the school will instill these values in their child. At Sacred Heart, developmentally appropriate experiences also cultivate a love of learning, even in the primary grades.

Sacred Heart’s Goals and Criteria form an environment where all students can grow in their faith, regardless of religion or belief. “A values-based education is of great worth, which is why we are a Catholic school for children of all faiths,” Coleman explains. “Whatever belief system families have, we welcome them. Shared values in the Goals and Criteria help us understand our faith better and make our community stronger.”

Learn more about Sacred Heart Schools Chicago at shschicago.org.

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