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Daring Greatly – The Palio

From the Head of School

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”   –    Theodore Roosevelt

In this column, over the last two weeks, I wrote about accepting and expecting mistakes.  On Friday night, in the Joseph Becker gymnasium at Roycemore School, we had the opportunity to witness the beautiful result of what happens in an environment that does both during our annual Palio.  Palio is Roycemore School’s longest standing tradition. It was inspired by a trip a teacher made to Siena Italy in 1915, where she observed a magnificent civic celebration. In Siena, there are seventeen different “contrade”- each represented by a banner.  The contrade compete for the honor of winning the Palio (a large white banner). This led her to create an athletic competition among the classes to win the Roycemore Palio banner and to engage each class to design its own banner that would remain theirs throughout their years at Roycemore. At the end of their senior year, the Seniors pass their banner to the Kindergarten class who carry that banner each of the next twelve years during the banner procession at the beginning of Palio.  Rather than a traditional “competition”, Palio provides opportunities for each class to demonstrate their skills in physical education and athletics.  For the last four and a half decades, in addition to other athletic skills, tumbling performances have been part of the Palio tradition. The remarkable performances by our students is the result of a lot of hard work and practice.  In order to obtain the level of accomplishment that our students reach, they must communicate and collaborate on the routines. They understand that in order to take their routines to new heights of excitement, they must expect and accept mistakes.  As a result, at times students get bruised. There have been broken bones on occasion too. What is remarkable, however, is the resilience that our athletes have to get back on the mat and try again. They have a truly physical understanding of what it means to “dare greatly,” and recognize that in order to reap the rewards of high achievement, they may need to fail a few times and work through any trepidation they might have.  The tumbling program at Roycemore serves as a metaphor for what happens in our classrooms on a daily basis.  With expert guidance from a teacher and encouragement from classmates, students push through their fear and take appropriate risks to gain new skills.  They collaborate with their classmates, communicating with them to produce something novel and creative. They draw on the expertise of their teachers and each other and soon are reaping the rewards of their hard work, gaining self-confidence along the way.  Whether it is Palio or a project in the classroom, our students are daring greatly and achieving MORE than they ever thought possible. Another example of the “more” in RoyceMORE.

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