Who do you want to be when you grow up?

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By: Dr. Lucie Pentz

Who do you want to be when you grow up? This is the million dollar question.

A few summers ago, on a pleasant July night, I was taking a walk in our neighborhood with our then third grader, holding an empty pickle jar in our hands, trying to catch a few lighting bugs. (No, we did not catch any, in case you’re wondering). There must have been something about the warm, relaxing breeze that opened the door to the deeper questions of life to surface, such as, what do you want to do when you grow up? Filled with curiosity, I asked whether he was still interested in becoming a firefighter which seemed as an understandably popular choice for an adventure-seeking third-grade boy. The conversation continued, admittedly fueled by my incessant questions.  With his big brown eyes, he finally looked at me and resolutely announced, perhaps just trying to stop the flood of the existential interrogation.  “ Well… you just never know what life will bring your way.” While my curiosity was dismissed and went unsatisfied, I realized that I couldn’t agree with him more.

Yes,  it’s true we never know what life will bring our way. Careers change; interests shift or morph into yet another variation. Our hopes, goals, and aspirations may fade, often unrealized like blowing bubbles that vanish into the air and eventually burst into nothingness. We all have experienced those moments of pivotal turns, crushed dreams, and unexpected detours, trying to navigate the life for which we did not prepare. Many times, feeling shook up and disoriented, we search and grasp for scripts and recipes to guide our next decision. But deep down inside, we know there are no how-to books or tutorials that would speak into our jumbled circumstances. So, what is left then, when the question of what do you want to do when you grow up feels so daunting? Perhaps we’re not asking our children the right question. What about this?… Who do you want to be when you grow up? What kind of person are you hoping to become? At the core of our parenting efforts, we return to the essential all-supporting and all-encompassing foundation of character. Those collective virtues of wisdom, kindness, humility, selflessness, and too many other qualities to name, form the bedrock of character that sustains us through the uncertain circumstances of life.  What do our children do when no one is looking, when the work is not being graded and trophies are not dispensed? What do our children say behind our backs when we’re not listening? What do our children do when they’ve been wronged and are tempted to seek revenge or when there are no immediate or obvious payoffs or rewards for doing the right thing.  All those moments of decision-making represent the opportunity to make choices that develop and ultimately reflect character.

So the real question guiding our parenting and the developmental path taken by our children ought not to be “What do you want to be (or do) when you grow up?” but rather “Who do you want to be when you grow up?”  In the long run, being always precedes doing.  Who you are will determine what you do.

Our third-grader was correct. While we cannot completely prepare our children for the right career or vocation, we can equip them for the ups and downs of life, twisting, hilly (or mountainous) stretches of the road, as they journey towards character with us by their side. We are the shepherds of their souls, keeping watch, guiding and loving on them all the way in firm yet gentle ways.

Would you like to further explore the topic of character together? Come and join us at St. James Academy on October 18 at 9:30. We will talk about the journey towards character through creating your family mission statement. We’d love to have you join us.

Register for “Character Matters: Raising Your Child for the Ultimate Success”

SJA Celebrates 60 Years!

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SJA’s 60th birthday will be marked by a celebration tonight honoring the artwork and musical talent of SJA students. From the beginning in 1821 to the reestablishment in 1957, the Academy has followed the Episcopal tradition of recognizing the gifts that each child brings to the world. Known as one of the most prestigious schools in Baltimore County, students are offered opportunities to explore academics, the arts, and athletics. The programs provided to students enhance and open young minds to think beyond the classroom and into the world.

“The future of St. James Academy is flourishing. Our school community is one of reflection and innovation and is an ideal environment for children to learn, grow, and blossom into young people. This celebration marks the success of St. James Academy and showcases the whole community,” said Karl Adler, Head of School. Our Artist-in-Residence, Mr. Eli Hess, will culminate the evening with his installation of Geomtree. Mr. Hess has collaborated with students to create an outstanding piece of artwork.

The Middle School Program at St. James Academy

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By: Suzanne Fischer-Huettner, SJA Parent 

With the holiday approaching and application deadlines looming I hear chatter in the halls of St. James from both students and parents trying to decide whether to continue at St. James for middle school or move to another school in search of the perfect fit.  We all want the best experience for our child and in the Baltimore area there are so many excellence schools to fit every personality and learning style.  My daughter Bella started St. James in Kindergarten and elementary school years were filled with laughter, learning, nurturing and a personalized approach to her needs and abilities.  She tried every sport, sang, acted, learned chess and jumped at every chance to join in whatever activity was presented.  By fifth grade, we could clearly see she was growing into a pre-teen and expected to be treated differently.  She was coming out of her shell and needed a school that would challenge her personally and academically while still providing the small community feel we have come to love.  She wanted to be respected for her abilities, continue to try new things, pull away from the younger kids and given the freedom and independence she and her friends have clearly earned.

The middle school program at St. James accomplishes those goals and so much more.  My husband and I kept hearing about the International Baccalaureate program but honestly did not understand what that truly meant until Bella was immersed in it.  Even though she spends her days in Northern Baltimore County she is exposed to racial, cultural and religious differences through speakers, her academic classes and open discussions.  She travels around the world not only learning facts and dates but instead learning the reason behind religious differences, wars, tragedy and celebrations.  She is given the opportunity to express her opinions even if they go against the norm and has been challenged to articulate her beliefs through spoken and written word. Read More

SJA’s Middle School Experience

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Thoughtfully influencing the adolescent’s school life











  • International Baccalaureate (IB) World School designation—develops globally aware students who are knowledgeable, collaborative, innovative and strong problem solvers
  • Instruction is based on: INQUIRY-> INVESTIGATION -> REFLECTION
  • Responsive schedule in which students have two classes followed by a snack break, two classes followed by lunch, then two classes followed by sports or other after school activities
  • Advisory gathering each morning focusing on character development, living in community
  • Daily activity period includes student forums, study hall/teacher consultations, chapel, band/chorus, advisory
  • Scholars Program featuring interscholastic academic competitions
  • Technology integrated in classroom instruction plus separate tech classes (A MacBook Air laptop is provided by SJA for each student –classroom instruction and separate IB tech classes
  • 3 club sessions each year—including dance, music theater, Segway tinkering, needle felting, yoga and many other choices
  • Musical production in which more than two-thirds of middle school students participate
  • Leadership opportunities throughout including student council, chapel, radio studio, musical performances, musical theater, athletics, technology and more
  • Over-night class trips to Echo Hill, Horizons Mountain Campus, and Disney World
  • Transitions class for all 6th graders—executive skill strategies, mindfulness training, tech tools
  • Career exploration in 7th grade including an off-campus opportunity to shadow a professional
  • 8th Grade Seminar—Leadership and High School Prep; Formal Research Paper/Community Project; Tech
  • Teen Center activity nights include outdoor games, indoor sports, DJ and fun for all
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