Thoughts on Education: Three Gifts

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Throughout the year, the delight of giving and receiving gifts inspires joyful hearts. According to Elizabeth Stepankiw, each of us is given at least three gifts at birth that can activate positive choices and changes in our lives. When these gifts are nurtured, we can become creative and productive forces in our own lives. They allow us to become the writer, director and actor in a production called, “My Life.” We are able to craft a sense of happiness, as described by Elizabeth Stepankiw, by using the gifts of choice, universal principles and inborn intelligence.

Gift 1: Choice
The concept of choice is thought to be one of the prominent gifts we are given at birth. It is the innate ability to choose that can lead us to positive growth. What happens to us over the years (stimulus) and how we react to the stimuli in our lives (response) plays a determining factor in our happiness. Making a choice brings us a sense of freedom. It may not be a choice of our liking, but it is our power to decide what our response will be in any given circumstance that elicits free will. The more we practice choosing, the more confident we become in our abilities to make positive decisions, which will lead to lives well-lived. Even when we feel cornered in a particular situation, we continue to have the gift of choice and how we will respond. It is with our choices that we write the scripts for our day-to-day lives. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: “I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.” Consider the many ways you help your child to make positive choices that bring smiles rather than tears.

Gift 2: Natural Laws and Universal Principles
The natural laws and universal principles that govern our lives are combined together as our second gift. These laws and principles direct our lives whether we are aware of them or not. There are physical laws, such as gravity, the rotation of the earth and the earth’s rotation around the sun, which we take for granted. The principles of human behavior, such as kindness, respect, honesty, personal integrity and service to others, are at the core of every culture on our planet. By tapping into an established, societal value system to guide our lives, we are making a concerted choice to embrace positive universal principles. At OMS, we embed the universal principles into Practical Life activities that exemplify key character-building traits: respect, responsibility, empathy, kindness and caring, teamwork, fairness, honesty, cooperation, integrity and perseverance. We value the opportunity to work in partnership with OMS families to raise the next generation of positive and effective decision-makers.

Gift 3: Inborn Intelligence
The third gift is ourselves – our bodies, hearts, minds and spirits. Stepankiw states that in essence we are comprised of four distinct intelligences: physical, social/ emotional, mental and spiritual. How we choose to use our talents depends on the tools, people, ideas and natural surroundings in which we find ourselves. The all-encompassing Montessori methodology, facilitated by our creative and talented OMS staff, enables students to understand their own physical skills, social/emotional capabilities and thinking processes. Elizabeth Stepankiw also includes spiritual gifts as a form of intelligence – one that is often guided and developed by family members. In the field of education, Dr. Howard Gardner, a psychologist and professor of neuroscience from Harvard University, developed the theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI) in 1983 ( It further elaborates on the many different ways individuals learn and develop using their inborn intelligences. Our collective intelligences allow us to act on our principles to make decisions that will ultimately lead to our own happiness and contribute to the happiness of those around us.

As Head of School, I am always humbled by the many ‘gifts of self’ shared by students, parents, staff, visitors, community members and businesses.

With appreciation,

Gregory Dixon
Head of Schools