“Integrity is My Referee”

Dear Gateway families,

In the hyper-competitive world of professional sports, it is rare for someone to not only give lip-service to the concept of integrity, but also demonstrate their commitment to it through their actions. Kirsten Mehl, our superb Physical Education teacher in grades 4-8, tells her students the story of Ruben Gonzalez, the racquetball player who chose integrity over victory by calling a “skip” on himself on the final point of a match in 1985. In a much smaller but perhaps even more visible incident this summer, Marcell Ozuna, a professional baseball player, waived off an umpire who ruled he had been hit by a pitch when he had not.

At Gateway we have nine core values, and integrity is first among them. We believe children must learn that behaving consistently with one’s beliefs is the foundation of a values-centered life. If stealing is wrong, don’t take someone’s pencil from the floor; return it to them. If kindness is important, don’t ignore someone who is upset; slow down and check in with them. By learning to work in groups in upper elementary Language Arts and Middle School math, by playing inclusive games in Kindergarten and First Grade, by discussing sportsmanship in PE, and in so many other small ways, we continuously guide children back to the concept of behaving with integrity.

Integrity goes by many other names and has many facets, including character education, responsibility (to both oneself and others), and personal courage.  Our faculty present obstacles as stepping stones in both our academic and social/emotional curriculum in order to help students along the path of developing their own integrity. From the Circle of Power and Respect in our Middle School advisory program, to the public sharing of emotions and feelings through the tools of the RULER curriculum (including the Mood Meter, Meta-moment, and Blueprint conflict-resolution protocol), we give children many opportunities to develop the personal integrity that leads to success in work and relationships.

Sometimes I get to tell students a story about my own struggle to act with integrity when I was in Fourth Grade. On a shopping trip with my father, I pocketed four packs of gum. When we got to the car, he asked me what I had in my pockets; in my 10-year-old terror, I stammered out that I had nothing. He then sent me back into the store to return the gum, and when I returned, he explained to me that he was less upset about the fact of my stealing and lying than he was about the underlying issue it revealed: that I was violating my own integrity. That powerful lesson has stuck with me many decades later, and it never fails to engage the children when I tell it. Who hasn’t wanted something they don’t have, or told a lie to cover up a mistake they’ve made?

Integrity comes easily to some, and for others it is a struggle, for a variety of reasons. As a community of educators and families, there is no greater gift we can give our children then to teach them to act with integrity; to know that they will make mistakes — because they will! — and that we must not add shame to the situation; to hold them accountable for their behaviors even if it hurts our hearts; and to share and model our own journeys towards living lives of integrity, responsibility and discipline.

“Integrity is my referee.” — Herm Edwards, football coach

Warm regards,

Dr. Zachary Roberts

Head of School