Mighty Words

By Polly Rizzotto — As we begin the school year, it is important to focus our attention on the Derby Academy motto, Improve Both Mind and Heart. Our statements of Mission and Core Values, which are succinctly summarized in these five simple words, drive all we do at Derby. These mighty words guide us in the classrooms, on the playgrounds and athletic fields, on stage, in the dining hall, in our offices, during our meetings, and certainly in our more casual conversations and encounters with one another.
This motto dates back to April 6, 1791 when Derby Academy first opened its doors to students. On that same day the Board of Trustees appointed a committee to provide a seal. That seal showed a profile of a head with a heart and the inscription Improve Both, which was further articulated in the school’s motto Improve Both Mind and Soul. * This seal and the recently updated motto, Improve Both Mind and Heart, have carried our statement of purpose as well as Sarah Derby’s guiding vision through more than 230 years of Derby Academy history.

We follow in the steps of a farsighted woman, Madam Sarah Langley Hersey Derby, and we are each charged with carrying out this motto in all we do. It is not enough for the adults in our community to reflect upon this essential directive. It is important for our students – your children – to understand, appreciate and apply these words. Last year, the third grade students were asked to interpret the school motto in honor of Madam Derby’s April 18th birthday. Here are some samples – I wish I could have included every word these students wrote!

The motto “stands for learning and kindness. We improve both mind and heart by saying kind things and learning new cool, amazing things.” “Improve heart means to think about how other people feel. I think Sarah Derby wanted this school to include everyone.” “We learn skills and think about things to improve our mind.” “I love the symbol because it helps people to be kind and think.” “Derby’s motto is awesome.” “I love this school because there are people you can depend on.” “People care here.” Some years ago, a former student offered this fine explanation of the relationship between mind and heart. “When you open your heart to me, I open my mind to you.” I am certain that this boy has been guided by the Derby motto as he has grown and stepped out into a larger, more challenging, more complicated world.

When we truly strive to embody and practice the Derby motto, we grow in purpose, creativity and intellect. We also fortify understanding, empathy and character. Great people have valued these qualities of mind and heart and have recognized their dual contribution to learning. This message is echoed in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of education.”

*Primary source: History of the Town of Hingham Volume I – Part II by Francis Lincoln, 1893

Read more from Polly Rizzotto at Derby Academy’s Primary & Lower School Blog >>

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