Get to Know Ensworth’s New Head of Middle School: Darwin Mason
For those who don't remember him from his days as an Ensworth Middle School teacher, who is Dr. Mason?
How did you get into teaching/education? Actually, I have been working in education my entire life. I come from a family of educators. My father is a retired school administrator and was employed in public education for more than 30 years; my mother is a retired school administrator and college professor, and my sister is a school counselor. I began my teaching career at 16 years old in the two-year-old class at a daycare where my mother was an administrator. I guess you could say education is in my blood.
What are the ways in which working in education is so rewarding? The reward is in the giving. Education is replete with opportunities to give. For the last 20 years, I have been able to “pour into” people from diverse backgrounds. In addition to basic education, I have been able to share knowledge, mentoring, and coaching. Each time I give, I am inspired to give a little more because giving is the ultimate gift. Winston Churchill said it best, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” I also add the concept of giving and pouring until my “cup runs over.” What’s left in my “saucer” is what I share with others!
Tell us about your personal education. I attended Southwestern Christian College and received my bachelor’s degree in music vocal performance and psychology from Fisk University. My master’s degree is in administration and supervision from Tennessee State University, and my doctorate in Learning Organization and Strategic Change from Lipscomb University.
I continue to seek these higher degrees because I consider myself a “life-long learner.” I feel the need to stretch myself intellectually as well as prepare myself to engage my academic and occupational peers. I consider the acquisition and application of information the highest form of communication.
What were your first impressions of Ensworth when you joined the community? I was elated to be a part of the community. I use the word community with intention because that was and is the most attractive element of The Ensworth School. Let me take a minute to dissect the word “community,” and you will see why I am proud to be a part of it. Within the word community are two words commune, a group of people living together and sharing position, and unity, defined as being joined as a whole. You see where I’m going don’t you? Ensworth is a unified group of people who have the common goal to give their best to every child. I am pleased to be a part! My children and my wife have become a part of that community, so for us, Ensworth offers a “family affair,” so to speak. We feel comfortable here!
What experiences did you have when teaching at Ensworth that made you want to return? I had the tremendous opportunity to teach and be an advisor to creatively intelligent children during the four years I taught at Ensworth. I am still connected with many of those students. They have allowed me to be a part of their lives. The lifelong connection is special and evidence of what makes Ensworth unique. Who would not want to return to a place like this?
Tell me about some of the challenges of working with middle-school-aged children. In what ways are these years so pivotal in a child’s development? I believe middle school children provide you with opportunity after opportunity to walk with them on their path to maturity. Those opportunities are only a challenge if you cannot recognize they are often disguised in a variety of packaging. Working with middle school students is not a neat and tidy experience. It is unpredictable and ambiguous. You must know that as a leader and embrace ambiguity while setting clear parameters. Once you have embraced the unique culture of middle school, you realize it is rich with opportunities to be a life-changing agent for adolescent children.
Although few people want to continue living under the restrictions necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, intrepid educators at Ensworth have learned that going back to the way they used to do things is not always the best course of action.
An ever-increasing issue challenging Independent Schools is appropriately managing risk while maintaining the warm and open community that we all value and appreciate. Yet, headline-grabbing crises involving independent schools in recent years have shone a spotlight on the importance of engaging in a robust enterprise risk management (“ERM”) process.
This summer, the activity on the Red Gables Campus has been a bit atypical. Instead of lines of cars, backhoes and forklifts have occupied the hookup lanes. The playground has become a quiet field—a blank canvas awaiting new equipment.