Maple Sugaring, a Country School Hallmark

large_news1316793_1336175This week, for the first time, we held a parents’ maple sugaring event. The gathering, which was put on by our Parents’ Association and Chris Lawler, our woodshop and maple sugaring teacher, was fully registered within days of offering it. I believe the opportunity to engage in a traditional craft – manually – was attractive, particularly in this automated world. Maple sugaring is a hallmark of our program as it connects us to nature’s rhythms. The sap runs when the days get warm while the nights are still cold, signaling the beginning of spring and the growing season – and of a completely natural process – boiled sap equals syrup, with nothing else added. Continue reading

Lessons from NAIS

IMG_0375 3I have been in Philadelphia the last two days at the Annual Conference for the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) along with six others from Country School.  Several thousand heads of school and top administrators attend the conference each year to connect, talk about trends and opportunities, and to hear from some leading voices in parenting and education.   Continue reading

Be the Calm in the Storm

DF306802-EF86-4387-8E88-309CD9C05746“All children go through cycles of feeling confident and content at times and then feeling anxious and vulnerable at others.” So began today’s Parents’ Association talk entitled “Be the Calm within the Storm” by educator and counselor Andree Palmgren. Such valuable words for us to remember – and hard ones, particularly when our children’s moments of stress often bring forth our own anxieties. 

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The Power of Process

“Tell me and I will forget, 

show me and I might remember, 

involve me and I will understand.”

This oft-quoted Chinese proverb is a favorite of mine and of many educators. One of its many connections to teaching and learning is the notion of process. Experiencing all aspects of an activity as they build towards a final understanding or product yields a much deeper appreciation for and understanding of the topic. NCCS has long focused on the power of the process with the knowledge that learning is deepest when children are fully involved just as the Chinese proverb states. Continue reading

Planning for Our Future

Earlier this week, nearly 70 members of the community gathered as part of the next phase of our strategic planning process. As I shared with the group, this week marked a pivotal moment: the transition from research and planning to strategy. These three groups, focusing respectively on our three strategic themes of Redefining Childhood Education for the Future, Cultivating Our Community, and Scaling for a Sustainable Future, will work together for the next several weeks.  They will deliver a set of proposed goals and action plans that will form the basis of our strategic plan. Once the plan is adopted by the Board of Trustees in advance of next school year, we will then transition to the next phase: from strategy to action.

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In the Words of Our Ninth Graders

One of my favorite traditions is having lunch at my house with small groups of ninth graders. By the end of the year, I will have had an opportunity to connect over pizza or bento boxes with every ninth grader just as I did last year. The groups are intentionally randomized, so often close friends come to different lunches. Nevertheless, I am struck by their self-confidence and how comfortable they are with one another and with me as an adult and authority figure. Continue reading

Let Them See Your Mistakes

About an hour into our ride home from a trip to the Adirondacks over winter break, I suddenly had a sinking feeling – I had forgotten my house keys!  I laughed at myself and joked with my kids about the Freudian message that I was clearly sending myself about the imminent end of vacation. The conversation quickly turned to figuring out how we would get into our house and how I would get into my office the following Monday (both of which we solved, happily). My children remarked that they appreciated knowing that I make mistakes sometimes. It struck me that they may see me as somehow infallible, and it got me thinking that it is rare that I intentionally share my mistakes with them. While this is a small example of a “mistake” in the grand scheme of things, it reminded me how important it is that I model this for my children. We all make mistakes. We can learn from them. We can laugh about them. And then, we move on.  Continue reading

Engaging with Our History and Values

I started my day reflecting on Martin Luther King’s iconic I Have a Dream speech at a staff breakfast gathering, where we watched a new (to most of us) animated video version of the speech from the Freedom’s Ring project from Stanford, which you can watch here if you wish.

BQ3A0194My school day ended at the Lower School assembly, where students sang and shared poetry, artwork and research writing about Dr. King, civil rights and service with their peers, teachers and families. As always, Head of Lower School Meaghan Mallin briefly and poignantly greeted the assembled students, faculty, staff and families, before handing emcee duties to our fourth grade assembly leaders, who led an insightful and moving celebration. Continue reading

Tapping into Curiosity

DSC_0237Children have such live and nimble intellects. It is an innate part of who they are. Our job as educators is to tap into that curiosity and to let it flow. Once it does, the child’s potential, bounded only by their vision and intellectual capacity, becomes limitless. Tapping into innate curiosity sounds so simple and yet in our world of standards and pressure and immediate measurability, it is becoming scarcer and more fleeting. One of the aspects of Country School that makes me most proud is the way our faculty unwaveringly focus their lessons and activities on ways to draw out the innate intellect in our students. I had several opportunities to witness this work in action this week.  Continue reading

Setting Achievable Goals

I hope that this finds you having enjoyed a restful break filled with great opportunities for connecting with your family. As you prepare to return to school (and we cannot wait to see all our students bound off their buses and out of their cars – even those who are a little sluggish after a vacation of sleeping in!), I hope you will take an opportunity to speak with your children about their goals for the coming weeks. Before break, we published progress reports for all students and, along with the punctuation that a two-week break affords, this is a perfect time for reflection and goal-setting. This might feel a bit like a New Years’ Resolution, which in a way it is. I recommend having conversations like this with your children at least three times per year –  now, during Spring Break, and again when each new school year begins. Continue reading