The Power of a Good Book

DSC08561 (1)This morning, I had the chance to read the book One Little Seed at the first Early Childhood gathering of the year. The book traces the journey of a sunflower seed from seed to flower, which then produces seeds itself. We talked about the enormous sunflowers outside of Thacher (If you have not seen them, it is worth a visit!) and how they grew from small seeds, just like our students are growing ever taller and ever more capable in every way throughout this year. I also showed Van Gogh’s famous Sunflowers in a Vase painting. I compared the sunflowers, all looking upwards towards the sun, all similar and yet unique, to our students and the qualities that connect us and those that make us individuals and how those come together to form community. 

There is great power in a book. In addition to plenty of pleasure reading this past summer – I particularly love non-fiction history, science and social science – I also caught up on new YA and children’s literature, as well as some great new books on parenting and education, all of which I feel are important to my work here.  

voice lessonsThe single book that had the biggest impact this summer is Wendy Mogel’s Voice Lessons for Parents. I do not think I have dog-eared as many pages in another book. Dr. Mogel gives specific thoughts on language, tone and approach for boys and girls at every age from early childhood through college applicant in simple, concrete, and completely implementable doses.  Kara and I both found so much useful advice and perspective in the book that has impacted our parenting and the language and style we use with our daughters.  

I look forward to our Festival of Books this November and the conversations it will undoubtedly spark around books that have made an impact, both for our children and for us as adults. The Parents’ Association will kick it off with a Parent Talk on the morning of Nov. 4, and I hope you will join me to talk more in-depth about Voice Lessons and to share some of your favorite books with me. 

P.S. To get a sense of Dr. Mogel’s thinking and style of writing, check out this great article she wrote about a year-and-a-half ago wondering if we should speak to our boys the way we do to our dogs. 

Start as You Mean to Finish

BQ3A8365It has been a wonderful first week of school. As I commented at the Parents’ Association Coffee on Wednesday, as educators we derive energy from children, and it has been fantastic to have them and their eager openness back on our campus. It certainly sets the stage for a positive year. That is the work of this week and the next several days beyond – setting a tone for success. A great school year begins with an intentional start. Last week, faculty and staff gathered for a week of meetings and preparation, since our work with students always starts with common themes and goals derived with one another.  Continue reading

End-of-Year Reflections

A first year can be akin to drinking from a firehose. There is a lot to learn: 170 faculty and staff, 600 students, 950 parents, and hundreds of alumni, grandparents and past parents to meet, countless new traditions to experience, and the “flavor” of the school – the way the philosophy, people and program meld into a culture – in which to immerse myself. I have loved being here this year and becoming a part of this community, and as I reflect on this first year, several vignettes stand out like specific scents at an ice cream shoppe (can you tell that my mind is already on summer?). While some of you may have heard me talk about some of these, I have not shared them all in one place and, collectively, they encapsulate so much of what I feel makes Country School unique. Continue reading

Above and Beyond, Every Day

As I enjoy my first Blue/White Day, soaking in one of the seminal days in the Country School calendar, I am reflecting on the message we sent earlier today thanking some of our departing faculty and staff. Earlier this week, I asked Board President Randy Salvatore to address the faculty and staff at our lunch on Wednesday along with many members of the Board of Trustees in part because we had cancelled the recent Celebration of Our Faculty and Staff. While thanking everyone, he related stories from his experience as a parent here for well over a decade and also some vignettes he has observed and experienced just in these past two weeks. Quite simply, the faculty and staff’s dedication to our students know no bounds — and that has a direct impact on our students. Continue reading

Time to Make Good on the Deal

image4 (1)Very early in the school year, I heard a knock on my office door as is typical when my next appointment has arrived. As I got up from my chair, finishing up the meeting, there was an even more insistent knock on the door. Feeling a little more concerned, I opened the door to find 16 fourth graders standing in front of me. One, holding a book towards me, asked, “If we read enough books, will you dye your hair purple and sleep on top of the school for a night?” Continue reading

Through their Eyes

I am well practiced in seeing the world through the eyes of children. As a school head, I interact with children all day long, learning about what excited them, scares them, interests them and how they perceive things. Such connection with children and their experiences has a real impact on the school and its programs and alterations and plays a big role in my assessing how well we are delivering our mission. Being in touch with our students is always a priority of mine, as it is for our teachers. Continue reading

What ‘Nurture’ Really Means

chicks1One day not long ago, I was sitting in the Exploratory Lab with a group of Kindergarteners and some days-old chicks. Mrs. Vitti had laid out a sheet on the ground, and we all sat around it. She placed the chicks on the sheet, and each student got to hold the chicks gently, observing them with all their senses. Since there were several chicks and only one student at a time holding a chick, the other chicks were free to roam, and wander they did! Since the students were sitting at the edges of the sheet, when the chicks ran off the sheet, the students picked them up and returned them to the center. Observing the life cycle of the chick is a hallmark of experiential education in the early years, and Mrs. Vitti and her students did a great job of engaging in all aspects of this lesson. Continue reading

Notes from the Field

IMG-5695This week’s letter comes to you from a bumpy window seat of a charter bus as I head back to campus with the third grade from our trip to Ellis Island, the much-anticipated culmination of their immigration study. Earlier in the month, they had held a simulation in the Welles Commons, where teachers took on the roles of medical examiner, clerk and interpreter as students got to experience what it might have felt like to arrive to the U.S. as an immigrant in the early 1900s. Touring Ellis Island alongside these students was gratifying as an educator. They asked thoughtful and well-informed questions. They had respect and reverence for the past. They reflected on their own heritage as they searched the Wall of Honor for their names and the names of their friends and teachers.   Continue reading

Thank you, Deal Days ‘Dream Team’

IMG_6687 (1)Have you noticed NCCS trucks around town more this week? Have you seen more cars parked around campus? Have you had the chance to walk through Watson Gym? If so, then you know that the great Country School tradition of Deal Days is upon us.

Though I have not yet witnessed a Deal Days in action, it is one of the first traditions I learned about when I started last summer. People told me that there was something special, something “so Country School” about the event because it involves so many in the community, because it has a ‘pay it forward’ quality to it, and because it is has a humble, almost homespun quality to it. I have seen that in action this week and have especially noted the number of parents of alumni who have been on campus to help or just to walk through and remember an event they always felt captured some part of the feeling of being part of this community.
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My Time on the Japanese Tourism Board

This week, I became a member of the Japanese Tourism Board — well, at least for a couple of hours. Three groups of eighth graders presented websites they had designed as an answer to an “RFP” from the “Japanese Tourism Board” (me and four other NCCS teachers) aimed at increasing the number of English-language tourists to Japan. At the end of this simulation, our task was to award the “contract” to the group that delivered the best combination of product and presentation. Continue reading