Letter from the Middle & Upper School Director, Kaye Jacob
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’”
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Greetings on this week that we commemorate the exemplary life of dedicated public service of Dr. Martin Luther King. I am pleased that one of our core values is Service, in conjunction with Respect, Responsibility, Solutions and, of course, Transcendence.
I had the privilege of chaperoning the Upper School winter formal Saturday night—and I was reminded once again about how amazing our students are: inclusive, friendly, fun-loving and so well-behaved! I do believe that nearly all of the upper school students attended, which is huge validation for their student council representatives who put hours into organizing and decorating for this event. It is delightful to see how these students shine when they step into fancy gear!
Camaraderie and good will were equally apparent last week during our Founder’s Day festivities. Following an assembly celebrating the life of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, students were organized by “vertical pairs,” with an older student assigned to a younger one, for some creative collaboration—bridge building (literal and figurative) followed by a paper airplane contest. Once again, the finest of our core values were on display, authentically and thoroughly, in this event.
This is a time (so the news tells us hourly) of unprecedented stress and anxiety for young people, who mirror what is projected by the adult community. Sometimes anxiety is directed inward, in the form of depression—and sometimes it is literally “acted out” in the form of conflict with parents, teachers and classmates.
It is absolutely imperative that we remember the ultimate goal of all interventions to address or correct misbehavior or misdirected anxiety.
Always and forever, our efforts are intended to help children and adolescents learn and grow. We are committed to the process of Restorative Justice https://www.mindfulschools.org/inspiration/restorative-justice-in-schools-sel-in-action/, a practice that recognizes harm “as a fracturing of relationships, rather than something that demands punishment. A restorative justice process is a way to uncover true needs and heal relationships via meaningful accountability” (David Yusem, Mindful Schools, May 31, 2019).
When new teachers join our staff, we try to be sure they get a copy of Brand Weinstein’s book Hacking School Discipline, which provides practical examples of restorative practices in action. This is what he most recently posted on his Facebook wall:
“Discipline isn’t about making the kid feel bad…it is about helping build empathy and responsibility in the student so that they grow from it. Yes, I said GROW from it.”
Ironically, it is equally likely that good behavior can also come from a place of anxiety and depression, as students struggle to cope by ensuring that they never displease anyone, particularly the adults they love and respect the most. It is good to keep in mind that these “GOOD BEHAVIORS” can also be signs of anxiety and depression:
Because we inadvertently reward “perfection” and achievement in this culture rather than genuine effort, we need to help students develop a “growth mindset,” as Carol Dweck has defined it, applied not only to academic achievement but to behavior and social-emotional learning:
“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” ( Dweck, 2015).
This is especially relevant as we are approaching the end of the first semester—which means report cards and, for seniors especially, transcripts will be issued soon. Assignments are due for the first semester by tomorrow (Tuesday, January 18) since the new semester begins on Thursday this week. Teachers have been busy contacting students with reminders and updates—and of course special provisions are being made for students who missed school last week due to illness or quarantine.
Balance is warranted for all of us, as we recognize the strains under which students have been working this semester as well as the privileges of being able to attend school in person, with their real teachers (for the most part) throughout most of these past two years. This is a great time to thank our amazing teachers for all they do on a daily basis to make sure that school is a safe haven, academically, socially and emotionally.
Academic Director / Head of Middle and Upper Schools
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