Here we go. Tomorrow we head out for winter break. Some will travel, some will staycation. I hope all of us will relax.
The arrival of 2016 marks a new year of life. As we sip our champagne or sparkling cider, we’ll reflect: Where has the time gone? Are we spending our precious hours wisely?
I began reflecting early (actually, I’m not sure I can stop reflecting), and was rewarded by research affirming St. Luke’s investment in Diversity and exploration of Mindfulness.
Diversity Makes You Brighter reinforces St. Luke’s commitment to a genuinely inclusive, respectful, school environment for all. No easy task, but worth every awkward, messy, moment and difficult conversation. Worth the frustrations and pain that are part and parcel of this work. As the professors who authored the piece observe:
Diversity improves the way people think. By disrupting conformity, racial and ethnic diversity prompts people to scrutinize facts, think more deeply and develop their own opinions. Our findings show that such diversity actually benefits everyone, minorities and majority alike…Ethnic diversity is like fresh air: It benefits everybody who experiences it.
On the Mindful front, the Harvard Business Review has me eager to ramp up St. Luke’s early work in this area. How Meditation Benefits CEOs features executives who meditate to hone leadership skills. The author references expanding research suggesting “meditation sharpens skills like attention, memory, and emotional intelligence.”
Mindfulness can literally change your brain, cites a multitude of studies indicating meditators “demonstrate superior performance on tests of self-regulation, resisting distractions and making correct answers more often than non-meditators.” They also learn from past experience which improves decision-making. The authors continue:
These findings are just the beginning of the story. Neuroscientists have also shown that practicing mindfulness affects brain areas related to perception, body awareness, pain tolerance, emotion regulation, introspection, complex thinking, and sense of self. While more research is needed to document these changes over time and to understand underlying mechanisms, the converging evidence is compelling.
Are we spending our precious hours wisely? Yes, I say gratefully, we are.
Happy Holidays St. Luke’s.
“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Hello 2014. We greet you invigorated by a long break and much-needed downtime. With Mr. Emerson’s advice in mind, I embraced vacation as a series of “best days in the year.” And following my own recent advice, I strived to be present and grateful.
Frankly, it wasn’t too tough given that we spent much of our time in both Dallas (where we visited family) and Vermont where we spent much of our time watching bowl games and reading by the fire. I especially enjoyed Creating Innovators (Tony Wagner), the short stories of Junot Diaz in This Is How You Lose Her, and That Used To Be Us (Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum).
Speaking of engaging authors…I recommend Great Reads of 2013 by NPR. It’s a clever, comprehensive compilation and the kind of thing that makes me wish I read faster, or the days were longer, or both. I’d love to hear about books on your personal “Great Reads” list. Please use the comments tool (speech bubble at top right) to share.
A last word on books: If you are interested in feeding your mind and your belly, please join me and the Parents’ Association for the second annual PA Book Chat on February 6, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. English teacher Susan Doran and history teacher Hunter Martin will guide a discussion of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. (I’m in the middle of reading that classic, as are Mrs. Doran’s Honors 10th Grade English students, as I write this post.) We gather in the Fireplace Commons and start with a little wine and a light supper. It’s a tasty, warm, and rewarding evening, whether you’ve read the book or not). I hope to see you there.
Happy New Year St. Luke’s families. I could not ask for better company on the journey into 2014. Below is Emerson’s wise poem in its entirety…
Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.
This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
I know I’m supposed to be grateful for all I have. And I am, deeply grateful for the good people and fortune in my life. But it’s hard to sustain on a daily basis. The tasks of the day take center stage. Minor aggravations–the car not running properly, a misunderstanding with a colleague or parent, a delayed meeting–take on distorted importance. My gratitude is there, but often buried under layers of distractions.
Those layers were quickly tossed aside as I listened to senior Drew Lord’s Meditation. Drew describes losing sight of his blessings one summer and the unexpected card that arrived from his zaidie (Yiddish for grandfather). Drew begins to compare his own problems to Zadie’s harrowing experiences as a six year old in a Nazi concentration camp. His parents and siblings murdered, Zaidie was grateful for each day he survived. Miraculously, he grew into a happy, successful man–one who I suspect never sees a flat tire or quarrel as a crisis.
I am thankful to Drew for sharing this story. And I’m thankful to Zaide for persevering through hell, thumbing his nose at evil, and making his life matter.
Be Grateful. Be Kind. Remember what truly matters. Happy Thanksgiving.
A 10-year old girl beams as her 80-year old grandfather receives a spirited, standing ovation from the St. Luke’s crowd. He is honored as a military veteran. She sees him with new eyes. Welcome to one of my favorite St. Luke’s traditions. For many years, we’ve combined our all-school Veterans Day ceremony with our fifth grade Grandparents and Special Friends Day. This special event took place November 8th. Eighty-six guests attended, 17 of whom were veterans. The children sang, then jumped to their feet to cheer and thank these men and women who served and protected our country. Students hand-delivered beautiful letters they had written to each veteran. It’s hard to convey the emotion and pride in the room. I cannot fathom a more meaningful celebration.
Today, on Veterans Day, I’d like to share another powerful tribute. This one delivered by St. Luke’s Senior, Sebastian Bates. In his Meditation, Sebastian honors his grandfather and great-grandfather, two men who, when faced with war, chose very different paths. I urge you to listen to Sebastian. He offers both an intelligent perspective on the complex topics of war and duty, and a glimpse of the leadership qualities we hope to foster in all of our students.
Please take a moment to look through these photos from the November 8th Grandparents and Special Friends Day.
Happy New Year St. Luke’s. We had an emotionally exhausting end to 2012, so I hope each of you found the break rejuvenating. The Davis family spent much of the break on a plane but all in the name of family. After a pre-Christmas visit from son Matthew, we visited Elisabeth’s parents (whom I adore) in Tuscon and then had five wonderful days with son Michael and Elisabeth’s sister (Sara) in Dallas.
Even our Christmas Day travel nightmare (eight and a half hours sitting on the plane at DFW for de-icing during a rare Dallas snow storm) was a blessing in disguise. Between flying time and all of those hours on the tarmac, I finished reading Eisenhower In War and Peace and read all of Law Man: My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases, and Finding Redemption – both superb. I also squeezed in Trevanian’s The Loo Sanction over the break – the New York Times called that thriller a masterpiece and I could not agree more. How rare to have the gift of so much time to read.
We have so much to look forward to in 2013: Plays, concerts, declamations, scholar presentations, sports events, service activities, dances, Spring Gathering, and though it seems so far…Graduation Day for our seniors. The struggles and tremendous losses of late will make these moments all the more precious.
I am grateful to be back on the Hilltop with my colleagues and our students. My best to you all.