Trying…Losing…Winning

Walking onto the Hilltop for the first time in 2017, I thought: I am excited to come to work. I feel as excited as I did in 2002, my first year at St. Luke’s. Back then, I was driven by goals and possibilities. Today, I am still fueled by results—a thriving community, exceptional teachers, a campus that just keeps getting better, and students who astound me.  

Just before break, Student Council President Porter Bowman ‘17 delivered a Meditation. In it he shares defining moments from the year, including his recent appearance on Jeopardy Teen Tournament.

As everyone who watched Porter’s Jeopardy appearance knows…he lost. But that’s not how Porter sees it.  As he told classmates, this went through his mind after betting and losing it all during Final Jeopardy:

I stood there realizing my dream was ending…Deflated but not defeated in that moment I wanted to shake the hands of the explorers, pioneers, scientists, politicians, leaders and authors whose individual life’s work had helped propel me to that Jeopardy stage. I look back on the years of classes and teachers and memorable moments that fill nearly every nook and cranny of my brain, including my heart and my soul…I didn’t need a win to validate my passion.”

Porter is an authentic leader. He’s genuine, unafraid to be real and vulnerable. He turned what could have been a negative experience into an asset that deepened his love of learning. Then, he had the courage to shine the spotlight on his loss and say but look what I gained. With humor and grace, Porter demonstrated that “taking risks” and “learning from failure” are not lame platitudes but a powerful strategy for growth.

At the State of the School, we talked about having a mission vs. living a mission. As Porter describes his deep love of learning, strong moral compass, and commitment to serve (the confidence to lead is self evident), it’s clear our mission is living, breathing, and playing Jeopardy.

 

 

State of the School 2016

“I’d been told that the State of the School evening was not to be missed. That’s certainly an understatement. My wife Meghan and I walked out of the building and we both were virtually speechless. Truly, I’m at a loss for words to express what a fantastic, inspirational evening it was. Best I can do is, simply, wow! I’m sure there are more eloquent ways to say it, but that one unsophisticated word seems to say it all.

—St. Luke’s Parent, Christopher Rosow

Many years ago, someone asked me: “What’s the goal of the State of the School?” I answered: “To make sure every parent feels informed and leaves thinking—I’m so happy we chose St. Luke’s.”

When I receive a note like the one above, I think mission accomplished. This year, the St. Luke’s mission was front and center as Board Chair Bob Wyckoff and I—along with several guest speakers—presented Living the Mission. It was the first State of the School to feature student speakers and as you might ascertain from Christopher’s comment, they were a big hit.

My thanks to these poised, articulate students, to the Jazz Band and their leader, Bob Leinbach, who sent us into the night still buzzing from their electric performance, and to Co-Chairs Barb Clayton and Michelle Diliberto whose parent team once again executed a truly exceptional dinner celebration.

If you missed it…

SOS blog-Sam INSPIRICA

Click to view slides and photos from the State of the School 2016.

A March Reflection

Over the break I took a quick glance at the superb “News & Views” page of the St. Luke’s website (kudos to Nancy Troeger and her team).  The headlines included a story about the three seniors selected as National Merit Finalists and another about the Yale Dean of Admissions who will give a talk for St. Luke’s parents on May 7th.  I also attended conferences of national scope in the last month where St. Luke’s faculty led sessions on important topics.  At OESIS, Jon Shee, Matt Bavone and Michael Mitchell showed how they are using new thinking and tools to deepen students’ learning, and at NAIS Stephanie Bramlett presented on the reasons why PhD holders are increasingly finding independent school careers attractive.

These examples reflect great news in our School:  Students and faculty asserting and distinguishing themselves on the national stage for academic and professional excellence.

Of course we should celebrate and nurture these developments—but we must not forget our obligation to care for the social and emotional health of our students.  Producing moral, resilient, productive, and persistent graduates does not happen by prioritizing achievement over learning, accolades over effort, winning over goodness, metrics over the unmeasurable but essential daily work of building a healthy, inclusive community.

That is why I sought recently to engage fathers in a conversation about our role in the emotional health of our children.  That also is why we put such an emphasis on building an inclusive community—not to be politically correct but to help all students in both divisions become their best selves through deeper understanding, honest conversations, and the hard work of true collaboration.  And that is why we give students more relevant and purposeful learning experiences such as J-Term, the Hackathon, service learning, global partnerships, and portfolio-based courses such as Engineering—which seem to leave students feeling more joyful about their education, less anxious and depressed although they have worked every bit as hard, or harder.

It has been a very good year for St. Luke’s.  I feel so pleased with the spirit of wanting to be the best we can be, with the strengthening of people and program, and with the reputational excellence that continues to drive such strong interest in the School.  I also feel pleased that the social and emotional health of students continues to be a distinguishing hallmark of our school.  We do not have all the answers, nor can we claim a perfect record in helping every student lead a healthy life at St. Luke’s.  But we can claim to care, and to prioritize what’s best for kids in our curriculum development, hiring, and future thinking.  That’s what makes St. Luke’s a great school, and what makes it a place worthy of our committed service.

State of the School 2014

Once again, St. Luke’s parents did not disappoint. Close to 400 of you came to participate in our annual State of the School. You socialized with friends old and new, celebrated our wonderful community, and learned more about St. Luke’s accomplishments, current plans, and future vision.

My personal thanks to our State of the School Committee led by Heather Freeman and Cindy Holland. This team of parent volunteers prepares for months and successfully turned our Commons into a festive space filled with great food and even better cheer.

Below, please find a video of the State of the School. Included you will find:

Presentation of the Edward B. Blakely Distinguished Faculty Award—to Mitch Murphy.

Board Chair Bob Wyckoff’s State of the School Presentation – featuring a moving        St. Luke’s Alumni video.

A Jazz Band Performance – led by Bob Leinbach

My Preserve & Innovate Keynote – featuring the On the Horizon video. This spotlights several educators and new curricular concepts.

Please enjoy and do share your thoughts via the comments tool on this page. We’d love to hear what you appreciated about State of the School—and what you think could be improved.