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May 23, 2017


I don’t know if this happens to you, but it happened to me and maybe my experience will shed some light on an issue we don’t talk much about. Let me start by admitting a couple of things. First, I am a sports fan. Second, I am mostly a UCLA fan. Some of you may now want to stop reading. I understand. In my home, there is UCLA and the school whose name shall not be mentioned.
 
But this post about another school—one renowned for basketball. There are a few sports teams in this country that you either really like or really don’t like. That list usually includes the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, and Los Angeles Lakers. In collegiate sports, schools have rivalries and while you are rooting for youru team, you may also have a warm or cold spot in your heart for another school. Such is the case for me with Duke. While it probably doesn’t say the best things about me, I do root for Duke to lose.
 
So it is with mixed feelings that I am having to support and encourage my daughter as she heads off to Duke. After a few years working in publishing, she decided she wanted to go to a graduate program to become a teacher. I am so happy that my daughter found something that she really wants to do and is able to learn more about it at an excellent school. I just wish it had been someplace else. Actually, that is not true, it was my second choice on her list. My first choice was the school where she got her BA. A small liberal arts college with no claim to athletic fame. It was easy for me to heartily support that decision, though I was sad to see her leave home.
 
Now, I have to learn what many parents have to learn. How to support your children when they do something you wish they didn’t do. It is easy to withhold your support when your child does something that you do not condone. I think all of us would not encourage our children to drink and drive. But going to a good college, choosing to spend what seems to you to be an inordinate amount of time on social media, or wanting to do things you don’t really value but you don’t really condemn is another matter altogether.
 
I think we learn as parents that the bottom line is we want our children to be happy. Even if that means not always doing things the way we would like. Heck, I don’t even always do things the way I like, so it is hard to hold others to a higher standard. I aim for loving acceptance and sometimes only get so far as grudging acceptance. Ideally, we enthusiastically support and encourage our children to find their love and build happy, meaningful, and fulfilling lives. And when we can’t find enthusiastic support, I would hope we could find a gentle acceptance and ways to be at peace.
 
So while I will go forward and do my best to root for Duke now and then and will encourage my daughter to follow her heart, I, too, am beginning a new journey next year. I want to let you know that this will be my last year as Director of Counseling for the Upper School. I will continue to be at Windward where I will primarily be focused on recruiting exceptional faculty. I will certainly miss engaging with parents and students to assist in making their lives better. Thank you all for your support throughout the years, and I do hope our paths continue to cross.
 
Take care,
David
 

Blog Archive

May 17, 2017

Gratitude and Goodbye

Dear Windward Community,
 
In a recent Sunday NY Times, I read an article by Jill Filipovic titled, “Are Women Allowed to Love Their Jobs?” It was a feminist piece looking at three generations of women and the societal norms and expectations surrounding career and domestic life and the changes that have occurred over time. The topic of the article, while fascinating, is not the topic of this post. What stood out to me was the title itself, and that is what I want to write about today.
 
In the spring of my senior year of college, I felt lost, unsure of what career path I would follow. I was very confident in what I DIDN’T want to do (finance, advertising, law, accounting, consulting) but completely uncertain as to what I DID want to do. I knew two things, and two things only: I loved languages, and I wanted to explore the world beyond New England where I had spent the last 22 years. Luck would have it that on a trip to the career center in April, I learned that a small boarding school in Switzerland needed a Spanish and Outdoor Education teaching assistant, and I convinced them that I was the one they needed!  
 
It was love at first sight. I loved everything about the experience—being a dorm parent for 15 sophomore girls who were living away from home for the first time; taking my advisees out for tea and sharing stories; supporting my Spanish students who were struggling to keep up with the complexities of the language; leading hikes high into the hills with city kids, and of course, the Swiss chocolate and the Matterhorn! Since that first experience in Switzerland, I’ve never turned back. I’ve been in education ever since. I’ve taught at three schools internationally and four schools in California. Teaching, supporting, guiding, and learning from teenagers has been more meaningful and fulfilling than I could ever have imagined. It has been easy to give my self when my students and their families so generously give to me—their trust, their kindness, their hopes and dreams.  
 
There is no “job” I have loved as much as my time at Windward. To call it a job feels wrong. It has been a home, a community, a family, and a labor of love for the past eight years. In working with Tom, Eric, Ray, Stella, and Emily, the Upper School Administrative Team and Department Chairs, the Global Studies Team, the curricular visionaries in the CTL, the faculty and staff, and last but certainly not least, the students and their families, I have learned so much. I have learned invaluable lessons about leadership, friendship, risk-taking, collaboration, growth, and support. Playing a small role in continuing Shirley’s legacy has been a gift. As my time at Windward comes to a close, I hope you will all know how much I have treasured my time with you. In the words of Winnie the Pooh, “How lucky I am to have had something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
 
You are in my hearts forever and have touched my life in more ways than words can ever express.  
 
With gratitude and love,
Peggy
 
Resources:
Filipovic, Jill. “Are Women Allowed to Love Their Jobs?” TheNew York Times 30 April, 2017: Web. 2 April 30.  

A.A. Milne, “The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh”

January 5, 2017

Dear Windward community,

First and foremost, Happy New Year!  I hope you had a joyful and restful break.  During the precious moments of quiet reflection over break, I felt deep gratitude for the gift of being a part of the special community that is Windward.  

For me, one of the greatest gifts of vacation is the opportunity to immerse myself in the world of books, a world that I have treasured since childhood.  One of my fondest memories is of Saturday nights in the Procter household.  My mom, dad, sisters, and I would convene in the den and take our places on comfy chairs and couches around the TV, but the TV was never on.  I’m not even sure why we had one.  We would sit together silently, each buried in a different book.  Books were, and still are, transformational for me – they taught me the power of words, sparked my imagination, transported me to far off, magical places, and helped me to view the world through multiple perspectives.  Dr. Seuss showed me the beauty of words, The Giving Tree taught me about empathy and friendship, Shel Silverstein instilled a love of poetry, Nancy Drew – that girls can do anything, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe about imagination and believing, and the lessons go on and on.  And in our highly connected, fast paced world, there is no greater gift than a quiet moment, book in hand, to escape from it all.

Two books stand out for me from this break, How To Raise An Adult by former freshman dean at Stanford, Julie Lythcott-Haimes and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie -  books quite different in theme and message, yet both powerful in terms of the lessons they offer.  Allow me to ramble a bit as I share a few reflections with you.

My daughter just turned nine, and it dawned on me that she had hit the halfway point to adulthood.  Eighteen would be here in a flash, and there was no time to delay.  I needed to get this parenting thing right before it would be too late. Lythcott-Haimes’ book hooked me from page one and helped me to look in the mirror, without judgment, and pause to reassess.  Do I want a daughter who lingers too long in “prolonged adolescence,” struggling to live independent of me?  Do I want a child unable to develop self-efficacy because I haven’t afforded her opportunities for trial and error and making mistakes during childhood?  Do I want a robot, unable to think for herself, prone to “mechanistically giving answers and going through the motions dictated by someone else” (177)?  Lythcott-Haimes truly believes that our parenting today “runs counter to a parent’s responsibility to raise a child to independence” (8)  And, as we know, today’s schools work in close partnership with parents, so these institutions too, bear a level of responsibility for raising healthy, confident, self-assured, independent young adults.  I was overridden by guilt.  Not only was I at risk of messing up my own kid - I might be responsible for messing up your kids too!   Thank goodness for this book which provided me with some much needed reminders.  

The messages are clear and concise, simple to understand with examples and actions that we all can take.  A few that hit home for me were the following:

  1. Embrace the child you have;
  2. Let go of perfect;
  3. Teach them how to think;
  4. Normalize struggle;
  5. Back off;
  6. Let the bad things happen.

No matter how simple these sound intellectually, as parents and teachers, we often can’t help ourselves from the emotional response of overstepping.  As Lythcott-Haimes explains “we know what it takes to succeed in today’s world and we’re quite eager to protect and direct them, and be there for them at every turn, whatever it takes” (2).  Why should we let a child suffer, struggle, or fail, when we have the knowledge and ability to stop it?   Quite simply, by our frequent interventions, “we don’t allow them the freedom, within limits, to try and fail and get better, the only way to learn things for themselves” (174).  I took a few baby steps this break - allowing Sidney to grab a few things from different aisles at the grocery store and meet me up front, to jog the last few blocks of our morning run alone, and to mess up the wings of our Lego airplane even when I saw that she was wrong.  A bigger step that I am working on is to embrace my child’s introversion, which, for a lifelong extrovert like myself, is a more complex task.  I am committed to following Lythcott-Haimes’ advice more often, though, of course, I’ll slip up from time to time.  

Americanah was equally compelling and captivating.  Ngozi Adichie never ceases to amaze me with her brilliance and her honesty.  Americanah gracefully explores so many of the most important issues of our day - immigration, The American Dream, race, class, power, and belonging in ways that challenges readers to dig deeper into their own values, relationships, and assumptions.  Rather than shying away from these tough conversations, Adichie takes us with her as she grapples and questions and highlights both the beauty and the ugliness of her two homes: the United States and Nigeria.  Her characters are inherently flawed, authentic in their complexity, and, ultimately, accessible to the reader.  At a time when it is so important for us to look deeply at our identities and our biases as individuals and as a nation, this novel is an inspiration and a nudge.

As always, Stella and I and the entire Upper School administrative team welcome your thoughts on important issues such as these as we work together to raise independent adults who think critically about who they are and what they stand for in our complex and ever-changing world.

Here’s to a joyful and meaningful 2017!

Best,
Peggy

References:
Lythcott-Haimes, Julie.  How To Raise An Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2014

Ngozi Adichie, Chimamanda. Americanah.  Deckle Edge, 2013

Ted Talk by Julie Lythcott-Haimes

November 16, 2016

Last year, as we approached Thanksgiving, I wrote a post about gratitude.  I wrote about how people from all walks of life consider gratitude to be the central component in living a meaningful and gratifying life. I believed then as I do now that gratitude is the icing on the cake; therefore, given the season, I thought I would write a bit more about it.
 
Let’s say you have achieved everything you ever wanted in life and you could not be one iota happier. First of all, I would like to meet you; second, I would like to ask you if your happiness includes taking time to appreciate all the goodness in your life. After all, what is the good of having all that without taking the time to appreciate it? Be thankful for it and grateful that this is how your life has unfolded. It seems to me all the success would ring hollow and not really be satisfying if you couldn’t take the time to breathe, take it all in and be thankful.
 
Gratitude has much in common with empathy. While you might not think it at first, they both are skills - skills you can learn andimprove upon.  As you practice attending to being grateful, the research pretty solidly says your enjoyment of life and connectedness with others and the world will increase. The same is true for empathy, and this is good enough for me.
 
Let’s go into the classroom and see if we can’t all learn a thing or two to help us build up our empathy and gratitude skills.  I had a student once point out to me when I asked if the glass were half full or half empty, that it was both.  I like that answer, and it fits with a lot of things in life. We all can reflect back on how this day has gone and point out the highlights and the lowlights. It is all there; it is what we choose to attend to that shapes our attitude. I am not an advocate for ignoring the less than stellar parts of our day, week, or life. But I am an advocate on not dwelling on them. It is akin to when you do something you are not proud of and you beat up on yourself. Okay, punish yourself if you want, but make sure the punishment fits the crime. I like to hand out my personal justice to myself in a fair way. And, if I am going to get down on myself for something that did not go well, I also need to get up on myself for something that I did go well.
 
Speaking of which, I do believe in the value of praise. I don’t meet a lot of people that feel that they get an over-abundance of appreciation and praise. Most of us feel under-appreciated and would like more recognition. Yet, I know some parents believe it is not in the best interest of their child (or themselves) to overly praise. They worry that the praise will not motivate and it is better to withhold the praise until… Until when? The task is done? Life is over? The research pretty strongly supports encouraging people along the path and not just at the end of the journey. Handing out periodic praise increases the likelihood of finishing the task and doing better at it.
 
While there is substantial research about the benefits of praise, there is also some disturbing research about millenials who grew up in families where they were too often told they were special and talented. Turns out when they got into the marketplace and were not rewarded for their specialness and talents, they got depressed. To which I say, don’t be greedy with your praise, but be honest. The easiest way to do this, which was also suggested in last month’s blog post, is to praise effort. I am going to talk about this in December when I speak to parents (pardon my self-promotion), but the bottom line is to reward and acknowledge behavior that is within the student’s control. Basically we are not talking about talent and ability, but effort. Effort is something we all can control and most of us know that if we put more effort into most things we will get a better return.
 
Which brings us back to gratitude and empathy. The more effort you put into being thankful and empathetic, the better you will become. They are skills and as with most skills, they improve with practice. You are probably not going to be as empathetic and full of gratitude as you might wish. You are going to do an imperfect job, especially with the empathy. But, if empathy means trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, realize your feet will not fit into their shoes. You will not be able to fully understand the world from their point of view, but you can try. Just the act of wanting to understand another’s point of view will bring you closer to that person. Most people do not feel that others really understand them and value it when they think someone does get them or at least tries.
 
As we head into our Thanksgiving break, there is much to be thankful for and certainly some things we could complain about. My recommendation is to acknowledge it all, but come down mostly on the side of being grateful. There is some solid research that supports the more grateful you are, the more grateful you are. I know that is a lousy sentence, but it is true. Even if it feels forced and disingenuous the more you recognize the aspects of your life for which you are grateful, the more satisfied and fulfilled you will be with your life. Will you get a perfect score? Probably not. But you ought to get a better score and that is something we are grateful for here at Windward. If you only are going to be grateful when you get the “A” you are missing many opportunities along the way to acknowledge and be thankful for your efforts. Acknowledge the small wins because they add up.

October 31, 2016

In my 9th grade English classes we’ve been talking a lot about the myth of Icarus this year.  We’ve been reading versions of the myth, exploring poems and paintings written in response to this age-old story, and, in the end, considering some of the implications for our own lives.  Indeed, in at least one of my sections, we engaged in something of a debate about whether Daedalus’s advice not to fly too close to the sun was really good advice at all.  At first, I was puzzled.  How could it not be good advice, I wondered out loud.  My students were quick to set me straight: You have to go above and beyond, they declared.  If you don’t aim high, you won’t succeed. After some further discussion it became clear that my students weren’t all crazy hedonists intent on self-harm.  Rather, they were calculating the risks of flying high with those related to Icarus’s father’s second, but lesser known words of wisdom before his fatal flight: “Let me warn you, Icarus . . . the moisture [will] weigh down your wings, if you fly too low.”1 I also believe that my students’ readings of this myth are informed by their place in a school and in a larger culture that has made healthy risk-taking not only appropriate, but expected.
Here’s what I also know: unlike in the myth, the courses we chart in schools are bounded --especially here at Windward wherein we rightly pride ourselves in the reality of our nurturing community.  Ours is one where students can fly high without fear of plunging headlong into the sea.  And, when we notice students flying too low, we --and we will-- meet them where they are and encourage them to fly just a little bit higher.
 
This is my hope for all of our students: that they are held to high standards and supported as they strive to achieve their goals. Here at Windward, in order to continue pushing ourselves to meet these lofty aims, we have embarked upon the exploration of a philosophy known as responsive teaching.  Responsive teaching is a pedagogical philosophy that we here at the school firmly believe will bring us even closer to our pledge to offer a dynamic, engaging education in a nurturing, inclusive community to every student who sets foot on campus.  Responsive teaching, at its core, is a “sequence of common sense decisions made by teachers with a student-first orientation.”2 This is a philosophy that really does enable us to put students at the center of all that we do.  Responsive teaching is informed by some of the most significant breakthroughs in neuroscience and education in recent years and asks us to take into account the variety of learners we face every single day.  Because responsive teaching is a philosophy rather than a set of strategies, it necessarily encompasses all the elements of the classroom: the classroom environment, the curriculum itself, our modes of instruction, assessment practices, and framing all of this is our leadership or management of the material, (in other words, the  routines, the strategies and and the students themselves). And, ultimately, it is about holding all students to very high standards while providing the necessary supports to help each student meet and, when possible, move beyond these standards.
 
It’s also important to remember that we don’t live in the world of Icarus. In our world --the world of education-- falling is a part of learning. Accepting this truth is harder than saying it.  As a parent, I know this all too well.  So I want to close by offering myself --and, by extension, you-- some advice for the modern era: Let’s give our kids big hugs (when they’ll let us); let’s help them be successful even as we are challenging some of the socially constructed definitions of success; let’s remember that the greatest predictor of academic success is engagement; that the most effective learning is social, natural and joyous, and let’s remember that the most important thing to praise in our kids is effort. And finally, let’s trust that Windward is a safe place to learn to fly.
 
Stella Beale
Associate Director of Upper School

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1http://ovid.lib.virginia.edu/trans/Metamorph8.htm#482327661
2 Adam Hoppe, 2010

August 25, 2016

Dear Upper School Families,
 
Last night was the annual welcome party for new Windward faculty and staff. As I left the party, I smiled, thinking how lucky our students are to have such enthusiastic, committed, and brilliant new faculty members teaching them this year. I reflected on the conversations I had had with the new faculty and staff over the course of the evening and realized that all of them could be summarized quite simply. I repeatedly told our newcomers how amazing it is to work with the kind, curious, bright, challenging, and committed students of Windward. 
 
I awoke this morning and thought “that’s it.” Herein lies the heart of Windward. Yes, our campus is beautiful, and our classrooms and labs are top notch, but those are secondary to what lies at the core of Windward. What makes us such a special and inspirational community is the caring and trusting relationships built, over time, between the adults and students at Windward. 
 
As I reflect upon the power and importance of these relationships, I remind myself that the creation of meaningful relationships of trust is no easy task and one that we should not take for granted. As Megan Tschannen-Moran states in her book Trust Matters: Leadership for Successful Schools, trust must be  “conscientiously cultivated and sustained.” And that trust and relationship process is the one that we continue or one that we begin, thoughtfully and with all our hearts, on Monday, August 29, when Windward opens for the 2016-17 academic year. 
 
But we cannot do it in isolation. We are well aware that Windward can’t help students reach their full potential without strong partnership with our parents and guardians. We know that “building and extending high trust between families and schools lies at the heart of cultivating productive relationships between home and school,” as Tschannen-Moran writes. We ask that you commit to us, as we will commit to you, to engage, to listen, and to do the hard work required to build that vital trust that leads to a safe and inclusive environment where successful student outcomes abound. We have one, two, three, or four more important and exciting years ahead of us in Upper School with lots in store—parent meetings, social events, speakers, parent-teacher conferences, Back to School Night, arts and sporting events, and more—where we can engage authentically and get to know each other better. We are excited to hear your hopes and dreams for your children as well as your fears and anxieties, as these will help us to best serve your family. We understand that “trust deepens and becomes more authentic as individuals interact and get to know one another over time,” according to Zucker, quoted in Tschannen-Moran’s book. So we ask that you be patient and understand that for all of us, adults and children alike, learning and growing doesn’t happen overnight (don’t you sometimes wish they did!) and that there will be misunderstandings and missteps along the way. 
 
This blog site is one additional way for us to get to know each other better and to engage in meaningful dialogue and create this culture of partnership. It is a place where our team of Directors, Deans, and Counselors will share with you in writing our thoughts on educational and developmental topics important to us. We want to thank you in advance for reading and invite you to visit this page whenever we post a new entry. 
 
We are honored and humbled to be part of your children’s lives and part of the special community that is Windward, and we can’t wait to get started! As always, don’t hesitate to reach out should any member of the Upper School team be of assistance.
 
Sincerely,
 
 
Peggy Procter, Upper School Director                         Stella Beale, Associate Director of Upper School
 
 
Sources:
Tschannen-Moran, Megan (2014). Trust Matters: Leadership for Successful Schools, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
 
Zucker, L.G. (1986). The production of trust: Institutional sources of economic structure, 1840-1920. In B.M. Staw & L.L. Cummings, Research in organizational behavior (Vol. 8, pp. 55-111). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press
 
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March 21, 2016

As many of you know, we have been having conversations on campus about differences and how to deal with them. On the one hand, we all know we are different. We come from different backgrounds, hold different opinions, and have different interests. What we don’t always have is the skill, grace, and ability to respectfully and thoughtfully deal with those differences.
 
When I was in graduate school I took a number of classes that focused on how to be in a relationship with another person. Initially, my classmates and I thought it would be easy to converse with someone whose values and interests were similar to our own and more challenging to be with people whose points of view and experience were vastly different. While that was true to some degree, what we learned is that similarity can lead to complacency and difference can lead to growth.
 
Let me give you an example: When talking with your closest friend, one with whom you essentially see eye-to-eye about something you both recently saw, the chances are good that you will primarily talk about your shared understanding.  While it is true that the two of you might push one another to explore different perspectives, and you might feel comfortable enough with one another to share private, divergent thoughts, most of your discourse will be affirming and overlapping. Here’s a reality: We tend to gravitate towards people who think about life in terms closely related to our own. As we go through an election cycle in this country, we can even see on the ubiquitous maps online and on the television news channels the ways in which people with similar political beliefs cluster together geographically. In psychology we call this a pull towards the norm. We want to be with people who are like us.
 
As comforting as it is to be with people who hold similar beliefs and values, however, it is not a model for growth. In group therapy, homogeneous groups bond quicker and have less conflict, but do not foster as much opportunity for growth as groups that are less homogeneous. When we are exposed to difference, we experience alternative ways of thinking, being, and doing. That said, when there is greater difference there will be greater conflict.  You know this, I suspect, from experiences in your own home. Even a very simple example regarding television may be illuminating.  When two people want to watch the same television show, there is no conflict, but there is also less opportunity for expansion.  Here’s another truth: In addition to the very human tendency to align alongside those with similar values and beliefs, most people are conflict avoidant. People get uncomfortable with conflict, and, as a result, many people go along to get along. There is a price you pay when you hide your truth.  Of course, there is also a price you pay when you voice your truth. I had a student come in my office and tell me she was reluctant to say what she really thought about something for fear of being ostracized and labeled. I don’t think she is the only one who feels that way.
 
So what can we do to help one another share our thoughts and feelings without damaging consequences? I was taught you don’t need to agree with someone to be able to respectfully understand their point of view. I would imagine if we all could suspend our reactions long enough, we might be able to ask anyone who thinks differently than us how they got to think and be the way they are. Having listened to people share their lives for many years, I have found when you know someone’s story it is pretty easy to see how A led to B which begot C and resulted in D. I still may not agree, but I can understand that given this person’s circumstances I too might feel and act the way he or she does.
 
So when it comes to talking with people who have different opinions, values and experiences than your own, the concept I was taught to hold is empathy. Try to put yourself in another’s shoes and ask that person to help you understand how he or she came to hold certain beliefs. Later you can share how you came to believe what you believe. Yes, differences can be challenging, but ultimately it is from differences that growth can occur.
 
Understanding and respecting another’s point of view even when it differs from your own is a critical component of relationships. But understanding and respect alone will not bring you closer. These qualities are the cake. The icing is empathy. If you can empathize with others and see how they have come to hold their beliefs and the validity of their beliefs to them, then you are well on the way to making the world a better place. Good luck to us one and all.

Best, 
David

February 24, 2016

It’s been far too long since I’ve written on this blog as the busyness of everyday life gets in the way of such moments of quiet, thoughtful reflection.  For months, I’ve been wanting to write about the phenomenal experience I had at the Windward OneVoice event this holiday season, and hey, “Mas vale tarde que nunca” (better late than never!)  This memorable event reminded me of everything that I love about Windward, and also got me thinking about a few of my favorite subjects - caring, connection, empathy, and relationships.

My daughter Sidney and I headed to Windward for pizza prior to hopping the bus to the OneVoice hangar.  She was in one of her moods, hiding behind my legs and whining a bit about why we were here and how it wasn’t fun.  I tried to socialize with others as she clung to me, without too much success.  I wondered if coming had been a mistake.  Slowly, the room began to fill, and in walked Upper School students with their Middle School siblings.  In walked alumni parents and their graduates.  In walked Ann-Marie and her nine-year-old son Marley, sporting a similar attitude to Sidney’s.  The scene represented the past, present, and future of Windward, united together with one simple goal - to connect with others through service.  My mood began to improve.

The rest of the night was a whirlwind of music, hard work, hanging with old friends and meeting new ones.  Sidney and Marley’s attitudes changed immediately when surrounded by the amazing role models of the Windward “big kids” supporting them and treating them like equals.  The pictures that Stella Ginsberg sent me afterwards of the two little ones lugging boxes of oranges that weighed more than both of them combined were priceless.  Dancing to YMCA during our breaks while wearing bright blue pom pom headbands was a highlight.  Having Sidney ask me about where the food was going and why the families needed it made me optimistic that she would begin to understand the complexity of our world and strive to make it better.  In between filling boxes with potatoes, it was a pleasure to get to know students like Lauren Hodess, who I’ve never taught before, and to catch up with alums like Claudia Hellstrom, who is thriving at college.

In a recent report out of the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Making Caring Common project, a national survey showed that a “large majority of youth across a wide spectrum of races, cultures, and classes appear to value aspects of personal success—achievement and happiness— over concern for others.  Almost 80% of youth picked high achievement or happiness as their top choice, while roughly 20% selected caring for others” (Making Caring Common Executive Summary). At Windward, we are working to combat this trend and the power of this community reminded me that these efforts are worth it.  We are working to redefine success not as high GPA’s or college admissions, but as being a good person, caring for others, being self-aware and reflective, and embracing and enjoying the process of learning.  Having so many Windwardians present at the OneVoice event, willing to give up a Friday night to serve others, was the best way ever for me and my daughter to kick off the holiday break.  I know that Shirley Windward was there with us in spirit.  I feel deep gratitude to be part of this special community.

Warmly,
Peggy

December 16, 2015

While many of us felt overwhelmed as holiday decorations appeared while we were still unwrapping our favorite pieces of Halloween candy, there are many community traditions during this time of year that I look forward to most. As November began, and our energies shifted towards preparing our annual service celebrations, our conversations turned to community, gratitude and the unique opportunity to share our time and voices.
 
Gratitude is a word that we hear more and more often as the holiday season ramps up. Gratitude “can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” In the simplest of ways, I have already shared many moments this year that create the feeling of warmth, comfort and joy that this quote is capturing. The beautiful contributions that our students, parents and faculty have offered during events and projects only inspires me to think carefully about how best to “pay it forward” in the days and months ahead.
 
During the week before Thanksgiving break, I greeted more than thirty middle and upper school students as they loaded the bus to attend the community dinner at Westside Children’s Center. The very nature of this moment, as they all sit on the bus together, is at the heart of why our service work is so vital to community spirit. Once they return to campus on the bus three hours later, they will all have shared this experience together, even though many of them had never met face-to-face before stepping on the bus at 3 p.m. During the event, they each experience the long lasting relationships that have been crafted between our two communities. They share a laugh as they play games and break bread with the fun loving preschool students who delight in the attention of their teenage acquaintances. And they work in the WCC kitchen, where our Windward parents have been working all day long to create a meal for hundreds of people. Some of our students at this event have never been to WCC before, and others were hosting the dinner as volunteers in our WCC Book Buddies program. From one exchange to another, there is a shared experience of joy that is palpable. Being outside of the usual routine, we are able to see each other differently, and these conversations and shared memories last far beyond that evening. I believe that people return year after year because they covet that feeling and are grateful for the opportunity to share in it once again.
 
The quality of our exchanges, off campus and on campus, is truly at the heart of a solid gratitude practice. The small yet meaningful shift in my mood on November 20th when I walked onto campus and was handed a gift of a fortune cookie is a great example. One of our prefects handed me a cookie and said, “It is Random Acts of Kindness Day!” This wonderful little exchange was followed by a walk across the bridge where I noted that students were bending down to pick something up off the ground. Pennies were scattered throughout campus, to give every member of our community a chance to “see a penny, pick it up, all day long, you’ll have good luck!” Not only did the sentiment make me smile, but the conversations I had all day long, moving in and out of 9th grade seminar classes, were moments that would never have happened if the pennies had not been there. So simple and yet profound, as I was redirected, refocused and invited into joyful exchanges I would not have otherwise experienced.
 
This past Saturday, joy really hit its holiday high point during our annual Family Portraits Day at Westside Children’s Center. For the past four years, some of our photography and service minded students have taken a Saturday before the holidays to prepare professional portrait stations in the conference room at WCC to take family pictures for their clients. Fifty families came dressed in their holiday best to sit for portraits. Our extremely engaged team dried the tears of babies, sang “Let it Go” at the top of their lungs to get a smile from a child and took hundreds of pictures that will be edited in photography classes in the coming week. Our day begins at 8:00 a.m., and as I entered the site at 7:55 a.m., I found a team of Windward teenagers already hard at work, prepping photography stations together. Yes, teenagers were hard at work at 7:55 a.m. on a Saturday morning. If that isn’t a holiday miracle, I don’t know what is! Our day was filled with new connections that are forged in a click of the camera yet somehow resonate far beyond that moment.
 
And so, I have had the pleasure of being a witness this season to how gratitude can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home and a stranger into a friend. I witnessed it on these three days, and I can honestly say that I witness it every day. I wish you the happiest of holidays and I send my gratitude to each and every member of our Windward community, during all of our passing seasons. I feel it is the greatest gift to be invested in these moments together. May you share the joy this holiday season.

Warmly, 

Jennie

December 8, 2015

I have continued to reflect this fall upon my experience at the Challenge Success conference at Stanford and on the topic Stella and I wrote about in our October posting: Creativity.  The keynote, Tony Wagner, Expert in Residence at Harvard’s Innovation Center, Co-Director of the Change Leadership Group at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and co-author with Ted Dintersmith of the recently released book Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing our Kids for the Innovation Era, challenged us to reassess the limitations of our definitions of this important word. 
 
When Wagner spoke of the myth of creativity - that creativity has to do with artistic ability - I realized that, until recently, I had fallen prey to this detrimental myth.  I was not a star student in elementary school art class and my work was not chosen for display in the hallways; my sisters always told me to be quiet when I sang in the car, and I even struggled at Pictionary because my cows were often mistaken for blimps. I avoided the stage and the studio, and no one encouraged me to do otherwise.  My first true experience with what might be deemed “traditional creativity” was just a few years back when the ComedySportz team invited me to perform in the student/faculty match. I was terrified, but couldn’t say no to my students, and I ended up having a blast.  I went home that evening high from the excitement of the experience, yet regretful that I hadn’t tried something similar in my youth.  Wagner vehemently opposes the creativity myth that prevents individuals from trying, asserting that “we are all born curious and creative until it is schooled or parented out of us.”  Likewise, Madeline Levine, psychologist, co-founder of Challenge Success, and author of the bestselling book Teach Your Children Well begs us not to “put creativity in a box” and to honor the myriad of ways to express creativity, such as “the student who asks a great question or has a divergent thought.”  When I heard these words, I had to acknowledge that I certainly do both of these things, and I do them well!  Despite often being defined as “not creative” when I was a child, I can now confidently use creative to describe myself. 
 
In today’s innovation era, what we need, Wagner argues, is “smart creatives,” a term created by Google executive Eric Schmidt and defined as “impatient, outspoken risk-takers who are easily bored and change jobs frequently. They are intellectually versatile, typically combining technical depth with business savvy and creative flair.”  Wagner shared with his audience of students, educators and parents, his five suggestions for how to prepare and influence today’s adolescents to be creative problem solvers.  He believes that we need to do the following: to engage in team teaching and group projects, not individual, isolated work; to focus on engaging in the big questions; to encourage risk taking and failure; to motivate not through carrots and sticks, but through passion, purpose, and play; and to resist the compartmentalization of learning as innovation happens at the borders of disciplines. 
 
I am proud of the many ways we are working to support and grow “smart creatives” at Windward, ready to succeed in the innovation era, through active learning in our classrooms, socratic discussions, honors research seminars, interdisciplinary electives, service learning, our Global, STEAM, and Entrepreneurship programs, student leadership, peer counseling, and our new CREATE Studio and Design Lab, to name just a few. Of course there is room for growth, and our upcoming Strategic Planning process will compel us to dive deeply into the research and explore best practices to find what is best suited for Windward’s future and to keep us at the forefront of dynamic education.
 
This past weekend, I dedicated most of my time with my daughter, playing Jenga and doing rainbow loom. I admit that it took great restraint for me not to step in every time Sidney tried to pull out a Jenga piece that I knew would likely crash the structure. What better way to learn about structural integrity, physics, and weight and balance than through trying and failing and then trying again and again?  And learn she did, as she actually beat me on the last round (though I blame it on the wobbly table!).  As for rainbow loom, I had to bite my tongue to keep from telling her to follow the instructions for a bracelet as she proceeded to make a fifteen-foot long string of bands that had no utility whatsoever.  Next, she pulled out the measuring tape and measured her rubber band string, then compared its length to the height of the ceiling.  I still don’t know the exact purpose of these measurements, but I love that she was curious, engaged, and busy creating something that mattered to her.
 
I want to close by encouraging all of us --in the spirit of Tony Wagner-- to try our best to refrain from making that off-hand comments about not being “creative” and to embrace a broader definition of creativity.  Let’s encourage play and risk taking and good questions and outside the box thoughts.  And who knows, if you’re lucky, Sidney might even make you a fifteen-foot string of colored rubber bands for a holiday gift!   

Warmly, 
Peggy

November 19, 2015

Thanksgiving is traditionally a time when we take the time to acknowledge those things for which we are thankful.  Robert Emmons, Ph.D. the founding Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology and a researcher into gratitude has conducted numerous studies and has found that young adults who focus on gratitude daily showed more energy, focus, goal-orientation and optimism. I don’t think many parents would have second thoughts about their child having more of those qualities, especially if it only took moments a day to acquire them.
 
The good news is that there are numerous, simple ways to invite gratitude into your life.  More challenging, of course, is spreading the message to your teen. I suggest beginning with yourself. If you can model being grateful and taking time each day to acknowledge something that made you feel good, your family will pick up on this activity. As a bonus, you might find that in helping them you also increase your energy, focus, goal-orientation and optimism.
 
Here is one thing you can do. Each night after you turn out your lights and are lying in bed but not yet asleep think over the day and recall some things for which you are thankful. What brought a smile to you, what touched you, what did you like? Allow yourself to recall some moments. Don’t pile on about what you could have done or should do; rather, just let those moments trickle over you before you nod off.  I engage in this bedtime routine most nights and it usually brings a smile to my countenance before I nod off. Another way to bring gratitude to your family is to consider having family members take a moment to share, while at the dinner table or in transit to or from school, something that happened during the day for which they are thankful. Again, you can begin simply by modeling.
 
I am an advocate of what Gandhi believed when he said “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Rather than lecture your child about the benefits of attending more to the things for which she/he may grateful, just share your own gratitude. Sometimes your gratitude will include something your child did or said and she/he will receive the rewards of that recognition. Other times she/he will just hear you and see your pleasure in recounting the moment. Trust that if your son or daughter experiences the value of this sharing, she/he will carry it forward in her/his own way.

Finally, I want to suggest that at your dinner table or at some moment when your family is gathered together that you initiate the sharing of that which each person is particularly thankful. Earlier this week we talked in my Psychology class about taking the time to thank our parents for all that they do. I do hope that my students and all Windward students take this to heart and mention something to you.

Have a grateful Thanksgiving,
David

October 7, 2015


Here are two powerful myths about creativity: First, that it is only for some; some have it, others do not.  Second, that creativity is not essential.  False and false.  Anyone who has spent any time among children knows that we are born creative, curious and inquisitive.  The second premise is equally ludicrous.  We no longer live in a knowledge economy. We live in an innovation economy. In this world, our currency is not knowledge, but what you can do with what you know.   

These were the opening salvos of the keynote speaker, Tony Wagner, at the Challenge Success Conference in Palo Alto, California.  As we have the past three years, Windward sent a small team of students and teachers to soak in the wisdom and, more importantly, invision future directions for our work at school.  Wagner hammered home the ways in which we, as a society, tend to put creativity in a box.  We must, he declared, expand our definitions.  Wagner emphasized the teaching of what he calls the 4 Cs: Collaboration, critical thinking, communication, and, of course, creativity.  He urged the educators in the room to “start concentrating on real learning, creative problem-solving, and the joy of discovery.” And  he reminded us --as did recent review of his latest book, co-authored with Ted Dintersmith and entitled, Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing our Kids for the Innovation Era -- that “success and happiness will depend increasingly in having the ability to innovate — on being what [Wagner and Dintersmith]  call a “smart creative.”

He should know. Tony, Expert in Residence at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab, just spent the last several years interviewing students for the aforementioned book (which, incidentally, has recently been made into a feature film!) In these interviews, Wagner and his co-author not only distilled a set of skills and practices that they believe should direct education in this country, but also discovered a fascinating truth. Even in less than ideal situations, some of the most creative, resilient innovative people had one common denominator: they all had one teacher who both cared about them and encouraged their creativity.

As we left the auditorium that night, the eight of us were abuzz with excitement and ideas. As the weekend continued, and we attended sessions on “Assessing 21st Century Skills,” “Making Homework Work,” and “Mindfulness in Schools,”  the team continued to be challenged by questions such as: “How often are you completely present with your students?” and “How might we offer students more voice and choice in their classwork and homework?”  Peggy and I were also struck by how well Wagner’s message and the themes of the conference weekend aligned with the goals of Windward School.  Indeed, references to Challenge Success, Tony Wagner and the Innovation Lab appear frequently on this blog!  And, as many of you know, we kicked off this year with one of the Co-Founders of Challenge Success sharing with the teacher and parents communities her thoughts on ways we might continue to challenge traditional notions of success and work to counteract stress while increasing engagement. Above all else, we strive to offer a dynamic education in a nurturing environment.  Our raison d’etre has long been about pushing the boundaries of the traditional and, at the same time, caring deeply about the students who make up our community. Our journey is on-going, of course.  We are grateful for your support, your encouragement, and your creative thinking about our collective future!
 
Sincerely,

Peggy Procter, Upper School Director                         Stella Beale, Associate Director of Upper School

September 3, 2015

Dear Families,
 
Welcome to the 2015-16 academic year at Windward!  On Monday, we joyfully greeted our new and returning students and commenced what promises to be a meaningful journey.  We also want to welcome you to our Upper School blog, where our team of Directors, Deans, and Counselors will share with you our thoughts on educational and developmental topics important to us.  We hope that this blog as well as community events and esteemed speakers will engage the community in meaningful dialogue and create a culture of partnership.  We want to thank you in advance for reading and invite you to visit this page whenever we post a new entry. 
 
With every new year, important transitions occur.  We often lose sleep thinking about our children’s transitions.  Will my son/daughter make new friends?  Will he/she adjust to his/her new teachers?  Will he/she be able to handle the new academic load or the rigors of the US Robotics team?  To be honest, while we think and worry about our children’s transitions, we are also facing important transitions ourselves. Will I make new friends, fit in, and get along with my kid’s new teachers?  What will it be like to have two students in high school?  How will my relationship with my child change now that he/she can drive?  What if my child stops sharing with me and only speaks to his/her peers?   As Stella and I, parents ourselves, considered these very questions, we were  reminded of  the words of Dr. Madeline Levine, a psychologist, author, and expert on adolescence and one of the co-founder of Stanford University’s Challenge Success Program who wrote about the beginning of school on the Challenge Success blog:
 
There is excitement and anxiety in equal measure for our children (and ourselves) as they set out, once again, to meet the challenges of the classroom, the lunchroom, the playground and the playing field. Great dramas play out in these arenas. Some children meet these challenges with confidence, others with fierce determination, and others with great trepidation. Understand that every child is different and that some kids face back to school with equilibrium, others with terror. Don’t underestimate the serious endeavor that school is, both socially and academically, for children. (Courageous Parenting, Aug. 18, 2015, http://www.challengesuccess.org/blog/a-fresh-start-school-without-trauma/)
 
As we offered to the incoming 9th graders at orientation, everyone’s transition is different. There is no right way or wrong way to feel. Whatever it is that you or your child is feeling  right now as we enter the great unknown of a new school year is absolutely as it should be. And, while each child, parent, guardian, teacher, and administrator may be dealing with different emotions, hopes, and fears at this moment, there is one thing that remains constant - our commitment to supporting each and every in Windward’s nurturing and dynamic environment so that they feel known, heard, and valued for their unique gifts, personalities, and challenges.  Shirley Windward’s strong belief that every child deserves and can thrive in a supportive and inclusive community remains at the center of everything that we do.  
 
We are honored and humbled to be part of your children’s lives and part of the special community that is Windward and we can’t wait to get started!  As always, don’t hesitate to reach out should any member of the Upper School team be of assistance.
 
Sincerely,

Peggy Procter, Upper School Director                         Stella Beale, Associate Director of Upper School

May 27, 2015


One thing that we have in common is that we all have been students. We have known the first day of school and the nights with homework; we remember studying for exams and the anticipation of summer vacation. At this time of year, many may be counting down the days until school is out. But, this letter is not about summer vacation – if you want to read my thoughts on that subject, take a look at this piece from last year. Instead, I’d like to take a few moments to talk to you about these last days on the school calendar, because for some of our students and their parents, these are the last days of High School. For others, these days mark the end of one grade and the transition to another. For some, it may have been a great year; for others, a bouncy one or even a disappointing one. Most likely, it was a year marked to one degree or another by the ups and downs that life brings to us all.

I talk to many students who voice regrets of some sort. As the year comes to an end, they look back and are sorry they didn’t study more, play more, ask someone out on a date, or reach out to someone who might have been a friend. It is sad to hear these stories – and easy to relate. We all have had dreams and hopes go by the wayside at one time or another. I have had parents in my office upset that their child did not get into a certain college or doesn’t have friends to spend time with on the weekend. Sometimes, all one can do is listen and acknowledge these feelings of frustration and hurt. Other times, you can help someone look objectively at what they can do in the future to avoid the same decisions that led to whatever regrets they may be experiencing. Some people decide to scale back their dreams; others recommit themselves.

As a parent, I want to be supportive of my child and encourage her to make life as fulfilling as possible. I want her to know that I believe in her ability to create a loving, meaningful life for herself – even though I may still worry about it now and then. And I also want her to know that even though all her dreams may not come true, she can still realize her life’s goals if she is willing to take chances, make mistakes and allow herself to fail.

As this year draws to a close, I suggest you find a moment when you are alone with your child and ask her/him to reflect a little bit. In my last blog post in March, I wrote about engaging your child in a conversation. We all know that the moment you pick may not meet with approval. I suggest forging ahead. I know some students are easier to engage than others; regardless of how your child responds to your inquiries, don’t stop being curious. Be prepared to ask some specific questions. When you ask “How has the year been?,” know that you might get a “Fine” or some other minimalistic answer. Plow ahead. Ask what your son’s/daughter’s hopes were for the year. And maybe what they would have liked to have done better.
 
When your child opens up to you, please consider sharing a story of your own about a hope you have had that has not materialized. The goal is to let your child know that life includes setbacks and disappointments. Therapists call this normalizing. Many students do not realize that their experience is being shared the world over. Often our students see “successful” people and think they just started their life at that point. Many of our students are afraid to fail. They don’t like making mistakes. They need to know that failure is part and parcel of success. It is important for students to understand that not all dreams come true, and that often, the ones that do come true are the ones you dare to put into action.

Reflecting on the gains and losses of the year is an important part of bringing the school year to a close. This time of year provides us with a perfect opportunity for thinking back over the highlights and the lowlights. This is a time to happily reminisce about the good times and give a nod to the difficult times. I often find that what was so horrible in one moment seems - as time passes - not to have been so bad after all. You can’t really tell a student that what he or she is experiencing will feel better with time, but you can reminisce. In that process, perhaps they can discover that their wounds have healed.

Good or bad, up or down, families go through life together. I would like my child to know that while I can’t always protect her from the disappointments that life hands out, I will always be there to commiserate and help her through. Whatever the past has brought and the future may have in store, the special bond we have with our loved ones is the only constant that matters in the uncertain and exciting journey that we are all travelling.

David

April 28, 2015 


A few months ago, I lost my mom.  While obviously it’s left a big hole in my heart, it has challenged me to think more deeply about the power of connections and about what it means to be a good mom and a good teacher.  My mom was amazing at both, and if there’s one thing I can do to honor her legacy, it’s to focus on cultivating two very  important relationships in my life - relationships with my family and with my students.  If I can honestly say that each day, I did something to show someone that I care, then I, like my mom, will be able to say at the end of my days that I led a meaningful and fulfilling life.

In our work this year with Windward’s Challenge Success team, we’ve looked at the research on and talked a lot about the hectic and stressful lives that our students, teachers, and families lead.  As Denise Pope, an education expert at Stanford, says in the recent New York Times article, Push, Don’t Crush, the Students
 
Today’s kids continually hear “the overriding message that only the best will do - in grades, test scores, sports, art, college…. In everything,” they say.   In this article, Carolyn Walworth, a high school junior in Palo Alto, described students in this way - “We are not teenagers… (we are) “lifeless bodies in a system that breeds competition.”

This troubling reality forces us to look closely at our schools, our society, and our families and to begin to pick away at the forces that have gotten us to this unhealthy place.  But right now, as night falls at the end of a lovely weekend,  I want to focus on one, relatively simple way to fight against this culture of stress recommended by Ms. Pope and her team of researchers at Challenge Success - to find more time for “downtime, playtime, and family time.”  I remember hearing this mantra of “DPF”  in the fall at the annual conference at Stanford and thinking to myself that we needed to share this recommendation with our students and families and continue to explore ways to make it a priority in our community.  Then life took over, and those words of wisdom got lost with the prepping, grading, emails, voicemails and errands.  But this weekend, as I thought about my mom and read The New York Times article, I was inspired to recommit.   And how thankful I was of Windward for the gift of a “Ray Day” long weekend, a lovely practice of throwing a random day off into the schedule to allow us some breathing room.  On Sunday,  I was aroused from my slumber by my seven year old nudging me to wake up and “come play”.  Rather than think about my messy house, ungraded papers, and all that needed to get done, I left my pj’s on for hours as my daughter and I carried out a camping trip and dance party for her stuffed animals, made pancakes, and built a Lego Friends juice bar.  Not once during our six hour Sunday playdate did I check my phone, a near miracle in our hyper-connected world.  
 
This evening, at our brief weekly family meeting (yes, we just started this practice based on a great Ted Talk on agile programming for your family by Bruce Feiler), it was time to share our high points and  low points from the week.  We began by readily sharing our highpoints.  When it came to low points, my husband and I of course found a few, but when it was my daughter’s turn, she just smiled and said, “I don’t have any lows; it was an all around great week!”  

It’s amazing the difference a few uninterrupted hours of together time can make.  I will forever thank my mom for teaching me that it is the generosity of time that matters and to seek purpose through relationships.  And to honor her spirit, I will continue to seek ways to encourage more “downtime, playtime, and family time” in the Windward community.  

Warm regards,
Peggy

April 9, 2015 


When I grew up in North Carolina, I anticipated and even depended upon the regularity of the seasons. The month of May (more specifically, Memorial Day) always brought the first long days of summer and the opening of the local pool.  By Halloween there was frost on the ground, and for children, a concern about whether we would have to wear our winter coats over our costumes.  February brought the distinct possibility of snow, and - better yet - a surprise day off from school.  In March, the daffodils burst into bloom with the warm days of spring not far behind.
 
The rhythms of school life progress with a regularity that reminds me of these seasons of my childhood. In our very first blog post, Peggy and I reflected on the predictable patterns of the school calendar. While September brings with it the promise of the new year, April ushers in a period of decisions and decision-making.  Most obviously, this is the time of year when seniors begin to hear back from colleges and contemplate their futures.  But this is also the time when 9th, 10th and 11th graders sit down with an adult and consider their academic options for the year ahead.
 
Prior to spring break, I sat for a few minutes with students going into 10th grade to speak about the classes they wanted to take in their sophomore year.  I shared the recommendations from their teacher and department chairs; I queried them about their likes and dislikes; and I listened as they shared thoughts on what would make them feel happy, engaged, and satisfied.  
 
Some of the conversations I had were fairly straightforward, but most were fraught with a touch of anxiety.  It’s hard to make decisions. Not just for kids, but for all of us.  It is especially hard when it feels like the stakes are high.  And, for many of our children, the truth of the matter is that the stakes feel pretty high.  Time and again, I am asked by students and their parents what a decision will “look like” to colleges. What I believe - and what my work with Challenge Success has affirmed - is that the decisions students make regarding their academic programs are best made with the individual student in mind.  When a student asks me whether she should take AP European History, Honors Global Studies, or World History 2, my response is always to inquire about what she enjoys most about her current work in history.  When another asks whether he would be better off in Chemistry or Honors Chemistry, I ask about his interest in the subject and suggest we take a look at his overall load.
 
I do not have all the answers.  When I stood in front of the 9th grade, the 10th grade, and finally the 11th grade in a consecutive series of assemblies last month, I always uttered some variation on these words:  
 
This process is highly individual.  If we knew what the perfect schedule was for all students, we would simply make it happen.  But we don’t.  There is no single best schedule.  There are no one-size-fits-all solutions.  
 
There are also no guarantees --not when it comes to high school registration, college admissions, or, frankly, to life itself.  Once all the information has been weighed and the options considered, I believe the best decisions students can make about their programs of study really are those that they are convinced will most engage them and inspire them.
 
A week or so ago, I was reminded of the importance of this sort of messaging when I read this piece by Frank Bruni in The New York Times. In the article, “How to Survive the College Admissions Madness,” Bruni reminds us that:
 
For every person whose contentment comes from faithfully executing a predetermined
script, there are at least 10 if not 100 who had to rearrange the pages and play a part they
hadn’t expected to, in a theater they hadn’t envisioned. . . . [T]here’s no single juncture,
no one crossroads, on which everything hinges.
 
This spring, whether you are mulling over our new curriculum guide with your rising sophomore, considering elective possibilities with your soon-to-be-junior, or helping your senior confront the choices in front of him or her, I encourage you to consider this truth as well as the wise words of educator Marilyn Englander:
 
High school, college: these are only the beginning of the journey. Admissions tests measure one kind of intelligence and ignore others. Some young people putter along, only to discover their genius at age 25. . . . Some students know early their calling is working with their hands. There are infinite ways to contribute, to live a meaningful life.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, Pattie, Kevin, Jill or Molly if you and/or your son/daughter would like to talk further about the road ahead.

Best,

Stella

March 19, 2015 

***

“So, how was school today?”

“Fine”

“Anything new?”

“No.”

Parents often have difficulty finding the best way to approach their child to get him (or her) to open up and share some of his day and how his life is going. For those of you that have struggled with this, I am here to help.

Let me begin by saying that you are not alone. Having incommunicative children is a common concern I hear from parents. In some ways it is understandable that as children move through their teen years they want to establish their own independence. To find their own way, they often feel the need to close you out.

Parents usually don’t mind their children wanting to be more independent, especially if it is accompanied by being more responsible. They just don’t want to be shut out.
So, what are the magic tricks to open those doors?

Stella Beale, our Associate Director of the Upper School (and an avid reader of research), came across a Huffington Post article by Liz Evans entitled 25 Ways to Ask Your Kid “How Was School Today?” Without Asking Them “How Was School Today?” I think reading this short list will certainly help you out. You can also continue with the companion article: 28 Ways to Ask Your Teen “How Was School Today?” Without Asking “How Was School Today?”

If you haven’t jumped to the links already, let me share with you a few of the questions so you get the idea - and then add my own thoughts:
  • Tell me one thing you learned today.
  • If an alien spaceship came to your class and beamed someone up, who would you want them to take?
  • If you were a teacher which would be the worst class to teach?
When you ask your child, “How was school today?” you really aren’t as interested in how school was than in how they are and what is going on with them. When you ask them, “How did you do on that test?,” your inquiry can be construed as concern about their academic performance. When you ask them about the alien spaceship, you are wanting to get into their head. Which is - truthfully - a place they both want you in and want you out of.

The trick with these questions is not to be pushy or overly invasive. Try to make them more of a game. My guess is that if you went through all the questions, some would produce a one word answer and some would lead the way to a productive discussion. Of course, today’s productive question may be tomorrow’s one word answer.

The goal of communicating openly is to make speaking with you an enjoyable experience, not an investigation, a lecture, or a shouting match. Save those moments for the conflictual situations that pop up, and see if you can express yourself without raising your voice. Raised parent voices are one of the biggest complaints I hear about from students…but we’ll save that topic for another day.

What other questions might you ask when you see your child at the end of the school day? To help with this, I have asked our parents Jennifer DeVore and Christine Torre – contributors to the Parent to Parent column on Windward’s website -- to initiate a dialogue about the best questions/comments/invitations that you have found successful in encouraging your child to open up to you. I can tell you that in the therapy world, the research states that self-disclosure begets self-disclosure. You might even consider divulging who in your life that you would like to see beamed up in that alien spaceship…

- David

***

ADDENDUM BELOW:

Lists from Liz Evans, featured in the Huffington Post

25 Ways to ask your kid “So how was school today?”
1. What was the best thing that happened at school today? (What was the worst thing that happened at school today?)
2. Tell me something that made you laugh today.
3. If you could choose, who would you like to sit by in class? (Who would you NOT want to sit by in class? Why?)
4. Where is the coolest place at the school?
5. Tell me a weird word that you heard today. (Or something weird that someone said.)
6. If I called your teacher tonight, what would she tell me about you?
7. How did you help somebody today?
8. How did somebody help you today?
9. Tell me one thing that you learned today.
10. When were you the happiest today?
11. When were you bored today?
12. If an alien spaceship came to your class and beamed someone up, who would you want them to take?
13. Who would you like to play with at recess that you've never played with before?
14. Tell me something good that happened today.
15. What word did your teacher say most today?
16. What do you think you should do/learn more of at school?
17. What do you think you should do/learn less of at school?
18. Who in your class do you think you could be nicer to?
19. Where do you play the most at recess?
20. Who is the funniest person in your class? Why is he/she so funny?
21. What was your favorite part of lunch?
22. If you got to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do?
23. Is there anyone in your class who needs a time-out?
24. If you could switch seats with anyone in the class, who would you trade with? Why?
25. Tell me about three different times you used your pencil today at school.

*****
 
28 Ways To Ask Your Teens 'How Was School Today?' Without Asking Them 'How Was School Today?'
1. Where in the school do you hang out the most? (Like a particular hall, classroom, parking lot, etc.) Where in the school do you never hang out?
2. What would your school be better with? What would your school be better without?
3. If you were a teacher, what class would you teach? Which class would be the worst to teach? Why?
4. What was the coolest (saddest, funniest, scariest) thing that you saw today?
5. Tell me one thing that you learned today.
6. If your day at school today was a movie, what movie would it be?
7. Besides walking to their next classes, what else do people do in the halls in between classes?
8. Who do you think you could be nicer to?
9. Which is your easiest class? Which is your hardest class? OR Which class are you learning the most in? Which class are you learning the least in?
10. If they played music in the halls at school, what would everyone want them to play over the loudspeaker?
11. If you could read minds, which teacher's mind would you read? Which classmate's mind would you read? Whose mind would you NOT want to read?
12. If today had a theme song, what would it be?
13. Which class has your favorite group of students in it? Which class has the worst group of students?
14. What do you think you should do more of at school? What do you think you should do less of?
15. What are the top three (or five) things that you hear people say in the halls?
16. What do you think the most important part of school is?
17. Tell me one question that you had today, even if it wasn't answered... actually, especially if it wasn't answered...
18. Which class has the most cute boys/girls in it?
19. If an alien spaceship landed at your school, who would you like them to beam aboard and take back to their home planet?
20. Who did you help today? Who helped you today?
21. If you could be invisible for the day at school, what would you do?
22. What part of the day do you look forward to? What part of the day do you dread?
23. What would you change about school lunch?
24. Which classmate is most likely to be arrested, made president, become a millionaire, be in movies, let loose a flock of wild chickens in the library, etc.?
25. If you had to go to only one class every day, which class would it be?
26. Tell me one thing you read at school today.
27. If your day at school was an emoticon, which one would it be?
28. What do you think your teachers talked about in the faculty room today after school?

****

Reflections on the NAIS Annual Conference and the Future of Education

 

March 11, 2015


Each February, I have the pleasure of attending the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Annual Conference.  This year’s three-day event was titled Design the Revolution: Blended Learning, Leading, and Innovation, and was filled with inspiring and innovative speakers and workshops.  I am a self-proclaimed “conference geek” with incredible stamina who can’t get enough of the presentations.  Each year, I return to Windward, my head spinning with new ideas, books and articles I want to read, people I want to connect with, excitement about the possibilities, and panic about where to even begin.  This year, as the conference was in Boston, I also had the pleasure of joining the illustrious team from the CTL and The Windward Institute on a day of university research visits to Harvard’s Innovation Lab and MIT’s Edgerton Center and Office of Experiential Learning

These visits and a panel discussion on The Future of Education with college presidents from Wellesley, University of Denver, Princeton, Swarthmore, and Southern New Hampshire University have had me thinking about trends in education and how we can best prepare our students for college and life. While a few things hold true from the days that we attended college many moons ago, much has changed.  One President boldly stated that “we are poised at the edge of a new eco-system” and all the others nodded in agreement.  Two themes stood out to me that I would like to discuss in this post today - the first about the key trends in student engagement and the second about intentional community.  
 
All five panelists agreed that the ways that students learn and interact are shifting dramatically to a collaborative interdisciplinary model where students are coming together to build knowledge.  They understand that in today’s digital world, the days of solely mastering content are over, as information is readily at every student’s fingertips or at least in his/her pockets.  They spoke about the need for high impact learning as today’s learners want to feel that their learning and their work matters and can make a difference in the world.   Harvard’s ILab and MIT’s Edgerton Center were created to provide students with opportunities to collaborate, create, discover, and understand.  I see these same shifts in learning and engagement from our Windward students - they engage deeply and wholeheartedly in work and in learning that they believe in and that matters to them.  They ask great questions and want to understand how history and global studies link to science and math.  They are highly social beings who enjoy engaging with each other in person and online to problem solve.  While of course, there is lots of foundational work still to be done with our young students, they are also ready to take on big challenges, real challenges under the guidance of skilled mentors.  I strongly believe, as these Presidents suggested, that we must continue to engage our students in a variety of ways; through project based learning, real world problem solving, hands on active learning, design thinking, deep research and writing, thoughtful discussion and inquiry, service learning, and reflection.  
 
The second important and compelling topic of discussion by the University Presidents was the importance of creating what they called “intentional community”.  They spoke at length about how important it is for today’s young people to be able to interact effectively in communities of difference.  They believe that the most important question today on college campuses and in the workplace is how to get people to live together in communities and work together in organizations.  Sadly, we have so many tragic examples in our own country of what happens when we are unable to communicate openly and to live and work together productively.  The panelists begged us to ensure that our students, when we send them off to college, have the emotional intelligence and maturity to make good decisions and to prioritize.  We must prepare them for the diversity of ideas, the independence and the choices that await them in college and beyond.  Creating community is at the core of what we do at Windward and is part of Windward’s DNA.  From the moment Shirley Windward founded Windward to today, we have committed to “a nurturing community” where students feel supported, included, and heard.  Our recent efforts by our amazing deans Ernie and Jennie, our Inclusivity Coordinator Geraldine, and our Faculty Lead Advisors Jessica, Tyrone, David, Jordan, Colin, Carrie, Damon, and Ryan to create Monday meetings and an advisory program that allow us to share our stories and to listen deeply to one another is vital to our ability to communicate, live, work, and play together with respect, kindness, and understanding. We must continue to work hard at preparing our students to be adept at living and working in communities of difference.  
 
As I sit quietly at my desk at the end of a long and exciting day which included team building on the field with the sophomores, a discussion with students on International Women’s Day, sweet potato fries in the Pavilion, lesson planning with the Global Studies Team, a few meetings, a few phone calls, and more than a few emails and texts, I think about how fortunate I am to work at Windward, a place that is always growing, always learning, always questioning, always seeking, and always caring about what is best for our students.  
 
Kind Regards, 
 
Peggy

January 7, 2015

Some time ago I gave up on New Year’s resolutions, having finally realized my batting average was not very good. Lyle Lovett has a line in a song that goes, “She wasn’t good, but she had good intentions.”  I could relate when it came to the annual ritual of making proclamations for the year to come. My intentions were certainly good; my follow-up, not so much.

When I was in my first year of graduate school I worked at a residential treatment center for adolescents. One day all the residents were having a meeting and one of the boys abruptly got up and left the group. This was not something you were supposed to do unless you asked for permission. We heard the back door slam shut and figured the boy had gone outside for a smoke. I was told to go stand in the doorway and not let the boy return to the group.  I went to the doorway and stood resolute as he smoked his cigarette. When he was done, he headed back into the house. I told him that since he had left the group without permission he was not permitted to come back in until the group was over. He looked me over for a moment... and then proceeded to walk by me and back into the room.

I thought about trying to stop him, but realized I was not willing to physically restrain him. At that moment I developed my first rule of conduct as a therapist:
Do not make rules you are unwilling to enforce.

I think that as parents we are best served by rarely using absolutes. Unless I knew I would follow through, I would not tell my child she needed to be home by midnight or consequences would be forthcoming. Periodically before she went out, I would ask what she thought the consequences ought to be for breaking curfew by 10, 20, or 30-plus minutes if she texted me or if she didn’t. If my child offered a stricter action than I thought the situation warranted, I would counter-offer with my version and together we would come up with a mutually agreed-upon consequence. In that way, if the situation actually came to pass, I could always fall back on the discussion that we had. Of course, when something happens, there are usually circumstances that need to be taken into account; in that case, it becomes necessary to consider the intent of the rule rather than the letter of the rule.

As we begin the New Year, I mention this to suggest that you reflect on the resolutions you make and the rules you establish for your child’s behavior. Avoid making resolutions or rules that you will not be able to follow through on. While I think parents need to have flexibility in dealing with their children, I do think there are some guidelines that you might want to consider that are less flexible. For example, I imagine we all have spoken to our children about not driving while they are under the influence. Yet, sometimes I hear students say they think that rule only applies to alcohol and not to other substances. I would hold the line on all substances. I would also hold the line on being a passenger alongside someone who is driving after consuming any amount of alcohol or drugs.

In large part, parenting children is about preparing them for the time when they will need to take over the duties of parenting themselves. The children that have the most difficulty leaving home are the ones who have had the least amount of involvement in their own decision-making. The more you can prepare your child for the realities of life, the better equipped she or he will be to handle situations once they have moved out of your home. With your guidance, and with considerable measures of practice and experience, your child will learn to make responsible decisions for him or herself.

Sharing the responsibility of decision-making can help your children learn the life skills that will serve them well when they leave your home. That, I think you’d agree, is one resolution certainly worth sticking to.

Best Wishes for 2015,

David

December 16, 2014

Last week, we had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Michael Thompson, clinical psychologist and renowned author, at Windward.  Michael spoke to a large audience of parents and to the full faculty.  Michael’s book, The Pressured Child:  Freeing our Kids from Performance Overdrive and Helping Them Find Success in School and Life, one of our faculty summer reading books, was the topic of his talks.  Dr. Thompson has guided our work at Windward in many ways as we endeavor to help students and families find balance and meaning during what can be challenging adolescent years. His insights and research in coordination with our collaboration with Stanford University’s Challenge Success program have helped us to gain a better understanding of our students’ psychological and developmental
e
xperiences at school.  
 
A complicated, important, and somewhat dangerous word to consider in all that we do is the word success. How does society define it? How do we define it at Windward?  How do you define it at home?  How should we define it? 
 
These are complex questions that we have been grappling with in earnest at Windward over the past few years.  Dr. Thompson, in his engaging and thoughtful talks, challenged us to define success at school as students having connections, recognition, and growth towards mastery.  The connections he spoke about included connections with other students and with adults  Recognition is about each child being acknowledged for his/her area/s of strength, be it athletic, artistic, or a personality trait like kindness or humor.  Finally, he defined growth towards mastery as students making progress towards goals, skills, learning, and maturity. This means slow and steady effort and improvement.  
 
Hearing Dr. Thompson’s definition was an “ah ha” moment for us.  Aren’t these three things exactly what we aspired to for our students when we created our motto of “a dynamic education in a nurturing community”?  Isn’t part of that nurture about finding what unique and distinct strength or trait each individual brings to our community that makes us more dynamic as a whole?  Isn’t creating a learning environment where taking risks, trying new things and learning from our mistakes are things to be encouraged?  How can we better articulate what we value so that our students don’t believe that getting an “A” or winning a prize or a championship are the only ways to be successful?  It is our job, as educators and as parents, to see our children for who they are - complex, diverse human beings with unique personalities, interests, and strengths, and also many flaws and deficiencies.  It seems that we as adults fail to remember our own struggles and inadequacies and therefore, due to our own amnesia, expect our kids and students to be perfect and struggle free.  As Dr. Thompson says in his book:
 
“Once upon a time, we were all kids in school and we understood completely the pressures on us from school, classmates, and parents.  We forget because as we grew older those experiences receded into the past.  We forget because we hope we can save our children from painful experiences, and it is difficult to admit to ourselves how much they have to struggle to grow. And we forget because when children challenge or frustrate us we want to forget the complexity of their struggle so we can focus on simplifying our own.”
 
As we look towards the new year, may we all try to remember that the teenage years are hard and that struggling is a necessary part of the development process.  And may we all celebrate our children’s progress in the areas of connection, recognition, and growth towards mastery. If you missed Dr. Thompson’s talk, we have posted a video below, and we strongly encourage you to watch it.
 
Sincerely yours, 

Peggy & Eric

December 15, 2014 

At Windward, we pride ourselves in providing students with a dynamic education in an nurturing environment.  These precepts --the dynamic education and the nurturing community-- are not just slogans.  They are at the core of what we do, who we are, and that to which we aspire.  And, while it may sometimes seem that the education we provide is disconnected from the larger world or that the nurturing community we champion is evidence that we live in a bubble, nothing could be further from the truth.  As educators, we are keenly aware that, as John Dewey exhorted over one hundred years ago in Democracy and Education: “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”

Of course, life is sometimes difficult. Lately, the events in Ferguson and New York and the responses of individuals across the nation have made this abundantly clear.  It is at times like these that we --as educators and as citizens -- must engage.  It is our job to foster conversation and to facilitate understanding.  In short, it is our job to educate and to nurture.  

It is in this spirit that Geraldine Loveless, Inclusivity Coordinator at Windward, recently addressed the faculty and the student body, acknowledging the need for conversation.  She was also mindful of the challenges such conversations inherently pose, and she made clear that our goal is not to force any particular opinion or viewpoint, but rather to encourage active listening and empathetic, meaningful discourse.  I have asked Geraldine to share with you some of the steps we are taking and will continue take as a community both to better understand the impact of the recent events in Ferguson, New York, and elsewhere and to encourage listening to and learning from one another.

Earlier this month, students in the Upper School were invited to hear faculty tell their stories of race, privilege, justice and injustice and to participate in facilitated conversations in their advisory groups.  In these sessions, we have emphasized the importance of active listening and communicating with empathy. We have striven to create spaces that are safe and supportive, but which, at the same time, help facilitate greater understanding about the context of recent events, about racism and inequality in the outside world, and about how the experiences of individuals within the Windward community reflect or do not reflect the larger world.

Geraldine has also begun conversations with the faculty and has provided teachers with myriad resources to engage and support students in conversations about social issues.  I want to close by offering a quotation that has powerfully spoken to me from one of those resources. In a piece on the Teaching Tolerance website, teacher and author Melinda D. Anderson reminds us of the critical nature of this work and of our obligation to our students: “You’re not fully caring for kids if you don’t know them. So race is something that we talk about. Culture is something that we talk about. Understanding that difference is an amazing, powerful plus that, if we nurture it, makes us all smarter than we can be separately.”

Sincerely,

Stella & Geraldine

November 24, 2014

I suppose I ought to start by saying I am grateful for the opportunity to write this blog to you. It is so easy to take things for granted. Earlier today someone asked me what I was doing and I started to say,“I have to write this blog for parents.” Then I remembered one of the lessons I have been sharing with parents over the years and said, “I get to write this blog to parents.” A small shift from “have to” to “get to,” but a significant one. I still wake up on Saturday and start to list off the errands I have to run and things I have to do, only to stop and gently remind myself that I get to do these things.

When I talk about “have to” and “get to” with students, I have a hard time convincing them that they get to do homework. Yes, there are some things that do feel like have to’s. Yet even homework and taxes are get to’s. I am sure most of us don’t necessarily feel that way when we are in the midst of them, but really paying taxes and doing homework are rewards. I am not going to push that argument on you, as I know it is an uphill battle. Instead, let me focus on those things that are easier to appreciate and value.

Take a minute and think about the best gifts you have ever gotten in your lifetime. Perhaps an unexpected comment from a loved one, a holiday present or some words of praise from a revered source? It is a telling question to consider and one I encourage you to reflect upon and share.

I think back to a fire engine under a Christmas tree, a quiet moment with my father, and someone telling me that I was a primary reason she came to Windward. I wonder if those who gave those gifts know how much they mean to me still. Sure, I thanked each gift in the moment. But these moments have lingered for me, and I don’t think I have revisited my gratitude with them. Sadly, I can no longer tell my father and mother how much their thoughtfulness meant to me. I try to continue to live my life so that they would be proud of me, and I did my best to let them know of my love and appreciation when I was with them.  And, every now and then I say some words of thanks to them. I don’t think they can hear me, but I can and it makes me feel good to voice that appreciation.

It is often said that giving rewards the giver. When I say my thanks to my parents it continues to reward me. I also know there is someone out there who I need to go thank again for telling me I was a good part of the reason she came to Windward. I don’t think she needs to hear this, but it is going to make me feel good to say it and to let her know how touched I was when she told me. The gift she gave me then still resonates within me today.

There is another gift I have received for which I am truly thankful, and that is the gift of parenthood. I know we all have challenges in our relationships with our children. Some days are certainly better than others. But, when I get to my bottom line, the best gift I ever received was the privilege of being a parent. I thank my daughter now and then for that gift and some days she thanks me for being her dad. I thank her mother for sharing the gift with me, and I thank the universe for providing this gift.
 
In this season of giving thanks I want to encourage us all to find those whose presence we are thankful for and let them know (perhaps once again) how appreciative we are to have them in our lives. In that spirit, thank you for taking the time to read this - and to be a part of our Windward family.
 
Happy Thanksgiving,

David 

November 13, 2014


If you had walked on campus at the right moment last Monday morning, you could have found a junior dressed up as a mummy, a senior grappling with challenging trivia, a freshman running from peer to peer seeking information and a sophomore discussing how to get involved in student life.  Each and every one of these moments –organic as they might have appeared --was orchestrated by a special group of adults here at Windward.  Indeed, one of the programs that has been given special attention and focus this year is the advising program. Last year, in an effort to increase the level of support we offer students, we designed a new position: The Faculty Lead Advisor.  The FLAs at Windward --Jessica Fischbein, Tyrone Powell, Jordan Fox, David Sainsily, Colin Rose, Carrie Creighton, Ryan Staude and Damon Van Leeuwen --are charged with keeping a special eye on the class.  Among other things, they develop grade level advisory curricula and help Jennie Willens, Ernie Levroney and Pattie Nix with class meetings and retreats.
 
While this is just the first year in which we are striving to be more programmatic about our support of students through the advisory program, the feedback we have received thus far has been very positive.  Nothing is more central to the Windward experience than the individual student. A core element of our mission involves nurturing the individual and helping him/her grow into a responsible, well-informed, ethical, caring and well-balance adult.  These truths guided us last fall when we began to re-imagine our advisory program, and they continue to inform our work during this re-building phase.  As we do, we have asked Jennie Willens, the Dean of Student Life and Experiential Learning and Ernie Levroney, Upper School Dean of Students, to tell you a little more about the FLAs, our advisory program, and our vision for the future:
 
Working with the FLAs this year has been a remarkable experience. Part of the work is truly pioneering, and the group of teachers who have signed on for the journey continues to inspire and impress us. This year, each FLA team consists of two members per grade level. The FLAs are our ‘eyes and ears.’ As full-time classroom teachers, they really do have their fingers on the pulse of the student experience. In addition to meeting regularly with us to discuss the current state of the student experience, the FLAs combine a working knowledge of educational strategies with a sense of the topics and issues that are most relevant to our community and to their given grade level to develop lessons and activities for the advisors. These lessons --sometimes serious and other times downright wacky -- are always relevant, thought-provoking and intended to deepen the relationship each student is developing with his/her advisor and the advisory group.
 
So far this year, students in the 9th grade have had a chance to learn more about each other and begin to define themselves as a class through orientation and retreat activities and discussions and lessons in advisory. 10th graders have explored the question of identity through games such as the classic, “two truths and a lie” and serious conversations about how they have changed since 9th grade and what they aspire to do in the future. Juniors have approached their goals and strategies for entering their junior year, while also taking a break to laugh together and try team building activities like the marshmallow challenge.  Seniors, too, have taken part in a series of workshops including meditation with FLA Damon Van Leeuwen, a martial arts demonstration by FLA Ryan Staude, and engaging trivia with Patrick Friel, to give them break with their classmates as they tackle the college applications process.

Of course, these activities are just the beginning. What we know from our work with the Challenge Success program is that students function best when they feel fully supported.  Students perform most effectively and are most supported --both in and out of the classroom-- when they have relationships with adults that are characterized by trust, openness and understanding.  Our goal is to make advisory at Windward a place where this kind of relationship can blossom. Indeed, last year, the FLAs, the Deans, Peggy and I worked collectively to develop a new mission statement for advising at Windward.  “Advisory,” we wrote, “is a place where meaningful and lasting relationships are  nurtured and where challenges students may face as they move through their years at Windward can be shared and discussed.”  Our beginnings are humble, but our aspirations are high, and we’ve got some of the best minds at the school working on the way forward.

Here’s to the journey ahead!

Sincerely,

Stella Beale, Ernie Levroney & Jennie Willens
 

October 24, 2014

In their initial blog post, Peggy and Stella wrote about Carol Dweck, Ph.D. and her thoughts about a “growth mindset.”  In her work, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck noted that one of “the best things [parents and teachers] can do . . . is to teach children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort and keep on learning.” That sounds great, but how do you do that?

Most of us don’t like to make mistakes. Even knowing that they pave the way to greater learning does not in and of itself entice us. To help you out I thought I would share with you some of Dweck’s research which relates to teaching your child how to become a better learner. Dr. Dweck is presently on the faculty at Stanford, but initiated her work at Columbia.  In research conducted at Columbia University with her associates, she found that 85% of American parents think it is important to tell their child he or she is smart. However, Dweck’s research also points out that telling students they are smart might actually be causing them to underperform. "When we praise children for their intelligence," Dweck writes, "we tell them that this is the name of the game. Look smart, don't risk making mistakes.”

Dweck, of course, is right.I can tell you, as can many of us who have worked in schools for most of our careers, students are very hesitant to take academic risks, and they certainly do not want to make mistakes. As a culture, we have created a generation of risk and mistake-avoidant children.
But there is hope.

Dweck’s research involved a series of experiments with students who were given some puzzles to solve. In one group she had an examiner give this feedback after students solved the puzzle: "You must be smart at this." In another group, the examiner told the students: "You must have worked really hard."

Dweck and her researchers did numerous follow-up experiments with these groups and found that on subsequent puzzles, the "You must be smart" group was less inclined to take chances and expose their lack of knowledge, while the other group was happy to experiment and fail.  Over time, the “smart group” did less well and the “worked really hard” group improved considerably. To quote Dweck again: "Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable they can control. They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child's control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to failure."

Many children get frustrated when they don’t have instant gratification and success. They don’t value toiling to get results. They want the touchdown without the sustained drive.

If you have told your child he or she is smart, do not despair. Those statements can help build much needed esteem. To maximize your child's intelligence and engagement, however, you also need to emphasize effort.

Parents often come into my office worried that their child is not doing as well as they think she or he could.  These parents often wish their child would expend more effort. I can tell you that urging, requesting, and threatening will have little effect. But you know that.  Don’t point out the deficits in your child’s effort; instead, I encourage you to notice any time your child is studying or working hard and say something short and sweet: "Hey, it's great to see you focused in on your work." Then walk away.  Reinforce the behavior you want, even it is not at an ideal level. If your child can get your encouragement and support for engaging and putting in effort, he or she is more likely to repeat that behavior. Don’t hold your praise for when your child is doing something perfectly. Praise is not something you need to hoard, but it will lose effectiveness if it is given insincerely.

You might also consider praising the efforts of others. When you and your child are watching television or see someone in the world who is doing something at a high level, say something to your child akin to this: "Wow, _______ must have put a lot of work and effort to accomplish what she has.”  You can also acknowledge the efforts of a waiter in a restaurant or any time you see someone working at a high level. You can be grateful about the extra effort your waiter put in or appreciate the unseen work that went into that achievement you watched on TV, but remember to be clear about the direct link between effort and achievement.

The ups and the downs, the trials and tribulations, and the really hard work that leads to excellence is all too often hidden from view. Students often see that overnight success and don’t realize all the effort that went in to making that overnight success happen. Many of our journeys in life will involve frustration and endurance. To assist our children in managing their own setbacks, they will need our support in valuing their efforts. Let us continue to teach our children to pursue their dreams by supporting their efforts in life.

Take care,

David

October 6, 2014


Dear Windward Community,

Over the past few months, I have spent time sharing my summer reflections with others as a way to clarify the goals and direction of the Windward Upper School.  Summer allows us a time to reflect on and read about the themes that we wish to focus on, and I spent quite a lot of time pondering our Upper School theme of growth and engagement.

Two experiences stood out to me as influential in my thinking – the first, an experiential trip with Windward students to the Dominican Republic; and the second, taking my first online course. 

This summer, I had the honor of accompanying twenty Windwardians on a service learning trip to the Dominican Republic. The trip was led by a non-profit organization called Outreach 360 and the theme for the trip was “Eradicating Poverty Through Education”. While I have led many international trips before, this was my first trip with Outreach 360 so I couldn’t be 100% sure exactly what we were getting into.  
We landed in Santiago late on a Saturday night and woke up bright and early for our orientation with our Outreach 360 leaders Sarah and Apryl. 
 They informed us that we would be “in charge of a leadership summer camp for seventy Dominican children ages 5-13.”  I smiled as I envisioned our students working side by side with an experienced Dominican or Outreach 360 teacher, helping enthusiastically in whatever way they could.  One of my students raised her hand and asked “What exactly does ‘in charge’ mean?” and Sarah proceeded to inform us that we were IT. We were responsible for the camp from start to finish for the entire week. We would run opening and closing ceremonies, prepare and lead all classes and activities, and handle discipline and recess.  You name it, it was our responsibility.  For the next ten hours, the team kicked it into high gear.  We collaborated, focused, planned lessons, created materials, practiced songs and games, and talked about discipline and classroom management. 

On Monday morning, dressed in our bright Outreach 360 t-shirts, twenty teenage lead teachers enthusiastically greeted the children at the gates of the school with a true sense of purpose. 
The next five days were a whirlwind, but Ernie, Diana, and I can honestly say that they were five of the most inspirational days we have ever spent in our teaching careers. It was amazing to see what Windward students could do when given full ownership over something.  The success or failure of this leadership summer camp was 100% in their hands.

The second experience involves a course I took this summer through the Global Online Academy. As many of you know, I am one of the teachers for the Global Studies Honors class, and I work closely with the Director of Global Programs on our Global Scholars program. One of the requirements of the Global Scholars program is to take an online course through GOA because we believe that collaborating with students and teachers from around the world and gaining proficiency in a digital environment is an important skill in our interconnected world.  That said, I realized that I had never taken an online course myself. So, I swallowed my fear and signed up for a course and what an enlightening experience it was!  Collaborating with teachers from around the world (and frequently waking up at 6am due to time zones to participate in Google Hangouts) was more fulfilling than I had even expected.  Seeing the possibilities that existed for creating challenging and engaging curriculum in a digital format helped me to see the power of the online world.  I returned to school excited to take a closer look at the opportunities that could exist for Windward through blended and online learning.

As I processed these two tremendously engaging experiences, I reflected back on my summer reading. I thought about the book by Dr. Michael Thompson, The Pressured Child, that chronicles the lives of students for whom school is a painful and traumatic experience. I thought about the book World Class Learners by Dr. Yong Zhao, who recently spent two days at Windward, where he shares with his readers a longitudinal study by Land and Jarman that shows a decline in creativity as we get older.  I thought about Tony Wagner’s study that shows that the longer students are in school, the less curious they become.  And finally, I thought about the work of Dr. Carol Dweck at Stanford which challenges us to instill in our students and faculty a growth mindset, where they understand that intelligence is not fixed and one’s ability to learn and grow is infinite, as long as we are willing to put in the effort. My experiences combined with these readings have left me with two key questions that will guide me now and in the future. 
 
1)     How can we ensure that students remain engaged and curious during their time at Windward?   
2)     How can we provide students with the experiences and confidence today that will prepare them to thrive in the unknown world of tomorrow?  
 
I look forward to engaging with faculty, students, parents, and the community to explore these important questions together as we strive to fulfill our goal of providing a dynamic education in a nurturing community.
 
Sincerely,
 
Peggy
 

September 23, 2014


Greetings Windward Community,

If your household is anything like ours, then by now the rhythms of summer have faded and the school year has arrived in full force.  And, while the dog days of summer will always have a place in our hearts, there is something refreshing and rejuvenating about the new year.  As career educators, Stella and I have both spent our lives in schools, so September for us –far more than January—is the beginning.

The new year is a time for reflection, celebration and resolution. And this has certainly been the case during these first few weeks at Windward.  The week before students returned, faculty and staff gathered for a day of reflection on our twin themes for the year: growth and engagement.  During the in-service portion of the day, we contemplated the teachings of Carol Dweck, Stanford professor and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. In this work, Dweck speaks to the importance of having what she terms a “growth mindset.”  Those who hold this mindset believe that intelligence is not a fixed trait, but rather a muscle that can be developed. Her research makes clear that if parents and teachers want to give children a gift, “the best thing they can do . . . is to teach children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort and keep on learning.”  Together, the faculty considered how to develop our own growth mindsets and to instill this important frame in our students.

We have also celebrated. At the inaugural Monday Morning Meeting of the school year, in classrooms around campus, and on the fields, trails, courts and stages, we have celebrated one another and, more importantly, we have rejoiced in our shared purpose: learning.  There is nothing quite as exciting as the newness of the school year, and we are convinced that this is because there is something innately exhilarating about education.

And, finally, we have resolved.  The setting of resolutions or goals is not only a ritual associated with beginnings, it is a central component of learning and metacognition. In addition, goals and resolutions are some of the central ways we reaffirm our values –as individuals and as a community. That said, while sometimes this activity takes place in public, it is more often than not a private affair. As you consider the resolutions you have for this new year, I have asked Stella to share you the story of a resolution she made:

This year, as I prepared to return to school, I began thinking about how best to manage the flow of information that comes across my desk every day.  Specifically, I turned to my inboxes.  During the last presidential election, I made a contribution to one of the candidates.  I also signed a petition online. Flash forward several years, and I felt buried under the political email that flooded my inbox on a daily basis. Before I could get any work done, I had to spend a good 10-15 minutes deleting unwanted mail. So I unsubscribed. It wasn’t a simple process, but, in the end, I created space for myself and for the more essential business of my day.

After I did, I began to think about pressure and stress and how something that I had chosen to do had morphed into something burdensome and, frankly, a little stressful. And then I began to think about the way so many of our students –from the time they enter high school feel inundated –not by political email, but by the pressures related to college and the college process.

When Stella first shared this story with me, it was in a pre-school meeting related to our work with the Challenge Success program.  As champions of this program, she and I are firm believers that schools and parents need to partner together to address such pressures. We are not, however, unaware that the stress so many of our students feel is not something from which they can easily unsubscribe.  The conversations Stella and I have with students and parents are primarily optimistic and hopeful, but they are too often tinged with fear and anxiety. How, we have often wondered, can we -- and by extension, Windward -- help students and their families find some modicum of balance?  How can we, as a school, resolve to create space in our classrooms, on our playing fields, and in our artistic venues for true engagement and learning for its own sake?

Clearly, these are not easy questions.  Stella and I are resolved, however, to continuing our quest for answers and to partnering with you in all the ways that we can.  Our aforementioned work with Challenge Success is central to this effort. In just a few weeks, Stella and I will lead a team of faculty, counselors and students to Palo Alto for the annual fall conference. Jennie Willens, Pattie Nix and Ernie Levroney are working with a crack-shot team of Faculty Lead Advisors to re-vamp the upper school advisory program –a program designed to provide space twice per week where students can ‘unsubscribe.’ We have a new Sports Training Curriculum this year, which incorporates some of the fundamentals of mindfulness and peak performance into the week, and our new Sports Conditioning class offers our multi-sport athletes as well as those engaged in serious athletic training outside of Windward a little extra space during the week for studying during the school day. Last week, educational specialist, Professor Yong Zhao visited Windward to speak about innovations in education; in December, renowned psychologist and author Michael Thompson will address the community about his latest work, The Pressured Child. And these efforts are just the beginning.

As you and your family celebrate the beginning of the school year, we urge you and your child/ren to think about creating a little space for yourselves at home where you all can unsubscribe from the stress, pressures and noise of your very busy lives.  Please remember that we are here to provide support in any way we can.

Happy New Year!

Peggy Procter & Stella Beale
Windward School is a 7-12, co-educational, independent day school in Los Angeles, California.