Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Goal Setting

When we come to the end of a cycle, it's usually time to set new goals. I found this article by James Clear really helpful in helping me to think more deeply about the difference between setting a goal and changing a system.

Winners and losers both set goals, but winners understand that accomplishing a short term goal without changing the system that produced it doesn't create sustainable outcomes.

I like this quote from Clear's article.

"Achieving a goal only changes your life for the moment. That’s the counterintuitive thing about improvement. We think we need to change our results, but the results are not the problem. What we really need to change are the systems that cause those results. When you solve problems at the results level, you only solve them temporarily. In order to improve for good, you need to solve problems at the systems level. Fix the inputs and the outputs will fix themselves."

If you'd like to read more about goal setting, here's a link to his article.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Today is Earth Day

Today is Earth Day.

I'd like to quote the final paragraph of Nathaniel Rich’s new book, “Losing Earth”:*
“Everything is changing about the natural world and everything must change about the way we conduct our lives. It is easy to complain that the problem is too vast, and each of us is too small. But there is one thing that each of us can do ourselves, in our homes, at our own pace — something easier than taking out the recycling or turning down the thermostat, and something more valuable. We can call the threats to our future what they are. We can call the villains villains, the heroes heroes, the victims victims and ourselves complicit. We can realize that all this talk about the fate of Earth has nothing to do with the planet’s tolerance for higher temperatures and everything to do with our species’ tolerance for self-delusion. And we can understand that when we speak about things like fuel-efficiency standards or gasoline taxes or methane flaring, we are speaking about nothing less than all we love and all we are.”

*Special thanks to David Leonhardt for sharing this in his daily blog

Friday, February 15, 2019

Is The End Game For Our Students College Acceptance?

Our Mission
Greensboro Day School develops
the intellectual, ethical, and interpersonal
foundations students need
to become constructive
contributors to the world.

A recent note from an alum and past parent urged me to reconsider our mission statement to include a sentence saying that we are a college preparatory school. He believed that parents chose our school to ensure that their children get into the best possible colleges and that if we left out  "college preparatory" many parents would not seek us out.

On the surface, I agree with him. Our parents do expect us to prepare their children for entrance into the best possible colleges and we have an excellent track record of doing just that. But, what a short sighted view of the purpose of a well rounded high school education.

Ex-Yale professor William Deresiewicz, in his recent book, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life, speaks of the "elite" who attend prestigious universities, many of whom come from independent schools like ours.

“The irony, then, is this. Elite students are told that they can be whatever they want, but most of them end up choosing to be one of a few very similar things. Whole fields have disappeared from view: the clergy, the military, electoral politics, teaching, even academia itself, for the most part, including basic science. It is true that today’s young people appear to be more socially engaged, as a whole, than kids have been for several decades: more concerned about the state of the world and more interested in trying to do something about it. It is true, as well, that they are more apt to harbor creative or entrepreneurial impulses. But it is also true, at least at the most selective schools, that even if those aspirations make it out of college — a very big “if” — they tend to be played out within the same narrow conception of what constitutes a valid life: affluence, credentials, and prestige.

We believe that high school should be a time of exploration and discovery about both who a student is and who that student may want to become. Through providing an engaging curriculum taught by teachers who care about students and the subject matter along with a broad array of opportunities in music, art, ceramics, theater, sports, community service and various clubs we believe that students will find opportunities to learn more about themselves and their interests.

Participating in activities outside the classroom should not become badges earned to be placed on a college application, but rather fully engaged in for self-discovery and learning. 

Growing up elite means learning to value yourself in terms of the measures of success that mark your progress into and through the elite: the grades, the scores, the trophies. That is what you’re praised for; that is what you are rewarded for. Your parents brag; your teachers glow; your rivals grit their teeth.

Finally, the biggest prize of all, the one that draws a line beneath your adolescence and sums you up for all the world to see: admission to the college of your dreams. Or rather, not finally — because the game, of course, does not end there. College is naturally more of the same. Now the magic terms are GPA, Phi Beta Kappa, Fulbright, MCAT, Harvard Law, Goldman Sachs. They signify not just your fate, but your identity; not just your identity, but your value. They are who you are, and what you’re worth.”

“The result is what we might refer to as credentialism. The purpose of life becomes the accumulation of gold stars. Hence the relentless extracurricular busyness, the neglect of learning as an end in itself, the inability to imagine doing something that you can’t put on your resume. Hence the constant sense of competition. (If you want to increase participation in an activity, a Stanford professor told me, make entry to it competitive.)”

The problem here, as I see it, is the potential for our students to fall into the "credentialing" mind set where they are constantly setting their goals and measuring themselves by what they believe others - their mothers, fathers, relatives, teachers, potential employers, and friends - want to see or want them to be. Someone else is always telling them who they are and who they should be. And, at the end of their formal schooling what do they do when real life hits them and they need to make their own decisions?

I am in great hopes that our students and their parents will choose a college not based on which college is more prestigious, but the one that most fits with their family values and the student's passions and interests. As Maya Angelou reminds us, "Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it."

Wednesday, January 2, 2019


It's already the New Year and I'm still working on my resolutions!

In addition to my resolutions of weight loss and expressing more gratitude, I'm going to work hard on one that my father frequently reminded me of while I was growing up; resolving not to put on the “overcoats” that could keep me from developing into my full self.

He explained that “overcoats” were stories or beliefs that people put on you ranging from what they thought about your religious beliefs, to your height, the color of your skin, or the work position you held. He even pointed out that the world's beliefs of what it means to be a man, how you earn a living and raise your children were "overcoats" that could be problematic. He let me know that I was in charge of making the decisions about who I was and what "overcoats" I wanted to wear, warning me that other folks would want to throw a lot of their beliefs on me.

He shared that if I chose to accept the “overcoats” made by what others thought, I could become so burdened and weighed down by them that I wouldn't even be able to reach the buttons to peel them off! He warned that I might become stuck, immoveable and frozen in what others thought and expected of me and unable to make up my own mind.

We all have "overcoats," or beliefs that we have accepted and that we would like to take off. My resolve this year is to peel off the “overcoats” that don't represent my best self and let more of my true self shine through. I think I might discover some parts of me that have been covered up!

Do you have any “overcoats” you would like to take off this year?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Thoughts for Thanksgiving

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving, and while it’s my favorite holiday of the year, sometimes my family and extended family can be a bit challenging when we gather. Some of them want to bring up old grievances or talk about politics or topics that rekindle old issues and cause divisiveness. The turkey doesn’t taste quite as good when there is bitterness in our mouths. But, there are ways to manage through the holiday that build connection and mutual appreciation.

Over the past year-and-a-half, we have been fortunate in welcoming Jada Monica Drew of Social Designs to our school each month to help us learn how to have better conversations with each other and, as was our topic last week, with our children. Her Dialogue Principals are universal and designed to help any conversation go more smoothly.

Jada recommends five steps to better conversations. She offers that we should always start with being curious when someone says something that kindles a strong emotion by asking why they feel the way that they do and, perhaps, how they came to think the way that way. The second step is to listen, or as Jada puts it, “Listen to the 3d power!” Then, affirm the person through body language or saying something such as, “I can see how you have come to think/believe that way.” The next step is to acknowledge your bias or beliefs and then clarify to make sure that you understand the other person. Now, you are ready to connect and to create and share what you are learning from the other person and how it might influence your thinking. Not all conversations come to conclusion or closure immediately, so it’s important to accept that there may not be closure to the conversation in that moment, yet perspectives are broadened, understandings gained and the possibilities for future dialogue remains.

It’s not always easy to follow these steps, but in my experience and in the experience of those who have used them, these Dialogue Principles help conversations to remain civil and often lead to greater compassion and unexpected changes in perspectives – both theirs and ours!

I wish everyone a joyous, safe and relaxing Thanksgiving filled with gratitude for family and all that we are blessed to have and experience in our lives.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Developing Intellectual, Ethical and Interpersonal Foundations

Developing in our students the intellectual, ethical and interpersonal foundations that they need to be successful lies at the core of a Greensboro Day School education. We believe that when our students posess these core foundations that they will lead fuller lives and go on to have great college experiences and become engaged, happy and productive citizens.

While the intellectual and ethical elements of our mission are more easily seen in our academic programs and honor system, the interpersonal development that we do with our students is not as easily seen. This work takes place primarily in our advisory system in the middle and upper schools and through our Second Step program in the lower school.

At the heart of our advisories and Second Step programs is the belief that helping our students to know themselves and to understand others will allow them to engage more productively with their peers and teachers, decrease stress and increase learning. We believe that developing our students' interpersonal foundations helps them to more fully develop their ethical and intellectual abilities.

While raising emotionally intelligent children may seem like a “soft” skill, we believe that it is critical in becoming confident, engaged and able citizens. The fact is, we are an emotionally driven species that is constantly pulled and pushed by the events around us. And, if we are not able to understand the motivations of others and why we react the way that we do, we will more than likely come to see ourselves as victims and not as capable and important contributors who have a range of skills in addressing our own needs and those of others.

Knowing that emotions drive our daily actions, it’s important to learn how to effectively deal with them. Children who know how to manage their feelings and develop emotional intelligence at an early age are more able to calm themselves and thus improve their concentration, have higher academic achievement, live in good health, and establish better relationships with their peers.

We strive each and every day to develop in our students the intellectual, ethical and interpersonal foundations that they need to become constructive contributors to the world so that they can lead happy, successful lives.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Changing the World

There are many things to teach our children and only so much time. But, to empower our children to make a positive change in the world, some things are more important than others.