Tag Archives: ParishLeads

See More. Be More.

What follows is my September chapel talk to the students and faculty at the Midway campus (grades 3-12) as the school year set sail. Each year I anchor my writing and speaking in the community around a central theme. This year’s theme is “perspective.”  The talk below, based on John 6: 35-44, challenged our community members to reflect on their aspirations for the year and their perspective on self.  Could they see more in themselves or would they allow their own self-doubt and the cynicism of others to narrow their perspectives on how they might grow and evolve this school year?

parisfaceSo I begin today with a photo taken by one Gianni Sarcone.

The basics of the image are evident: an outdoor scene; it’s a mall lined by trees.  In the distance you can see a domed building. A structure – resembling the Eiffel Tower – arcs over a pedestrian in the foreground holding an umbrella.  If you look more closely, you might discern moisture on the pavement and note that the person in the center is holding an umbrella.  I wonder, though, whether you see anything else?

Perhaps the photo’s title helps: “The Other Face of Paris.”

Can you see the face?  Notice how a dry spot of pavement forms the pursed lips of the mouth and the round of the chin. The shadow of the umbrella makes a nose of sorts and the person the nose’s bridge.  If you stare hard at the shadowing of the trees, it makes for two eyes – sometimes I see them as closed, other times as open; who knows?  The arcing gray sky constitutes the forehead.

I love illusions like these. You have likely seen them before – is that a duck or maybe a rabbit?

duck_face

cigar_bricksWhy is this photo of a wall an internet meme?  Because people have spent hours looking at it…unable to see the cigar stuck between the bricks.

Besides providing amusement, these photos also exemplify vividly how it’s possible for two of us to look at the same thing and see it differently. We each bring a unique perspective to the world.  Our background, education, and age are just a few of the many factors that shape the way we view ourselves and how we experience our relationships with the people, places, and circumstances we encounter. Depending on our perspective it is even possible that we miss something right in front of us.  We can struggle to recognize that there is more to something or to someone than first meets the eye.

 

When I come to speak with you in chapel this year, you will hear this word a lot: PERSPECTIVE.

boat_land

Those of you who have tuned in during my homilies the last nine years know I like using such an annual theme.  We have explored being remarkable (you seniors were in fourth grade); the infamous #success campaign (during your 8th grade year); and last year’s quest: the hero’s journey.  Using the theme, the scripture reading and our ParishLeads framework, I endeavor to promote reflection about how we might be the people of impact I know each of us can be.

ParishLeads

Today, I want to talk about the perspective we have of ourselves – your “self-perspective” one might call it.

After all, we are at the beginning of a journey: the new school year.  Anytime we prepare to start something – be it a new school year, a next level of scouts, an advanced level our religious studies or music lessons – it should be natural to ask: where am I as this new chapter begins?  And, how might the journey to come help me become a better version of myself?

In our reading today, we see Jesus nearing the end of a journey of His own.  Jesus spent roughly three years, most believe between his 30th to 33rd birthdays, teaching by parable and miracle. Early in John 6, Jesus has performed a miracle most of us know well: He multiplied a handful of fish and loaves of bread to feed thousands of people.

Today’s verse picks up just after this miracle. Crowds are increasingly curious about this young, revolutionary teacher.  Their perspective? That Jesus is “just” another prophet sent by God, as Moses had been.  Just as you may have struggled to see the face embedded within the “Other Face of Paris,” the Israelites could not see past Jesus’ earthly form. Scripture tells us their doubt came in the form of murmurs:

 “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

To the crowds, Jesus was one of them. They could not envision him as the Son of God on earth, the one who would die for their sins and, in so doing, deliver them to eternal life.

As for Jesus’ self-perspective, listen again to what He said:

I am the bread of life.”

 “I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.”

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.”

Jesus didn’t murmur this under His breath. He did not say “I might be” the bread of life or “it would be nice to be the bread of life” or “I hope to be the bread of life.”  He declared it with clarity and boldness, even as those around Him murmured in doubt in a way that reflected their narrow perspectives on Him.

Do you want to accomplish something meaningful this year?

Then a lesson lies within the photo I showed you, Jesus’ declaration, and the murmuring of the crowd: See more to be more.

To be more you have to lift your head – from your phone, your shyness, or your doubt – and see more in yourself, just as we came to see the face in the photo or both a rabbit and a duck in the sketch when we looked harder.

Place you gaze on something. Focus on it. Make it something that matters to you, and declare your intention with the same certainty that Jesus asserted that he was the bread of life.  Be more consistent with your commitment to studies; express gratitude daily; climb a mountain; write a song. Whatever it is you dare to see in front of you, commit to making it real – something you can see, touch, and feel.

How?

Well, for one, listen to the stern direction Jesus gave the crowd:  stop murmuring

Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring* among yourselves.”

bart simpsonThe murmur is the chatter in our heads that tells us we can’t be what we see; that chastises ourselves after we make a mistake; that fills us with worry that the game or the test or the project idea is not going to work as we think.  Stop murmuring negatively to yourself.

The murmur is also the doubt or displeasure you perceive in the voices and eyes of others.

If we listen to what others murmur, our “self-perspective” will be narrow, not broad. It will be limited, not expansive. Don’t allow the doubts of others to blur your vision for who you aspire to become.

In these opening weeks of school, look up and out ahead – toward May when this school year ends.  Look carefully.  Fix your eyes on who you aspire to be.  Declare your vision and move toward it with might and energy and confidence.  See more so that you can be and become more.

 

Forging Bold Leaders with Inclusive Mindsets

“In most cases, the blessings of our resources afford us the opportunity to stay comfortably tucked in our enclaves insulated from the messiness of our world… Put challenging issues before [your children] at a level appropriate to their age. Text them editorials on contrary sides of an issue; share informative video clips. Discuss all of this at dinner. Do what you can to help your children become aware that they are part of a larger, complex global community – not above it, apart from it, or absolved of responsibility for it.”  

– Parent’s Night Comments, September, 2016


A lot can happen in six months.

When I wrote and delivered the statement above as part of my Parents’ Night remarks in September (referenced in my September 2016 blog post), Colin Kaepernick had just a week earlier kneeled for the first time during the national anthem. An already divisive election season – to which I also alluded in my comments that evening – was still two months from yielding a generally unexpected result. The drumbeat of headlines and news stories on domestic Executive orders, travel bans and immigration policies had yet to register a social media click.

Indeed, our children live in a complex global society.

In this space throughout the year, as well as in my chapel talks to the community, I’ve highlighted boundless thinking. I’ve pondered the characteristics of individuals and organizations that, like Parish, embrace such a mindset of hopeful optimism and possibility. I’ve offered examples of how our program, alumni and community demonstrate it.

While some may find my musings uplifting, I recognize that for others, a bleaker world view may prevail.  Images of society riven by divisions and boundaries flood our senses from a variety of sources.

As educators (and parents), we’ve been presented an opportunity. I would frame it using questions:

  • Will we watch our children slide passively into one of the isolated and insulated ideological camps which characterize our present national profile?
  • Or will we explore and evaluate with them the contours of today’s knottiest issues so that they become bold standard bearers of civil discourse and architects of collaborative solutions?

In my September remarks, I offered my answer as both a dad and Head of School:

“I want my sons and the students who graduate from Parish to live and lead with a boundless spirit, unencumbered by fear; I want them to modulate ambition and empathy; I want them to be guides to the middle ground where solutions, compromise, and steady – if at times deliberate – progress is made.”

– Parent’s Night Comments, September, 2016


No one would mistake “deliberate” progress for boundless accomplishment. But when it comes to building intentional, mission-aligned programming to prepare our students to navigate and mend the evident fissures in our complex global society, I think a steady advance is noteworthy.

At Parish, three interwoven programs buttress the formation of impactful leaders.

First, daily chapel instills time-tested lessons in love.  Love for one another, love for our neighbor, love for those with opposing views and, yes, even love for our enemy.

PLeads_GirlPowerLunchSecond, a robust homeroom, advisory and experiential learning program complements the ethical foundation chapel establishes,  using the ParishLeads framework to build student capacity for relationship building, empathy and awareness of difference.

ParishLeadsFrame

 

Finally, as I wrote in  January 2016, we have initiated complementary programming in the area of Diversity & Inclusion. Guiding this effort has been the revised mission and diversity statements approved by the Board of Trustees in 2015. Now in her second year, Director of Diversity & Inclusion Tyneeta Canonge has convened several groups to assist in the development and implementation of initiatives in this space: Divisional Diversity Committees, The Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board – comprised of parents, a school Trustee, and faculty and staff members – and a thriving Student Leadership Diversity Board in our Upper School.

D&LFocusAreas_blogTogether, these groups have helped craft action steps in several key areas identified in the accompanying chart.

In doing so, we have kept in mind the developmental needs and readiness of our students. We have also evaluated closely the time allocation deemed appropriate for the work.

The below visuals offer a summation Diversity & Inclusion programming developed and implemented thus far this year.

LS_D&IMS_D&IUS_D&I

 

This work of forging bold leaders with inclusive mindsets has – especially in these unsettled times – left segments of our constituency uneasy. Some feel chapel need not be every day, or that it is too Christian, or not Christian enough. Others think an advisory period committed to ParishLeads usurps time from our academic purpose. Some believe we are not moving swiftly enough to be a more inclusive school community –  defined as one which is whole, unified and loving, but at the same time sensitive to and respectful of opinions and backgrounds of difference in our midst. Meanwhile, others believe we are moving too quickly or that our program content serves more to divide than to unify.

We accept this feedback and appreciate it. We will continue to improve our communication on programming in this arena. Notably, I am pleased to introduce a new blog resource within our Diversity & Inclusion webpage – Voices & Views – where you will find resources, examples of activities in which students have been engaged, and news on upcoming programming (third trimester activities are now posted).

Enriched by this feedback, our mission-driven commitment to this work will remain steadfast.  Tomorrow’s complex world demands the boundless, collaborative and attuned leaders we believe it will yield.

Thoughts on Engaged Learning at Parish

This head line below from the Chronicle recently caught my eye:

ChronicalArticle_Harvard

The methodology of the Harvard research that used secret cameras to study class attendance has concerned some faculty members. But putting aside the question of whether the methodology was ethical, what did the researchers learn about classroom-attendance patterns from their study, and what were the motives behind the experiment?

Harvard, of all places, concerned about attendance in their lecture halls.  What gives? As the tides shift in education, I thought: “canary in the coalmine.”  Continue reading