Dear SMH Families and Friends,
The weeks between Thanksgiving and Winter breaks are always an exciting time of year as there is much to celebrate and anticipate. As Dr. Brock reminds us recently in our Chapels on Diwali, Advent, and Hanukkah, so many of our religious traditions and practices this time of year highlight the symbolism of light. With all the “busyness” associated with this time of year, these traditions remind us of the importance of taking time for reflection. One of my favorite days of the year is the first day of winter when we can note that for the next half of year, the days will get longer, and behold the hope and “light of the world” that symbolizes.
Part of reflection and introspection sometimes leads to asking questions. There’s a terrific book about the value of questions by Warren Berger, titled “A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas.” Berger makes the case that it is asking questions, rather than supplying answers, that is the key to breakthroughs and creative learning, and that schools should encourage children’s natural inclination toward curiosity. Not only is asking good questions part of what we want all our students to develop but asking good questions can help us grow as an institution. As Berger suggests in his book, the question “How might we?” is one that the most successful companies and institutions use to reinvent ways to brainstorm ideas and spark creative thinking and collaboration.
Our strategic planning steering committee continues its exciting work and is asking “How might we?” in the context of all areas of our School. The next step of our planning process is the creation of four design teams, each with a different focus. We’re titling the design teams Vision and North Star, Enhance and Innovate, Belong and Unite, and Advance and Sustain. The task of the first team is to draft language around a vision that can serve SMH for the next 5-10 years. The Enhance and Innovate team is tasked with identifying ways we can improve and create opportunities for even more effective programming. Belong and Unite will focus on opportunities for community development. And lastly, to consider institutional sustainability and advancement is the theme for the Advance and Sustain team. Strategic planning is exciting work as it challenges us to dream big and consider how we can become the very best version of ourselves.
Last week, we had over 40 educators on campus visiting as part of the NAIS People of Color Conference hosted in San Antonio. I wanted to thank our team, led by Dr. Tunette Powell, our Director of Belonging, with the help of our students, for putting together a program that brought value to those visiting educators and to our School. As I ran into these visitors for the rest of the week at the conference downtown, the feedback was so positive, highlighting the work that we’re doing but also expressing appreciation for our students for their thoughtfulness and authenticity. So much of this work on creating a culture of belonging stems from that question “How might we…be an even stronger community?” There is so much we can be proud of, and at the same time, it is equally true that there are many areas where we can improve.
Lastly, I wanted to thank those who were able to attend the meeting last Tuesday night where Nina Kumar from Authentic Connections presented the survey results from the wellness surveys administered last spring. The meeting afforded us the opportunity to share many of the ways we’re supporting student wellness on campus. There will be additional opportunities in the future as part of a series we’re calling Parent Institute. Stay tuned for more of those, but I wanted to announce an upcoming speaker coming to campus on January 19th and 20th. On the evening of the 19th we’re planning to have Melissa Cook present to our families on her book, The Power of Validation.
I also welcome anyone who wishes to read the book to join for a book club conversation the following day, January 20th, led by myself and Melissa Cook. The book can be purchased here. The choice to read Melissa Cook’s book came as a result of another example of question asking: I once asked Dr. Lopez-Morales what she thought the most important skill a parent should have for parenting. She very quickly replied, “validation,” and referenced Melissa Cook’s book co-written with Dr. Karyn D. Hall. I was fortunate to have a conversation recently with Melissa Cook, and she shared that she was inspired to write her book after working with an independent school like ours. Please do join on the 20th if you can and are interested.
As we approach winter vacation, I hope you and your family and others around you make time for meaningful connection and some time for reflection. I truly believe that this time of year is important for that reflection and question-asking as we head into the next year with resolve and new opportunities for growth and appreciation.
With warmest regards and best wishes,
Head of School