Head of School's Blog

How do you prepare students for an unknowable future?
arvind grover

How do you prepare students for an unknowable future?

This is a big, question. I love big questions. I pose big questions to students, to faculty members, to parents and guardians all the time. I expect our students to raise up big, difficult questions themselves.

I was in Gettysburg this past week with the 7th graders (one our annual traditions). We study leadership and decision-making in the context of the Battle of Gettysburg and had discussed how different siblings, fathers, and sons had secured leadership roles. A 7th grader asked, "Who struggled more with nepotism, the Confederacy or the Union?" What a powerful and insightful question, I thought. There was no "right" answer here, we had to enter a historical analysis and debate over the impacts of these decisions.

I was really taken by this short video of Yuval Harari (a favorite author of mine) discussing how humans may have made a world that we ourselves can no longer understand. That alone is a lot to comprehend, but it reminded me of what we are trying to do at Meadowbrook. Yes, we want our students to be academically prepared, and they most certainly are. Yes, also, we are trying to raise good and wise people, ones who can enter an uncertain future, address problems creatively, working with people with diverse perspectives, all while working from an ethical point of view. These are lofty goals, and we are not shy about them.

I'd love to hear what you think about Harari's commentary. Big thanks to our lower school science teacher Bill Richard for sharing the article that led me here.

Learning in the natural world
arvind grover

Our sixth graders have been busy studying trees. I once took a botany class (Woody Plants I) in college where I had to memorize two dozen different leaves, seeds, and twigs, and had to match them up in an assessment. That was not joyful learning.

Our sixth graders and their teachers, Ms. Shuler and Ms. Orr, took another route. They jumped into our woods armed with measuring devices and drills. They took key measurements, and practiced drilling working in a team. They are practicing for our upcoming tree tap, where they will remove sap, and create Meadowbrook maple syrup. This is what hands-on learning can look like.

Enjoy the photos.

  • Middle School
  • science
Marshmallow Day Building Challenge
arvind grover

The first graders continued their Marshmallow Day challenges with Mr. Scafati and Mr. Molyneux in the Innovation Center. Their task was to hoist a marshmallow as high as possible off the table. Their only provisions were a few pieces of spaghetti, a little tape, and a piece of string.

Some groups were over 12", and a few broke 15" or more!

What stood out to me most was how many things the students were doing at once - they were battling gravity, making decisions in a team, brainstorming ideas, building prototypes, and finally, erecting a final structure.

You can see the pride and hard work on their faces! Physics meets fun, that's a winning combination.

 

  • design thinking
  • Lower School
School closed, teachers learning
arvind grover

Please don't bring your child to school today.

Yes, you read that correctly. Today, students are staying home with their families and teachers are gathering in school for a day of learning. As educators, we know that if we are not actively getting better, we're actively falling behind, despite our initial training.

This year, we're fortunate to have Tim Fish, Chief Innovation Officer at the National Association of Independent Schools leading us in dialog and work into sustaining school innovation. Meadowbrook is renown for its innovation and yet we strive to be better. I marvel at how many visitors we host each month. On Friday as I was saying Happy Thanksgiving to people on their way out I stumbled into a delegation from China who had come to visit. I am getting pretty used to visitors, and it is easy to see why they want to visit - we see a possible enhancement to the program, study it, and implement it.

Schools want to see what the secret sauce is, at Meadowbrook it is doing what's in the best interest of students. Our students, faculty, trustees, and families are all aligned in that vision - I'm grateful to be part of a community that knows that excellence requires striving to be better.

Giving thanks together
arvind grover

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of year. I always surround myself with family and loved ones, and usually oodles of great food. I am hopeful that this Thanksgiving you and yours find ways to practice gratitude. I am of the mind that gratitude is a practice and not an act. Like a muscle, it is something we can build up by exercising. And as we build up our gratitude muscle, it is a virtuous cycle of feeling better and making others feel better. It helps steel us for times that are challenging and helps make each day a little better.

Here are some of the practices I am fond of in case you are trying to add some ideas to your family's toolkit:

  • write a thank you note together. At the last meeting of the administrative team, I handed each administrator a thank you note, envelope, and a stamp, and had them write a thank you note to someone in their life that they cared about. It was a boost to all of us who wrote, and we hope a boost on all of those who received.
  • At the start and end of most days, I write in my 5-minute journal. The prompt I answer in the evening is simple: List 3 amazing things that happened today.
  • rose and thorn - this is an around-the-dinner table activity where you can each go around and share a rose (something great that happened today) and a thorn (something that pinched a bit). This one improves a great deal as you repeat it, it also gives families a way to be grateful for and relish in each other's triumphs and support each other during challenges.
  • read together during Thanksgiving. Seth Godin, one of my favorite authors, collected a series of short readings about giving thanks and compiled them for free in the Thanksgiving Reader. The idea of the reader is to print it out and give a page to each member at the table, then go around and read aloud. 

Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving break. I can't wait to see you all back.