Notes from the Head

Dear St. Michael’s Parents and Families—

Please find below (1) my summary comments from this past Monday’s chapel on Peace, our theme and value for the month of November; and (2) a link provided by Catherine Gioanetti, MD, a member of our school’s Board of Trustees, a former SMS parent, and a practicing pediatrician here in Tucson, on the alarmingly harmful effects of extended screen time on the mental and emotional development of children.

Please review all important information in this week’s Eagle Express. Thank you.

Comments from Monday Chapel, November 26, 2018
This month’s value, or theme, is peace. How appropriate and essential peace is at any time of the year, though it gets extra special attention around this time of the year, at Christmas.  But Christmas is still almost a month away. Halloween, however, was a little less than a month ago, and Thanksgiving is still fresh in our memories from just last week. So we’re in seasonal limbo, in a way, and I thought it would be appropriate to linger awhile longer in this spirit of fall and talk a little bit about a fantastic book called Six Crows, about a farmer and some birds and the harvesting of peace.

(The author, Leo Leonni, intended the book for a young readership [K-3], but this is a great book for all ages. Here is a link to a review from Publishers Weekly: https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-394-89572-7). The story is a fable, a work of fiction, with animals used as characters to help convey, or communicate, a truth, a moral, a lesson about human behavior. In the case of Six Crows, the main characters are a farmer and a group of crows, six to be exact, each side waging war with the other over a field of wheat.

In hopes of keeping the crows away and protecting his precious wheat, the farmer puts up two very menacing scarecrows in his field. And the cunning birds, in turn, build a leaf monster, in the form of a kite, to scare the farmer and keep him away, so they might have free rein in the field. And this goes on and on throughout the story, day after day, each side trying to instill fear in the other to get what they want—the birds, to devour the wheat; the farmer, to protect it. Then a wise owl appears, observes the conflict, and suggests a truce. The owl ultimately succeeds at convincing both sides that the only way to avoid certain mutual defeat—the wheat dying from lack of care because everyone is focused on outdoing the other, and so everyone is going hungry—is to find peace through compromise: a way to work together to get what each wants and needs. I won’t spoil the ending; you’ll have to read it yourself to find out the brilliant compromise they come up with. . . with the help of their dear and very wise friend, the owl.

In any given day or week or month or year, each of us plays the role of the hungry crow, or the provincial farmer (or, better yet, as I would hope, the owl) in the interest of ‘the wheat,’ those things that we sometimes go to unkind lengths to get or to protect. More of this or that, or less of this or that, with little concern perhaps for the effects our actions and words might have on others. So, especially when we’re behaving like farmers and crows, let’s be wise owls, and ultimately find ways to plant and harvest the seeds of peace and kindness and compromise with each other, here at school, at home, everywhere we go, so that we may ALL be fed.

Online Link from Psychology Today, “How the Tech Industry Uses Psychology to Hook Children”

As noted above, I am grateful to Dr. Catherine Gioannetti for providing the link below on the deleterious impact of screen time, and the intentional and highly effective strategies that tech companies use to ‘hook’ children into the habit of using more and more media. I encourage all of you to read the relatively short but highly insightful article, in hopes that it will encourage you to take a closer look at appropriate limits for media use at home.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mental-wealth/201810/how-the-tech-industry-uses-psychology-hook-children

 

Notes from the Head

Dear St. Michael’s Parents and Families—

Hello to all of you. The next scheduled Parent Listening Session is October 30, a Tuesday. Please consider joining us for one of these helpful and enlightening conversations on October 30th (as noted) or in November, on either the 15th or 28th. Here is the direct link to do so, with available dates and times:  https://www.signupgenius.com/go/70A0D48A4AD29A1F49-smsparentshead

Thank you,

Brendan Sullivan
Head of School

Notes from the Head of School

Dear St. Michael’s Parents and Families—

Hello to all of you. Please find below some reminders and notes of interest. Thank you.

Safety and Security

This past Tuesday, we practiced our second monthly emergency protocol, and it went very well (as it should in practice!). Each month, we have a scheduled campus-wide drill to enable all students and staff and faculty to know precisely what to do in the event of an actual emergency.

In partnership with Sergeant Alan Smith of the Tucson Police Department, we continue to work on refining our emergency lockdown procedures; and with the help of the Tucson Fire Department, which conducts an annual inspection of our campus and of our fire-emergency procedures, we continue to do the same.

Each week, and as needed, I and our designated Safety and Security administrative team meet to review and refine our safety and security procedures. As parents, your role is simply to make sure you are reporting any safety and security concerns to me, and to assure that when you enter our doors on campus, that those same doors are secured after you pass through (except in those instances—sporting events in particular—when doors are intentionally kept open to allow the flow of foot traffic to and from the school grounds). Thank you.

Parent Listening Sessions

To date, I have met with two groups of parents, with the next session scheduled for Thursday, September 27. Please consider joining us for one of these conversations this month, or in October or November. Here is the direct link to do so:  https://www.signupgenius.com/go/70A0D48A4AD29A1F49-smsparentshead

High School Considerations

For those of you who attended our conversation with Mr. Jackson Marvel from the Hotchkiss School this past week, thank you. For those of you who may have an interest in exploring options outside of Tucson for your sons and daughters for high school, please let me know. With our alumni connections at Hotchkiss, we have a direct line for this wonderful boarding-school option in particular.

Faculty Work Day: Academic Review

We have scheduled today’s half-day dismissal to allow our teaching faculty, under the direction of Ms. Pam Stalkfleet and Mr. Alex Hawes (our Academic Review Committee coordinators), to meet and review—and to make revisions, as needed—our school wide curriculum, in all content areas and grades, and our standardized testing program. This important work will continue throughout the year to assure our academic content standards are comprehensive, challenging, and age-appropriate. I will report more throughout the year on the progress of this important work.

All good wishes,

Brendan Sullivan
Head of School

Notes from the Head

Dear St. Michael’s Parents and Families—

The first Parent Listening Sessions are scheduled for tomorrow in the morning (7:00-8:00 am) and in the afternoon (3:30-4:30). Thank you to those who have signed up.  If you have not already signed up for a session, please consider joining us for a one-hour conversation on either September 27, October 16, or November 8. Here is the direct link to do so: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/70A0D48A4AD29A1F49-smsparentshead

Also, as a reminder, for those parents with sons and daughters in grades six, seven, and eight, please consider joining us for a conversation with Mr. Jackson Marvel, Director of Financial Aid and Senior Associate Director of Admission at The Hotchkiss School, this coming week, on Monday, September 17th at 12:00 noon.  If you are planning on coming, please click on this link to RSVP:  https://www.signupgenius.com/go/70A0D48A4AD29A1F49-hotchkiss

All good wishes,

Brendan Sullivan
Head of School

Notes from the Head

Dear St. Michael’s Parents and Families—

I appreciate very much all those parents whom I’ve had a chance to meet, if briefly, these past three weeks; and I look forward to meeting more of you—all of you, eventually.

To that end, please consider signing up for a one-hour conversation with me during the scheduled Parent Listening Sessions that I have scheduled this month, and in October and November as well. Here is the direct link to do so: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/70A0D48A4AD29A1F49-smsparentshead

Lastly, for those parents with sons and daughters in grades six, seven, and eight, please consider joining us for a conversation with Mr. Jackson Marvel, Director of Financial Aid and Senior Associate Director of Admission at The Hotchkiss School, this coming week, on Monday, September 17th at 12:00 noon. Please refer to the email that we sent yesterday for more details.

All good wishes,

Brendan Sullivan
Head of School

Notes from the Head

When young prospective students and parents come to visit our school, along with other admissions materials we will give the child a little stuffed baby eagle. Not only is the eagle our mascot, but I believe it is fitting that we give a little eagle to little children who are launching their formal education with us. At St. Michael’s School, our students are in a nest, of sorts, and it is in our magical nest that we raise them up to be successful scholars. It is our job, in partnership with parents, not only to give them roots but also wings as they grow. As the eighth grade year progresses, we see the wings push out and our big eagles poised to soar. They are ready to fly, ready to leave our nest, ready to conquer the world of high school and beyond. They are empowered to be leaders, scholars, and more. Some take off on their own while others may need a gentle nudge, but off they will fly beyond our walls.

As a parent, I did not find it to be always easy nudging my own children out of the “nest.” There were days, I will admit, when that departure did not seem to come soon enough. On the other hand, just as I did when each left to go to Kindergarten, I shed more than a few tears as each left for college and beyond. My husband and I knew we had done our job in the best way that we could, but there were still millions of thoughts of things left unsaid or lessons left untaught. In spite of us and perhaps because of us, the roots had gone deep and the wings were poised for flight. Each was ready to move on at each stage of the game.

As I look at not only our eighth grade class but also our Kindergarteners and above, I know they are ready to move forward with excitement and anticipation. Each teacher looks at his or her class and takes a deep breath as the students move forward. We feel a possessiveness, for they have been ours for nine months of school. We have all done our best to teach each child, to encourage each child, to establish a moral compass in each child in order to prepare them for their next chapter. We have known them and we have loved them just as they are right now, and for who we know they will be as they grow and mature. Like parents, we are as proud of them as they grow, and we cheer from the side of the St. Michael’s nest as they soar with strong eagle wings.

As the last week of school comes, we are all grateful for the opportunity to have had each child in our classrooms and in the magical kingdom of St. Michael’s. Thank you to all you parents for sharing these gems with us and for trusting us with them as they grow. To be a part of this chapter of their lives during these formative years is indeed a privilege. What a joy it has been. Now watch them soar.

Margaret Delk Moore

Head of School

 

Notes from the Head

When I reflect back over all of the teachers I had as a student, including the professors I had in college, I can remember almost every single one. I remember their personalities, their style of teaching, and the encounters I had, both positive and negative. Their patience seemed never ending. Their enthusiasm and passion for teaching were often contagious, and they became my role models as I became a parent and then as an administrator. There were certain teachers whose influence on my education was profound. I majored in history because of two teachers who made the past come alive, and I later devoted myself to an advanced degree study on character formation because of the influence of a professor of ethics. Others taught me perseverance, particularly when the subject matter was hard, and I learned how to write through the constructive critique of my English teachers. The point is that teachers have tremendous influence on us as we progress through formal education, and often it is the more informal instruction that leaves the deepest impression. I believe to teach is to answer a vocational call. Our future depends on teachers. As teacher/ astronaut Christa McAuliffe once said, “I touch the future. I teach.”

As we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week next week at St. Michael’s, I will be the first one to say “thank you” to the men and women who give their heart and soul to our students. Our success as a school has everything to do with the quality of instruction our students. Our graduates, who go on to achieve at the highest level in high school and college, are the measure our success. When graduates return to visit, they repeatedly give credit for their success to the foundation laid at St. Michael’s School. I am deeply grateful for our teachers, for their dedication, for their commitment to each child, and for the sacrifices they make in order to put the needs of their students first. Teachers do make a difference, and each becomes a special chapter in the lives of the children they teach. To the faculty at St. Michael’s, we salute you!

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

On Tuesday, as I was speaking with a colleague, a group of students who looked vaguely familiar walked by my door. As I rushed to catch up to them, grins and hugs greeted me from alumni boys who are now juniors in high school, returning to campus for our alumni celebration. The young adolescents who left us at the end of eighth grade had grown to be young men who are eagerly planning for college in another year. They talked about high school, how well prepared they were, their dreams for the future, and their continued love for St. Michael’s. It was a proud moment for me, as if they were my own boys. As I looked at them, I knew we had done our job well.

At St. Michael’s School, we have a community of families that are in partnership with us in raising children in mind, body, and spirit. We bring students in and treat them as our own. We work to prepare them for high school, shaping them as students who will make a difference in this world. We strive to instill a growth mindset as they learn new and complex concepts. We encourage them to reach for excellence, rather than perfection. As students grow and mature each year, their moral compass becomes shaped and defined. The values they carry forward become the foundation for the daily decisions and conduct for the rest of their lives. In short, we make a difference, and our alums who live the St. Michael’s values well beyond our adobe walls are the proof.

Each year, our eighth grade class visits the Capitol during their trip to Washington, D.C. They meet with our representatives to Congress and have the opportunity to ask questions regarding the operation of our government. Following this year’s trip, an alum who met our students during their visit to the Capitol took the time to send me a note regarding his interaction with our students. “Over the years, I have seen countless middle schoolers out here, and I can genuinely say that the St. Michael’s kids are far and away the most impressive. They listened patiently as Rep. McSally and two other D.C. alums spoke to them. They then proceeded to ask some very high-level questions about government, life in D.C., and how St. Michael’s prepared us for life. All of us were absolutely blown away.” Mr. Ridings also added, “St. Michael’s provided me with an incredible foundation for success, and I am positive that my peers would echo the same.”

Our alums speak volumes as they carry St. Michael’s into the world. From our enthusiastic high school students to those who have left college for careers, their actions speak louder than words, and St. Michael’s remains deeply embedded in their hearts. For that, I am grateful for, at the end of the day, we know we have done our job well. It is a privilege to be a special chapter in our students’ lives.

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

Have you ever watched people waiting? Waiting for the train. Waiting for the plane to land. Waiting for the kids to arrive home. Waiting for Christmas to come. Waiting to grow up. Some people are calm, while others are pacing and fretting and worrying about delays. We all have had our ongoing experiences with patience as well as the opposite, impatience.

When I polled our students in our Monday morning chapel about patience, it should not be surprising that when asked who had experienced impatience, practically the entire school raised hands. Children are not good at waiting. Patience is usually in short supply. They want to be good at whatever they try to do…immediately! They want to go from a beginner to an expert in record time. And, if they don’t at first succeed? Well, it is easier to give up than to try and try again. They do know, however, that indeed to try and try again is what they must do. Perfection is not the goal, but excellence is. A growth mindset supports that philosophy, instilling the idea that the power of YET keeps the mind open to the growth that will come with persistence, practice, and patience.

We have incredible students at St. Michael’s, and they work hard, most often, to be their best. Many hold themselves to a very high standard that does not allow room for imperfection. They want to be taller, faster, smarter, better. However, all of that takes time, and it takes patience. Patience with the process, and patience with themselves. I reminded the kiddos there are two groups that have an extraordinary amount of patience in their life: teachers and parents. They identified both right away. Parents and teachers are patient as children grow. They know that with growth comes the occasional failure, and with failure important life lessons are learned. One of the most important lessons we can teach our children and students is to be patient with themselves. Why? Because God is not finished with them YET. So deep breaths…all will be well. Good things come to those who wait!

Margaret Moore

Head of School

Notes from the Head

Last Saturday evening, we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in fine style at the Savoy Opera House, the location for our annual Gala auction. A good time was had by all. In the process of having fun, we raised friends and funds for our school. Although the Gala is months in preparation, the final days find teachers, staff, and parent-volunteers coming together to transform the Savoy into a magical place. To see the number of moms, dads, friends, and families working together was indeed gratifying. Truly, we could not have done the necessary work without the many hands that worked together. For everyone that participated in any way, my thanks go out to you. The power of the community working together was magnificent.

When I first arrived for an official visit to St. Michael’s, it was the weekend of Art Expo. As I toured and observed the school, visited classrooms, and talked with faculty and parents, I was overwhelmed by the passion for this school. Volunteers were everywhere that day, hanging artwork, putting up decorations, running errands, and organizing for the evening. There were smiles, lots of laughter, constant conversations, and a sense of joy in the work they were doing. After all, it was for the school and for the children, the key reason we do most everything at St. Michael’s School. At the end of the day, it is always about the kids.

What I have learned over the years I have worked in schools is that volunteers give their time and energy not so much out of obligation, but rather out of passion, commitment, and a desire to contribute to the cause. At St. Michael’s, we depend on our volunteers to help us carry out our program. We are partners in the process. With a calendar full of special events, as well as our routine needs such as monitoring the playground during recesses, volunteers are an essential piece. Whether it’s for an hour or two, or regularly volunteering to help with events, we are grateful for the support of volunteers. They truly make a difference.

As we get into the spring season at St. Michael’s, please consider volunteering to help with an upcoming special event such as Art Expo, an SMA event, or perhaps serving routinely as a playground monitor, helping to ensure the safety of our students. It takes a village to run a school, and every person at St. Michael’s plays a part in the successful operation. Thank you, dear volunteers, for all you do. You are amazing.

Margaret Moore

Head of School