About

From the Headmaster

“Every time I come to this place, it gives me hope for the future.”

A grandparent
About three times a month, I write a message in the school’s weekly newsletter to all Country School families. Sometimes I write about a current educational issue, a parenting challenge, our Country School values, or something I’ve been thinking about or have read. Other times I write about current events, the impact of popular culture, or my own elementary school experiences. Whatever the topic, I consider these pieces an extension of The Country School’s mission of school and home working in concert on behalf of our children. Know that I always welcome your comments and ideas.

Neil Mufson, Headmaster

2017-18 Articles

List of 17 news stories.

  • Psychological Services at The Country School

    Neil Mufson
    In addition to the host of physical changes that will soon spring to life on our campus, beginning with the 2018-19 school year, we will be changing the model by which our school receives psychological services for students, families, and faculty. Up to this time, we have been very ably served by Dr. Laurie Lewis, our consulting school psychologist. Laurie was at first with us one day a week. Teachers, administrators, students, and parents “saved up” issues for discussion. Laurie also provided some classes for students and parent groups that focused on various issues related to social and emotional learning. In addition, she offered professional development for faculty, observations of students, appropriate referrals to outside evaluators or therapists, and special services when challenging events occurred in the news or in the school.
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  • JUULing

    Neil Mufson
    A couple of weeks ago, I attended the annual meeting of Heads of School for The Association of Independent Maryland & DC Schools (AIMS), where there was much sidebar talk of how vaping is working its way into middle schools, particularly through JUULing. Vaping was originally designed as a method of helping smokers quit the cigarette habit through inhaling water vapor that contains flavored nicotine rather than tobacco smoke with all its other carcinogenic ingredients. The idea was that through vaping, smokers would progressively wean themselves from their nicotine addiction.
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  • Value of Read Aloud

    Neil Mufson
    Last week I wrote about how important the establishment of a regular reading habit is for your child’s overall and optimal cognitive development. All sorts of advantages are seen in the profiles of children and young adults who read at least 30 minutes a day. A recent study reported on in The New York Times article “Reading Aloud to Young Children Has Benefits for Behavior & Attention” takes this even further. It makes the case that parent-child play and “the parent-child-book moment… have the potential to curb behaviors like aggression, hyperactivity, and difficulty with attention.”
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  • The Huge Benefits of a Little Bit of Reading

    Neil Mufson
    A parent recently shared with me a web article from the site School Leaders Now entitled “10 Staggering Statistics About Struggling Readers and Reading Growth.”  While we do indeed have some struggling readers, most of our children are highly proficient — but reluctant — readers.  Screens, scheduled activities, and busy lives have led to a decrease in independent reading frequency throughout our society and amongst Country School kids. But regular reading is a powerful cognitive elixir. It boosts a child’s academic performance in virtually every area. That is why we introduced our STAR time as part of every school day. From 8:20 - 8:40, everyone in the school participates in Stop Together And Read.
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  • Construction Begins

    Neil Mufson
    On or about Monday, April 23, the construction project made possible by our “It’s Our Time” campaign will spring to life. The first phase of the construction involves our new pick up, drop off, and parking area which, when complete, will dramatically enhance the safety, convenience, and appearance of our campus.
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  • Are We Inadvertently Miseducating Children?

    Neil Mufson
    I recently had a chance to dig into the pile of articles I put aside for future reading and came across an article by New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks with the kind of title that calls out to any Head of School (or independent school parent): “Miseducating the Young.” Brooks’ piece points out one of the central failures of even very good educations: we don’t provide much preparation for dealing with the increasing open-endedness that graduates encounter once they finish school.
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  • The Movement to End Gun Violence in Our Schools

    Neil Mufson
    While we were safely tucked into spring break, two significant milestones occurred as a result of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. First on March 14, there was a national day of student protest. Students around the country, often supported by their schools, walked out of their buildings for 17 minutes (one minute for each life extinguished at Parkland) to show their solidarity with the Never Again movement that seeks to eradicate gun violence in our nation’s schools. While some may say that elementary and middle school-aged children are too young to take part in a meaningful way in political protests, I believe that part of our school’s mission is to equip our students to be active, engaged, informed, and civil citizens in our democracy. It is not the school’s role to promote or take political stances, but is our role to ensure that, as students grow and develop, they are equipped to grapple intelligently with the issues of our day, to decide for themselves where they stand, and to know how to take appropriate action if so moved.
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  • Parkland's Legacy

    Neil Mufson
    After every mass shooting in our country, I always search for the individual biographies and photos of those lost. For me, it ensures that I don’t become deadened to what is actually happening; deadened to the human loss, suffering, and grief that lives on; deadened to the frequency of these massacres; deadened to the consistent outrage and sadness but total inaction that has always followed. Maybe this time will be different, I always hope.
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  • Some Thoughts Following Charlie’s Death

    Neil Mufson
    It’s going to be weeks, if not months, before I can properly and personally thank each of you for all the support and care you have directed towards my family and me in the wake of Charlie’s death. Until that time, I did want to make sure you knew how immensely grateful Beth, Maeve, and I are for the countless ways you have reached out — and how helpful every expression has been. You might think that words and gestures are inadequate in the face of our loss. While nothing will erase what has happened, know that your immense kindness has helped us more strongly bear our sorrow.
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  • Christmas

    Neil Mufson
    Brad Bell is one of those kids I still remember vividly from my elementary school years, perhaps because taking him in involved a number of senses. Small and rail thin, Brad had a permanently raspy voice. He always seemed to squint at the world, and he had a uniquely sour smell. He was poorly groomed and his clothes were worn. If a teacher wasn’t looking, he would hit you hard in the arm as he walked past.
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  • Thanksgiving

    Neil Mufson
    As a kid, it was in the back seat of our family’s mint green Buick station wagon where I learned my most memorable lessons having to do with gratitude, not at the Thanksgiving table. My grandparents, whom we visited often, lived in a declining neighborhood in the Bronx. As we would wind our way to their home through even worse neighborhoods, my parents would direct comments to the backseat where my sister and I sat. They would contrast what we were seeing with the idyllic, leafy Boston suburb where we lived. Their narrative was not subtle. “Imagine living here, across from burnt out buildings… Think about having no space, no place to play and run around…  We’re lucky that our air always smells good…  No woods here to run into and find quiet and a place to build a fort… Grandma barely feels safe going outside anymore.”

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  • Fireworks in the Field

    Neil Mufson
    Anyone who was at Friday night’s Fireworks in the Field event had to have been touched by the jubilance and strong sense of community that defined the evening. Yes, we were celebrating both the kick off of the public phase of our “It’s Our Time” capital campaign and all that we have accomplished to date. Yes, the fireworks, the fifth graders’ song, the faculty/parent band, and the staging were all incredible. But what was at the heart of the event was all that our school stands for: being a warm, positive, joyful, engaging, and sensible place for kids to learn, stretch, and grow.
     
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  • iGen Part II

    Neil Mufson
    Last week I wrote about Jean Twenge’s article in The Atlantic entitled “Have Smartphones Destroyed A Generation?” that cited research concluding that the more time teenagers spend using their electronic devices, the less likely they are to report high levels of happiness. She further noted that teens who frequently use social media apps (like Instagram — on which many adolescents post their frequent, enticing, and perfectly curated social activities) report higher levels of loneliness, anxiety, depression, and isolation. Twenge’s article is a sobering and important read.
     
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  • iGen & Smart Phones

    Neil Mufson
    “Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on non-screen activities are more likely to be happy. There’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness and all non-screen activities are linked to more happiness.” Jean Twenge, a research psychologist who focuses on generational differences, cites this troubling finding in her article, “Have Smartphones Destroyed A Generation?” in September’s issue of The Atlantic.
     
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  • The Power of Prospection

    Neil Mufson
    What do most of us humans unconsciously and consciously spend the most time thinking about? It may surprise you. According to an important body of emerging research, the answer is the future. UPenn psychologist Martin Seligman and a growing group of researchers believe, in fact, that what most differentiates our species from others is our ability to consider our prospects. “The power of prospection is what makes us wise. Looking into the future, consciously and unconsciously, is central to the function of our large brain… for most of the past century most researchers have assumed that we’re prisoners of the past and the present.”
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  • Kind World

    Neil Mufson
    This summer I listened to a lot of podcasts. Hearing one program led to another, and somehow I found an utterly amazing and inspiring series called Kind World. Each piece is only four to six minutes long, but I have found each more powerful than the last. The lead-in each week describes the podcast as illustrating that “Small acts of kindness may seem ordinary but are actually extraordinary and amazing to others. A smile, a helping hand, or simply listening can be as important as breakthrough therapies.”
     
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  • Focusing on Empathy

    Neil Mufson
    As I have thought over the last year or so about the many divisions that exist in our country, I have come to believe that there is something important we parents and educators must do for the sake of our children and the future of our world: a better job of teaching empathy. The reprehensible and dispiriting expression of hate that we witnessed a few weeks ago in Charlottesville only strengthened my belief about the need to find a starting point. After all, Martin Luther King, Jr. warned us that “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”    
     
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