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From the Headmaster

From the Headmaster Archived Articles 2016-17

List of 13 news stories.

  • Ways Students Are Different

    Neil Mufson
    A parent recently shared with me an article he had seen online that was written by a pediatric occupational therapist. The provocative title “Why are our children so bored at school, cannot wait, get easily frustrated, and have no real friends?” drew me in. In fact, I shared its gist with our visitors on Grandparents and Special Friends Day last week. The author, Victoria Prooday, maintains that over the last ten years, she has noted “a decline in kids’ social, emotional, and academic functioning, as well as a sharp increase in learning disabilities and other diagnoses.” She asserts there are basically five key reasons for these trends:
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  • End of Year Activities

    Neil Mufson
    Each year at this time, I like to remind all families of the many special events that take place at the end of the school year. Since our new families may not be familiar with our year-end traditions, I know it would be helpful for our "old" families to reach out to make certain that all feel a part of things at our culminating activities.
     
    Dorothy Andrew Day, otherwise known as "Play Day," was named for a very special, long-time faculty member and is The Country School's annual field day. It takes place this year on Friday, May 12, or May 19, in case of rain. Most school families come out for the entire morning, cheer on the participants, and stay on for lunch at the conclusion of the games. The festivities will begin at 8:45 and will end at about noon. The Parents’ Association is again planning a picnic lunch or feel free to pack your own meal. We ask that you not bring pets, even on a leash, to the event.
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  • Teacher Requests

    Neil Mufson
    Each year at this time, as we plan the next academic year, I like to remind parents of an important school policy. As we set about formulating class lists for 2017-18, please remember that I ask that you not make requests for specific teachers. I strongly believe that both sections at each grade level offer students a great experience. In either class, your child ends up in excellent hands.
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  • Kohn's Educational Ideas

    Neil Mufson
    Over the years, I have followed with interest the career of Alfie Kohn, a quirky college classmate of mine, who has become a nationally-known education writer and speaker. Author of books such as The Homework Myth, Punished by Rewards, and No Contest, Kohn has earned his living critiquing American education in general and numerous “sacred cow” concepts specifically. While he was actually a classroom teacher for a short time back in the early 80’s, in various books and speeches he has railed against praise, homework, grades, evaluation, standardized testing, discipline, and competition.
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  • Brené Brown & Integrity

    Neil Mufson
    As we head off to spring break, I thought I would share a clearly stated but profound statement that I heard spoken at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) annual conference that I attended in Baltimore last week. The speaker was professor of social work, researcher, and writer, Brené Brown, author of several bestsellers, including The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.
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  • Rick Osborne

    Neil Mufson
    For the past three decades or so, work on our Upper School musical began right around the closing night of the prior year’s show. It actually might have been even earlier. But sometime around the curtain’s falling on one show, Rick Osborne would begin conjuring the next. From years of teaching our music classes and nurturing both talent and confidence within his students, he knew who was coming up and who could compose his returning talent pool. He would select a show with our specific children in mind, thinking of what might be the perfect vehicle for a group’s collective and individual talents as well as for the ascending stars. Amongst the cast of non-performers, he would also intuit whom he could develop into the perfect lighting or sound technician, who could use that kind of boost but who would also become integral to our program’s success.

    Once Rick decided on the production, throughout the spring he would sketch out sets, think about the drops that needed to be created, imagine the costumes, decide on special effects, work on the music, and corral a group of parent producers. Pretty much every year he would begin building sets over the summer or shortly after he disassembled the set of that spring’s performance. His car was always present in our parking lot in off hours and over vacations. A perfectionist at heart, Rick would continue fine-tuning and retouching the set until the day of the closing performance.
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  • Stopping Incivility

    Neil Mufson
    As the nation prepares to inaugurate a new president, it is critical for our children that adults reinforce the importance of civility, respect, and tolerance. Even as the appalling language and revelations of the campaign raged, most adults were troubled by the behavior that was modeled. While I believe this was at least a partial reflection and amplification of the overall decline in civility in our society, I recently read a New York Times article entitled "Lessons in the Delicate Art of Confronting Offensive Speech" that renewed my hope that we can rebound -- if adults are thoughtful, committed, and brave enough to do something about it.

    The article pointed out that "a body of psychological research shows that even mild pushback against offensive remarks can have an instant effect -- as difficult as that can be, especially with a boss, a friend, or a celebrity." While we all have probably been in a situation when a racist, misogynistic, or otherwise offensive remark or “joke” was made in our presence, "even the politest of objections -- or subtle correction to loaded words -- can almost instantly curb a speaker's behavior."
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  • Generosity

    Neil Mufson
    While in Philadelphia over the break, I noticed a construction site that had written on the blockades surrounding it pithy sayings ascribed to some of our nation’s presidents. Since this is the month we focus on the Country School value "compassion," this quote, attributed to Ronald Reagan, caught my eye: "We can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”
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  • Thanksgiving

    Neil Mufson
    As our nation turns from non-stop news coverage of the election to the coming of Thanksgiving, I find myself feeling particularly grateful for the respectful, caring, and character-focused nature of our Country School community. On a daily basis, our teachers help our students learn some of the most important and human of lessons. We act truthfully, even when it is hard and when much seems at stake. We don’t call people names. We don’t make fun of others. We don’t bully. We deal honestly and fairly with others. We treat others kindly, with respect, compassion, and generosity, as we want to be treated ourselves. We try to get along with those with whom we have differences. We strive to be inclusive. We even aspire towards moral courage. I am thankful that our teachers model these values every day and that our students, in turn, do their best to reflect them.
     
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  • Party Invitations

    Neil Mufson
    One of the perennial but wholly avoidable problems that we face has to do with families creating out of school activities that exclude only a few children. What happens when only a few from a clearly defined group (8th grade girls or fifth graders or one teacher’s class, for instance) are left out? Hurt — and bad lessons for all children.
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  • Optimism

    Neil Mufson
    At the Elementary School Heads Association annual meeting I attended last week in Vermont, I had the opportunity to hear a presentation about the importance of optimism in leadership, parenting, and learning. The talk was given by Charlie Jones, a life coach and brand builder with the Brand Intersection Group, which consults to clients such as Panera, Ritz Carlton, and GoGo Squeez. He maintained that there are six discreet skills that people can learn that make them better leaders and more effective parents. As it happens, these same competencies help children become stronger, more engaged students. These skills also have been found to make people happier, healthier, and more successful in general. In fact, they are said to “inoculate” people from depression.
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  • Parking Lot Woes

    Neil Mufson
    At Parent Night last week, I shared that the accreditation team from the Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools (AIMS) that visited our school last spring felt that major improvement we need to make has to do with our parking lot and drop off and pick up systems. Since a number of parents weren’t there for my remarks, I wanted to make sure that everyone had the chance to hear about AIMS’ conclusions since this issue has to do with the safety of our children — the most important task with which the school is entrusted.
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  • "Hygge"

    Neil Mufson
    Over the summer our family had the pleasure of visiting Denmark, a country I had never been to before and about which I knew very little. Beyond its natural beauty and rugged history, Denmark “felt” very different from any place I had been. It was hard to describe and even harder to pinpoint. I suppose that since our trip was short, I shouldn’t generalize or draw too many conclusions.
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