Happy Valentine’s Day!   This is a holiday about romance, and there seems to be lots of romance on this campus these days—which is a very nice thing—a wonderful quality of the St. Gregory community.

I have no wish to discourage romance: please enjoy it, in ways that are kind, respectful, and joyous.  But as you do, I think it is important to remember that to be successful in romance, and to be successful in relationships with others whether they be romantic or platonic, you need to be very serious about starting from a place of respecting yourself, of staying true to yourself.  As the Greeks say, you need to first and always know thyself.


My comments to the student body this morning, edited and expanded for this format:

Yesterday my 7 year old son, completely out of the blue , said to me  “Dad, wasn’t it interesting when the guy said  “Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world and in here is the dream.”

Recognize it? Anyone?   Yes, it is from Avatar, when Jake Sully compared his experience when embodied as his avatar to his self-identity in his normal world of being human.   His avatar experience has become his “true world.”

Mind you, my seven year-old said this to me an entire month after we saw the movie, and we had not previously discussed this quotation.   Somehow, this quote had been lingering and ruminating in my son’s mind for an entire month, and he was still chewing over it.   Why would Jake say that, what does that mean?

Students:  what does Jake’s saying mean to you—why was he feeling his avatar experience was his new “true world”? [Some discussion followed]

Surely there are more literal interpretations, but I want to reach more the metaphorical significance:  I would suggest to you that there are three reasons why Jake discovers his avatar experience to be his true world.

First,  inserting himself first slowly, then fully into Pandoran society, Jake finds himself deeply drawn into the social network of the Navi. He becomes (more…)

(Spoken remarks to the student body this morning)

Creative, Inventive, Ingenious, Original:  All four are thesaurus-provided synonyms for “innovative”, and these four are the words I shared with our students today to help illuminate the significant goals to which we aspire when we now say we are “creating leaders and innovators”.

Happy New Year.   It is a time for replacing the calendar, and entering into the next chapter of history, and here at St. Gregory, as I know you have seen, we have made a change in our motto for the school to what is now “Creating Leaders and Innovators” … and I know the change may be a bit jarring.

Character Scholarship Leadership, our former school motto and slogan, is certainly a wonderful expression of our school’s great traditions and foundational qualities.  Our school mission is unchanged—as always, we are here to challenge students to pursue excellence in character, in scholarship, and in leadership.

I want you to know that though I may not talk very frequently about character and scholarship, I am working behind the scenes to strengthen them further as the core components of a St. Gregory education.   For character, I have worked with the Academic committee to ensure we are reporting to you and your parents in the “Egg” (Essential Goals for Gregorians) how well we think you, our students, are growing in the Essential Goal of integrity, compassion, and ethical decision making.  I am also working hard to develop for next year a new advisory program: a structured way for you and an advisor-teacher to work together to support your growth in character.  In both ways, I am working to make character growth not less but more important than ever here at St. Gregory. (more…)

One love
One life
With each other
One life
But we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other

Good Morning:

Today is September 11, a Day that is deemed a day of remembrance and service.   Can we please have a moment of silence?

There are many different and competing ways of understanding why what happened on September 11, 2001 happened; this terribly national and global tragedy was the result of many strands, and it is hard to know which strands are most important.    But I know one interpretation, that one of those strands,  is the 9/11 murders represented, in a really terrible, terrible way, a failure (by terrible people, I need to add) of empathy, a failure of what I would call global empathy. (more…)

Nice to see that you, our students, are in good spirits this morning, and to hear you speak about junior statesmen of America and about community service; nice to see that spirt of service and public-mindedness so alive at our school.

I am wearing my mourning tie this morning, and feeling very sad, because we lost last night a great leader of public service, someone often referred to as the “Lion of the Senate,” Senator Ted Kennedy.

I met Senator Kennedy two times when I was in high school, when I was fifteen and sixteen, and it was an amazing  and wonderful for me to experience first-hand his interest in young people, and receive personally his encouragement for public service.

Senator Kennedy, it must be said, made many mistakes in his life, some of them serious mistakes, and he experienced many hardships, many tragedies, but he never gave up, never stopped fighting for a more just America.  We called him the Lion of the Senate, and I think we will continue to refer to him that way for many hundreds of years, because he worked for so long (nearly fifty years in the Senate)  with so many people, with very conservative Republican Senators and with Americans of all backgrounds, all ethnicities, all incomes, all kinds of diversity, to make such a big difference for civil rights, for people with disabilities, for health care for all, for education and for youth.

He said his most famous words in 1980, when I was 13, and I have never forgotten them, and I think they are very fitting here at his passing,  and after I read them to you, please let us have a moment of silence remembering and reflecting on the service of Senator Kennedy– he said about his never-ending quest for a more just America and more peaceful world:

the work goes on,

the cause endures

the hope still lives,

and the dream shall never die.

I spoke this morning to the student body, sharing my enthusiasm for Carol Dweck’s ideas in Mindsets (see previous post).  I also opened and closed with this fabulous U2 song, and cited these lyrics, suggesting they can inspire us to adopt a “growth mindset”:

A star lit up like a cigar
Strung out like a guitar
Maybe you could educate my mind
Explain all these controls
I can’t sing but I’ve got soul
The goal is elevation

I read a lot of books last year, but one of the very most significant to me is a book by Stanford Psychology Professor Carol Dweck: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.  [Dweck also has a new on-line learning tool for middle school students called Brainology.]  I realize that the title sounds a bit too much like a magazine self-help article, and I realize that some of the profound wisdom Dweck dispenses might seem like just common sense and conventional wisdom.  And yet– I think it is still really significant, and really deep.   And it made a personally huge difference to me a year ago.

Last spring and summer, I was confronting a funny year in my life, school year 2008-09, the very first year of my life since I was three in which I was neither a full-time employee nor student.   I had to decide what to do with the year– and I spent several months in spring and summer trying my hardest to establish myself, one way or another, as an expert, as a consultant, as an author.  In Dweckian terms, I was acting out of a fixed mind-set, one major facet of which is the intense determination to “look smart: “the main thing I want to do when I school-work (or any other “work”) is to show how good I am at it.”

But then I read Dweck’s book, and had what proved to be a very important epiphany.   I could re-frame my year to be one dedicated not  to showing how accomplished I am, but instead to accomplishing more;  I could make it a year of growing, not showing.   I could re-train my brain to recognize that looking smart is not most important– learning is most important.   (more…)

Opening music, U2 “Beautiful Day.”

Good Morning St. Gregory

Welcome to 2009-10—what I fully expect to be an excellent year in the history of St. Gregory College Prep.

I am so excited to be here—This is an exciting school with a forward looking faculty and board, and a whole lot of people who are really, seriously committed to your learning.    It is a place where students flourish and where you do such cool things—in the science lab, in the writing classroom, on the ropes course, in the dance studio, on the sports field, in senior internships and trips to Kenya.    It is a place where you, our students, ask each and every day great questions. (more…)