Friday Letter

August 30, 2019

Dear Parents,

What a wet summer this has been!  I am delighted by the cooler temperatures, but my yard is a clay sponge, and my tomato and pepper plants have no idea what they should be doing.  Rain is certainly an obstacle at school, both for construction work and for students and teachers getting to classes across campus.  I will be relieved when we are all under one roof next year, and everyone can stay dry and warm throughout the day!

Students should have discovered picture proofs in their lockers.  Those are due to Betsy no later than September 12th.  Many thanks to photographers (and Seabury parents) Ann and Steven Hertzog for donating the picture order proceeds to the school.  This is an even better reason to plaster yourselves, your home, and your friends and relations with pictures of your child!   

Seabury athletic competition heats up next week.  I am always impressed with and proud of our student competitors and their hard work and commitment to excellence.  Of course, despite my encouragement regarding all activities, I always remind students that their academic success is their primary reason to be at Seabury.  Everything else is secondary.  For this reason, the Community Handbook includes a clause on athletic eligibility that reads as follows:  "Students who participate in interscholastic sports must be passing all classes (D- or above) in order to participate in games.  The Director of Athletics and Dean of Students will be informed of eligibility on a weekly basis."  In the event that a student is no longer passing a course, that student will have a grace period of one day to turn in any missing work or meet with teachers and/or Ms. Czarnecki to discuss a plan and report back to the relevant coach.  I stressed with students that I don't like talking about "doing work to be eligible."  They should be doing work to excel and because their parents pay tuition for them to learn.  Eligibility for activities is just a by-product of their proper attention to what is most important.

I don't always have a "topic" for discussion in morning meeting (or for Friday Letter's, frankly), but I had two related conversations in morning meeting this week.  The first took me back to a tv nature show I had watched as a child involving an experiment where zoologists put a piece of fruit in a hole in a tree and waited for a monkey to come and try to take the treat.  Of course, when the monkey reached into the hole and grabbed the fruit, he found himself trapped and unable to run away as the scientists approached (because his fruit-holding hand was too big to be pulled from the hole).  He simply needed to let go of that fruit....but it never occurred to him that he could do that.

For all I know, the experiment is a figment of my imagination.  (And it strikes me as a tad bit cruel.)  However, the memory provides me with a good metaphor for moments when I make the mistake of holding onto negativity.  (Your children can tell you about my frustrations with an unruly driver in a nearby store parking lot!)  Mindfulness and introspection are important habits to develop in children and certainly in adults, because so often we hold onto--and in many ways nurture--our own problems, whether it be seeing our work (homework or professions) as a burden--or nursing a grudge against another person.  One of my favorite quotes from an anonymous source: "Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die." 

On Thursday, I complimented the students on picking up the new rhythms of our altered campus so quickly, and I also told them how much I appreciate their general thoughtfulness and kindness.  Our students have a history of opening doors for others, saying "thank you," applauding (anything and everything), and other simple acts of civility.  I encouraged them to maintain this kindness even when other people are not equally generous, as can often be the case in the world.  Taking the high road in the face of incivility is important partly because we should not allow the poor example of others to impact our own behavior, as we have a responsibility to determine our own choices and our character.  Also, many of us also have the benefit of a happy or easier life while many other people do not, and we never know what sort of hardship other people may carry with them.  Hence my other favorite chestnut: "Be kind, for every man is fighting a hard battle." 

After putting up with my morning moralizing, your children definitely need an extended weekend.  I hope they get some rest and some play in these next three days!

Yours respectfully,

Dr. Schawang