I wrote the HEADline below two years ago around this time of year. Dr. Carl Glickman and his writing on ceremony and tradition came back to my mind again last week as we celebrated almost a decade of Constitution Day rallies on our campus Quad… a tradition indeed! Our traditions, symbols, and ceremonies are part of the fiber of a Wood Acres education, yet it behooves us to ponder if they really make a difference to our students and their families?
To answer that question, another sage writing of Dr. Glickman came to mind- his work on sightings- formal and informal, negative and positive- as to whether what a school does matters. Formal observations abound in any educational setting- planned class observations, scheduled team meetings, parent teacher conferences, annual kick off events, etc. Informal observations happen much more often- watching a class walk the campus Quad, student interactions at recess, daily teacher student interactions, passing conversations with adults and children, communication from all stakeholders- formal and informal.
The Constitution Day Rally 2018 brought some wonderful sightings to the forefront about the impact Wood Acres has on the school community- our largest attendance by families and guests, book buddies sitting voluntarily with each other to enjoy the ceremony, our Director of Early School sharing her amazing story of discovering a rare family pocket edition of the Constitution dated in the 1800’s, handshakes and hugs from families as they share how valued this day has become, veterans thanking us for recognizing their service, students reciting the Preamble and talking about the Constitution all week long, staff enthusiasm planning the event and tying it to history and culture… the list goes on. Toss into that mix our enduring symbols of acorns, oak leaves and Ginkgo trees, campus buildings named after the Georgia signers of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution as well as noted historical figures in Georgia’s history, Turner Hall named for two self-educated men, a campus compass rose adorning the Plaza, a new American flag posted every year- the list goes on.
Wood Acres School is about a million little things that are purposefully and lovingly woven into the fiber of our school, the talk of the day, and the walks about campus. It also permeates the formal and informal happenings on campus. It is not about a school; it is about a Wood Acres education. THAT is what matter most and that is what counts. Eureka! And that is what we intentionally- formally and informally- do each and every day!
Archived HEADLINE: October 2016…
It’s here! Can you see it? Can you feel it? Can you hear it? It is the cadence and rhythm of a school year in place and humming its autumn song as we turn the calendar to October. Students have found the first acorns on campus, sketched the first fallen leaves, and gazed at the amazing blue sky that arches over our campus. It feels so good inside and outside of our classrooms.
And before you know it the perfect trifecta of holidays will soon be upon us occupying the main aisles of stores from Hallmark to Dollar Tree and making October, November, and December filled to the brim with decorations and celebrations. Woo be the child who has a birthday during these three months as their parties are often overshadowed by the holiday du jour! While the commercialism of holidays is certainly omnipresent, the intrinsic importance of tradition and ceremony is vital to a child’s development of time, family, and community.
Dr. Carl Glickman, outstanding Professor Emeritus of the University of Georgia in the field of educational leadership, once spoke on this very topic and made a great impression on me in my developing years as an educational leader. His writing led me to metacognitively know why I always thought that ceremonies and traditions in the smallest family or the largest school were not “fluff” but critically important to the home and school climate and its ability to embrace its occupants with meaning and memories for a lifetime.
Ceremonies and traditions serve as punctuation marks in our lives. They make us pause, stop, “be”. They move us emotionally and spiritually. They help us tie the past, present, and future together in a way that helps us keep time, reflect, enjoy the moment, and wonder about the future. These events also help us visually demonstrate values and connections among generations. Ceremonies and traditions bring us together, across miles as well as across periods of absence. And they open the larder to prepare treats and food, open the boxes to deck the halls and walls with pumpkins, turkeys, menorahs and garland, open the photo albums to visit past ceremonies and make certain the traditions are well preserved. They make us sing, laugh, smile, cry, look wistfully, and sigh in contentment. Ceremonies and traditions make the time, energy, effort, planning, and often expense worth it in the long run. They matter to us. Remember, where our hearts are, so are our treasures!
So here’s to pumpkin carving, apple bobbing, trick or treating, and candy! Here’s to turkey and all the trimmings, football, naps, and holiday shopping. Here’s to stockings hung with care, candlelight services, cookies and milk, dreidels, and gifts from the heart. And here’s to the ceremonies and traditions of the Woods- Meet and Greet, conferences, Rally Round the Flag Constitution Day, Field Day, field trips, book fairs, book buddies, graduation ceremonies, and so much more. Here’s to our school traditions and ceremonies helping us mark the seasons of the Woods in our hearts and minds.
The start to an academic year @ the Woods- be it for our youngest Navigators to the eighth grade graduating class of 2019- makes perfect sense, since it is all about the senses! Each student and family, each faculty and staff member feel the excitement of a fresh start to the school year. They also feel the warmth and welcome that greeted them at the staff kick off or at the annual Meet and Greet. They see the natural beauty of this wooded campus and get to enjoy all the seasons from a winter snow to the first butterflies on the lantana. They hear the sounds of laughter and learning, nature and nurture, ah has and yahoos! They taste snacks, lunch, and surprises as birthdays are celebrated. They hold hands, give hugs, and some well earned high 5’s. They use their hands and minds in collaboration to make learning be memorable and meaningful. Yes, the perfect start to our school year DOES make perfect sense! Come see for yourself.
Happy New Year @ the Woods!
“What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.”
With today’s adult work being tied so closely to the technology in your pocket, the laptop in your bag, and the office in your home, summer is truly for the children! While they are “outta school” for these sunny months, their learning does not stop! Guarantee that for them by helping them leave anything with batteries, chargers, or screens behind and help them employ their senses to the wonders of the summer world around them. If they insist on being early risers, share a sunrise with them. If bed times are more flexible in the summer, sit outside and ponder a gorgeous sunset. Get down on the level of bugs and up as high as you can go to see the world from a bird’s vantage point. Get out the chalk, crayons, markers and paints for some summer masterpieces painted on the sidewalk, old pillowcases, and even on themselves. Paint like Michelangelo (on your back) or with your non-dominant hand, with the brush in your teeth or between your toes! Cook, clean, rearrange, and redo their rooms and play spaces. Give meaning to work in the home as summer “homework”. And by all means- READ- every day in every way with all kinds of print- OK, so maybe technology can be helpful here! You get the idea!
With just one glance on Pinterest or the many blogs on line, you can find many more easy enjoyable “battery free” ideas to entice your children to see, hear, taste, feel, touch and experience their world anew in this month of “a perfectly young summer”… JUNE!
It is a merry, merry, magical month of May @ the Woods- full of sentimental farewells and graduation, cheers and celebration. Behind the scenes it is also quite manic. Summer Camp prep, summer repair and renovation scheduling, academic year wrap with report cards, standardized test results, and student transcripts all appear on a detailed check list. Parent and student packets for the coming academic year go to the printer, curriculum gets ordered as do supplies and materials. The campus is scrubbed from top to bottom, from ceiling to floor, from door to door.
Yet the pace is somehow a bit slower, a bit easier, a bit relaxed… at least for a few weeks. The rhythm of a school year at Wood Acres is a carefully crafted symphony of dedicated faculty and staff seeing to all the thousand details behind the scenes that create magic each year as school begins anew. And for The Wood Acres School, this has been occurring for almost 50 years!
Join us this month as we look back on a grand school year, celebrate the present honoring our graduates of the class of 2018 plus each student’s academic growth, and gear up for the future of the 2018-2019 school year and the preparations for our grand 50th anniversary celebration in 2019. That will indeed be a merry, merry magical time as well.
Here’s to May @ the Woods and a grand family summer, too!
In the world of sports, March Madness signifies the march to the final four and collegiate basketball glory. Wood Acres March Madness is the march off campus for annual experiential overnight field trips involving planes, trains, boats and buses as our 4th through 8th graders embark on true field trip adventures that create once-in-a-lifetime memories for students, proving that what they study and the “real” world are truly one and the same!
Fourth graders’ destination is the sand, surf, flora, and fauna of Jekyll Island Environmental Center for three days and two nights of looking at the ocean and its living creatures in a whole new way. Fifth graders head to Tennessee and Camp Widjiwagan Outdoor Center for three days and two nights of hands-on learning about the environment and themselves. Sixth graders traveled earlier this year to the Marine Lab in Key Largo, Florida to further their ecological studies of the ocean and enjoyed snorkeling during this wondrous adventure. Seventh graders look at Washington, DC through the eyes of the Triumvirate of Democracy, as they experience first hand the three branches of government- executive, judicial, and legislative. It is a trip that is all about “We the People”! Eighth graders celebrate their impending graduation with a capstone trip to Spain to experience how much they have learned in speaking another language and immerse themselves in the culture. Students live with host families, study at a renowned university and visit world heritage sites on their day trips during this two week sojourn there.
March YES! By plane, boat, train, and bus we take students to the learning. With pre-trip study and superb planning, we take students to new heights of metacognition- knowing that they know what they know- on each and every trip. Through passion for experiential learning with a faculty that generously gives of their time and talents on these adventures, Wood Acres students experience a one-of-a-kind education that is consistently “out of the box” and firmly tucked away in their minds and hearts.
My three children have come out OK- even better than OK. They all graduated college with honors, on time, within budget, without debt, and became immediately employed in their chosen fields. Advanced degrees and additional professional training have made them all the wiser and having their own children have made them humbler. You have never lived until your own children say, “Mom, I can’t believe you did it all!” Music to the soul.
With six grandchildren and one more arriving in July, I am also reveling in the joys of grand parenting and being lenient, indulging, and full of whimsy when we are together. Friends, colleagues, and parents have asked me how did you accomplish it. Faith, luck, patience, and more luck probably are part of the formula. Although I distinctly remembering my eldest son telling me one day, “You are not the principal of this house!” A dose of reality always does the body good.
One solid mantra that I drilled into my trio was a sure fire way to assess what they were doing and whether what they were doing was good, fair, and right. It came from my brief stint in the Rotary. I loved the fellowship and projects, but hated the early hour they met and yearned for a bit more estrogen in the room. But the Rotary Four Way Test stayed with me and I applied my adaptation to our family, our children, and even our school.
Is it legal?
Is it moral?
Could you read about it in the media and be proud?
Could you tell your mother/father face to face?
The answers to the four questions gave my children pause and allowed a more thoughtful, wise, and positive choice… most of the time. Nobody is perfect!
Our dynamic office team at Wood Acres also has amazing children who are good, kind, and successful. So I asked them for their mantra or one liner that helped their own grow and glow.
“Make good choices.” Marcy LeSieur
“Don’t wish things were easier, wish you were better.” Jenny Tischer
“You have to have a few bad days every now & then to appreciate the good days.” Jenny Tischer
“Be yourself.” Nicole Hankamer
“Share your awesome self with the world.” Laurie Mazor
With Hugs and Love to parents everywhere,
While searching for inspiration to write a HEADline to launch the new year, I came across this reprint of an article in Huffington Post. Seems like pretty sound advice and very doable if you “stay the course”.
Here’s to a great 2018 @ the Woods in your family.
5 Tips for Powering Up Your Parenting in the New Year By Betsy Brown Braun
As the big hand creeps its way toward midnight on December 31, most people give at least a fleeting thought to New Year’s resolutions. Those usually have to do with eating or exercise or a nagging behavior ripe for modification. And we all know how long those last: Not very. Instead, let’s talk about resolving to make some changes in your parenting — small adjustments that you can do and keep up, that will make a big difference in your life with your child.
Even the best (whatever that means) of parents, has a list of things she thinks she could do better as a parent — not yell so much, get home earlier at night, be more patient. I’ll bet you have at least one of those on your own list, right?
Here are 5 parenting tips for the coming year — ones that you can easily put into practice — that you might want to add to your resolutions.
- Listen to your kids. Sounds obvious, even ridiculous, doesn’t it? There is a reason we are given one mouth and two ears. Children want and need air time. And when they get it from you, the unspoken message is: You matter. I care about what you have to say. Your ideas, thoughts, and opinions are worthy of being heard. So, slow down, wait, face your child, get on his level, and listen to what he has to say. Don’t talk over him, don’t finish his thoughts, and don’t hurry him to get on with it. The time you invest listening will pay immeasurable dividends.
- Count to 10.Before you respond to anything that is beyond the mundane with your child, pause. Do not react; do not say anything — no threats, no judgments, no punishments. Just wait. The space you create will allow you to think about your response. It will lessen the likelihood of a misfire on your part. We parents are often so quick on the trigger that we regret what has spewed forth. Only slightly easier than putting toothpaste back in the tube, taking back your hastily delivered judgments, crazy consequences, or insane threats is tricky. Pausing and counting to 10 will get you closer to the response you deliberately and wisely choose.
- Beware of hollow threats. Parents come up with the wildest threats when they are trying to get a child to do or not do something. If you don’t come to the bath right now, we are not going to Disneyland on Saturday! Or, If you don’t stop bothering your brother, I am giving away your new fire truck. Huh? Really? Not only do children smell your insincerity, but they know if you will follow through. Threats that are feasible, (especially ones that are logically related to the misbehavior), ones that you actually will carry out, can be effective. Your child learns that you mean what you say. And the behavior stands a good chance of changing.
- Stay the course. When it comes to getting what they want, kids will go to all ends, and they have incredible tenacity. They beg, they whine, they hound, they negotiate, they debate, they look for a chink in the armor. Don’t let them wear you down. If No is your answer, stick to your No. If you are not sure of your answer, steer clear of No and go with I need to think about it. Children who are raised with consistent, non- negotiable boundaries and limits are happier children. And remember one Yes will sustain a child through a thousand No’s.
- Be good to yourself. Much like the “Oxygen Mask Rule” on an airplane, a parent who takes care of herself will be a better parent. If you are spent, you are no good to anyone. You say things you regret; you channel the parent you swore you’d never be. So, have that massage or lunch with friends, say No to one more committee chairmanship, turn over the reins one night and treat yourself to a hot bath. You will be the parent you want to be, and your whole family will reap the benefits.
The candles of Hanukkah and Advent are lit as is the sense of wonder and anticipation of children everywhere. Diwali and its candles in the Festival of Lights glowed in mid-October this year, much to the enjoyment of many children around the globe and right here. In our fervent efforts to be thoughtful and correct, we have almost ceased wishing each other anything but “Happy Holidays”.
What is important is that families here and everywhere have traditions and ceremonies to mark their most special and important celebrations and holidays. Passing those traditions down generation to generation creates the substance of who we are and how we fit together in our families and with each other. Growing up in a coal mining town in Pennsylvania, I remember visiting Bonnie Lieberman’s home each December to celebrate Hanukkah with her family and wishing I could be Jewish. I also wanted to be Catholic on Ash Wednesday, Greek Orthodox on Epiphany and in the children’s choir of the African Methodist Church near my hometown. Why? Because it was special, unique, happy, yummy, and full of joy.
My wish for you this December is simply joy and light. Joy does the body good as well as the soul. Light brightens the shorter days of winter and warms us within and without. Whatever brings you joy and light, may it fill this month and the coming year to the rim. If you are hard-pressed to find it on any day, just stop by Wood Acres and listen to the joyous sounds of children playing and learning, laughing and growing. It will light up your day. It does mine!
Let’s face it. Most of us know more about the Super Bowl Championship and the Academy Awards than we do about the Nobel Prize. I was certainly in that category until I had the awesome opportunity to visit the Nobel Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. Since night comes early in Sweden in late October, my entrance into this beautiful 18th century building was enveloped in an oncoming fog and an unsettling early darkness. The Square that fronts the Museum was quite deserted and I felt I heard the hooves of horses pulling carriages in a strange mix of IKEA and Dickens.
As my eyes adjusted to the interior lighting of the museum, I realized I was in for a wonderful learning experience and an unexpected personal and professional “aha”! The Swedes really know how to blend the architecture of divergent centuries as well as the history and relevance of Nobel, the man and the award. I walked a timeline of the award and met all the Laureates as their bios flowed overhead on an amazing cableway circulating at the roof level throughout the museum. Modern technology allowed me to “talk” with Laureates and learn about their diverse lives and their own personal “ahas”. My “quick” visit developed into hours as I visited and re-visited exhibit areas and slowly became a Nobel groupie! I think the docents were ready to offer me a job or have me arrested as a museum stalker. And, of course, I completed my visit at the Nobel bookstore purchasing books and literature that are now here for everyone at school to read, learn, and enjoy. The seeds of an exciting new endeavor for the Woods were planted and I was already dreaming of what could be.
As with sports championships, theater awards, and other social recognitions of achievements existing in all countries, the Nobel Prizes are the only internationally recognized awards in any categories, much less in the areas of academic achievement and research that improve the lives of the world’s inhabitants. There is so much to learn at any age from Nobel, the man and the award. There is even more to learn as older students learn of the lives, trials, challenges, and successes of the Nobel Laureates. And there is enough intrigue, drama, mystery, and media gossip surrounding the annual awards to intrigue everyone, too!
I have spent almost a year researching and collecting materials for Wood Acres’ faculty to integrate into their teaching and student learning to elevate awareness of the Nobel Prizes and its timeless relevance to helping mankind solve problems and improve lives.
The results of this labor of love and learning is that each teacher, in age appropriate ways, can incorporate learning about Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Prizes into your teaching especially each December. The annual Nobel Award Concert and Banquet are held each year in Stockholm on December 10. As you can imagine it is a grand and royal event. My hope is that in a few years we can incorporate our December WA Band concert into a Nobel concert format and have a most royal reception afterwards surrounded by a suspended poster display of present and past Nobel Laureates (created by our students of course) just like in the Stockholm Museum. My creative juices are on high alert to all the possibilities. We can turn this dream into a reality! Good Morning America, here we come! What an exquisite way to celebrate the highest levels of learning from an international global perspective. WOW!!!
The Noble Prize for me now is much more that the facts, history, and stories that first caught my interest in Stockholm that foggy evening in 2015. My learning has evolved to embrace the process, the people, and character that these men and women displayed that make this award worthy of our study, learning, admiration, and awe. Noble Nobel for certain!
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
On this rainy soggy October morning with our students nestled safely in their classrooms learning, sharing, laughing, studying, snacking, playing and thinking I am overcome by profound joy and deep sadness. I am so privileged to work in a place of hope with the joy of children surrounding me each and every day of my decades long career. I then must cross back into the harsh panful realities of what children, families, schools, towns, cities, states, and countries are dealing with- be it natural disasters or man made disasters- but disasters all the same. Children with no family, no food, no homes, no hope are reflected in haunting photos online or on the news each day. Children hurt, wounded or worse through no other circumstance other than the neighborhood they live in or the health care they yearn for are deep seated signs of a sick and selfish society that is anesthetized to the horrors right here at home.
I wish I had the silver bullet cure for this melancholy up my sleeve, but perhaps the metaphor is a part of a simple doable solution. Up your sleeve is your arm! Put it to good use for both treasuring your own family and reaching out to others who desperately need your hand and heart. Simple, sustained, focused caring and sharing will slowly create a tsunami that can help others envision a better tomorrow thanks to your reaching out.
You did an amazing start on this very quest with the wonderfully generous donations that sent hundreds of new backpacks to students of a flooded and damaged school and community. And it made us feel good, too! Let’s keep that spirit alive and well @ the Woods all year as we continue to learn, share, laugh, study, snack, play and think.
Listen. Can you hear the sound?
Hearts beating all the world around.
Down in the valley, out on the plain,
Everywhere around the world a heartbeat sounds the same.
Black or white. Red or tan,
It’s the heart of the family of man… beating away, beating away, beating away.
-Red Grammer from his award winning CD “Teaching Peace”