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A Mindful Moment from the Middle

Welcome to A Mindful Moment from the Middle, a blog featuring interesting educational commentary, by Jennifer Rose, Head of Middle School.  

Rebuilding with Resilience
Jennifer Rose

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

― Confucius

Grit, growth mindset, persistence, resilience.  We may be tired of hearing those adjectives this year, especially as we face more challenges in our daily lives; however, we still can embrace them.  Now, more than ever, we are all being asked to be a little more patient, dig a little deeper, and try a little harder.  Students are re-learning how to “do school.”  They are learning to navigate new and changing friendships and new ways of sharing space.  The more controlled world they were experiencing during the last school year has given way to a less structured, yet still somewhat confined one.  There are indeed more choices, and seemingly less freedom of choice. 

A recent article in the New York Times titled, “Why Kids May be Melting Down at School,” interviewed both students and teachers, and found that it seems that across the board, students and teachers are struggling this year, which was unexpected given the loosening up of restrictions.  All of our constituents, parents, students, faculty and staff may have expected everything to be back to “normal,” meaning how school felt in the fall of 2019, but that isn’t the case right now, and many of us are just wondering what happened, and what we should do. 

Something concrete that we all can do is empower students to readjust, make mistakes and learn from those teachable moments.  This is also where, as parents, we can take a back seat, which can seem frightening after a year and a half of doing everything we can to keep our kids safe.  According to WebMD, “letting them [our children] fail and experience disappointment can be a real challenge. But failure is important. And when a child isn’t allowed to experience disappointment and failure, they aren’t able to develop the necessary skills to live their own life. They need to learn how to pick themselves up after failure and find another way to succeed.”

Navigating these challenges allows students to develop critical skills in stress management, healthy decision making, ethics, and communication.  As educators, our goal is to help students develop and practice those resilience and character skills in a nurturing and supportive environment, treating mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning.  Our Middle School Advisory program supports skill development in the areas of ethics, resilience, and time management where those daily challenges allow students to learn how to communicate and problem solve more independently.

We want to hold our students capable of being successful and of being able to make appropriate choices. We want them to learn that not everything will go the way they want, and how to deal with challenges and disappointment.  Additionally, we want to continue to instill a growth mindset not only for academic success but also personal growth.  We have the opportunity to take a mindful approach to developing and practicing resilience.  Let’s continue to rebuild together, resilient each and every day.

Reflections and Intentions
Jennifer Rose

"Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible.” ~ 14th Dalai Lama

This time of year is always a time to reframe, set intentions and reset.  As an educator, following the rhythms of the school year allows for that fresh start each school year in a natural way.  I remember being young and getting excited about back-to-school shopping, and the smell of the pencils and notebooks on the shelves at the store.  I still enjoy that visceral feeling, which for me is a signal that something good is about to start.  It’s also fortunate that as a member of the Jewish community, often at the same time, I’m reflecting on my past year and setting intentions for the new one during the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Holy Days.  

There have been years where my reflections and intentions were focused on my family and our goals for our well-being and interpersonal relationships.  Some years have been focused on  community service and others about very individual growth.  This year, I have been reflecting on the Power of And, as I mentioned in my welcome letter in the beginning of the summer.

I feel that there is an opportunity to use the Power of And in sustaining a safe and welcoming community of belonging.  I have been working with students for many years on setting appropriate boundaries so that everyone in a community feels safe and welcome each day they walk through our doors.  This is an opportunity for  positive, “Yes, and” thinking.  Yes, we create boundaries, and boundaries can open up an environment to cultivate growth and learning.

Brené Brown writes that “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”  I imagine that this is true of boundaries as well, when we are able to intentionally set reasonable and clear boundaries, we are being clear about what we feel is important to our safety and well-being and the safety and well-being of our community members.  Articulating our boundaries in an honest and compassionate manner is equally as important for clarity, and accepting boundaries is vital.  We’ve heard the phrase “Be Kind,” I’d like to amend that to, “Be Clear AND Be Kind.”