Happy New Year! by Nancy Mugele

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Happy New Year!

The 2017 – 2018 academic year began this week and for me it signals a Happy New Year! exclamation. For educators and students alike September, more so than January, offers a start to a new life chapter with a clean slate – a story to be developed with blank pages to be filled. I love September!

Just like many of my students, I have a new hairstyle (with thanks to Salon 854), some new navy and white clothes (with thanks to Mimi’s), a blank journal, a special pen, and a lot of joy and hope. It definitely feels like the holiday season to me!

Some of you may know that it is my custom to select a word to hold before my school community for the academic year. Last year my word was JOY! Joy is my favorite word in the English language. I like it for its impact in just a few letters. I love to play it in Words with Friends or Scrabble because I feel as if I am sharing a little bit of joy with my opponent. And, I challenge you to say it without smiling just a little, even if only on the inside. Joyful learning is a hallmark of the Kent School experience, and although I selected a new word for this new year, joy will always be at the forefront.

For the second chapter of my Kent School book, I have chosen BELIEVE as my theme. Defined as a verb, BELIEVE generally means “to hold something as true or feel sure of something’s truth” (Oxford English). I will use BELIEVE mostly with its definition of having faith – faith in ourselves as learners and teachers. There are no limits to what we can achieve if we BELIEVE. Believing in each of our students, and what they can and will accomplish, helps us envision a better world filled with compassionate leaders.

Our Kent School faculty have been busy these past few weeks readying classrooms and diving deeply into mind, brain and education science as part of a yearlong professional development partnership with the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning (CTTL) at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Bethesda. We are honored to be one of only seven schools in the country selected to partner with the CTTL. Last week’s full day experience (the first of three this academic year) was literally transformative as together we began a journey of learning to implement research informed classroom practices and to teach and reach students in meaningful ways. We believe that this approach will help us foster and create tomorrow’s leaders – teaching our students how to think and, most importantly, to think for themselves.

As we are all aware, many students in the Houston area will not be starting school this week. My heart aches for all of the families affected by Hurricane Harvey, especially those with school-aged children. A former colleague of mine in Baltimore is now the Head of The Kinkaid School, an independent school in Houston serving students in PK – Grade 12. His school opened on Wednesday – a week late. He told me the very best organization to donate to in order to directly help families and people on the ground in need right away in Houston is the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.  This fund was established by the Mayor of Houston and a County Judge and is housed at the Greater Houston Community Foundation. This fund is also helping schools who have suffered property damage. If you are inclined to donate, please visit: ghcf.org/hurricane-relief

On First Friday last weekend I saw many Kent School families and students enjoying our beloved Chestertown. The turtles at the Sultana Education Center were a huge draw! I feel so fortunate to live here in this picturesque town on the Chester River – a town that values education, the arts, and above all, character. George Washington wrote: There is nothing which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness. Nothing makes me happier as an educator than witnessing student growth and learning.

With thanks to George Washington, we are fortunate that Washington College is a shining example of the importance and value of education in our country and I enjoyed welcoming Amanda, our Middle School English and Language Arts teaching intern from Washington College, this week. Last year we had a wonderful Washington College senior as a Kindergarten intern. Melanie was beloved by our students and enjoyed teaching young learners to read. She is currently working on her master’s and plans a career in Early Childhood education in independent schools. I hope she will contact me first when she receives her degree.

As I begin this Happy New Year! at Kent School, I am so honored and humbled to be a part of the Kent School and the Chestertown community. I BELIEVE it will be a JOYful year. And, I am so happy not to be new!

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s. 

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