Giving Thanks by Nancy Mugele

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My favorite day of the year is Thanksgiving. One of the many reasons I love Thanksgiving is because the actual name of the holiday signifies its importance. Amidst the busyness of each day, and the craziness of the world we live in, it is heartwarming and joyful to pause and acknowledge the gratitude we have for the simple pleasures in our lives.

Although the Thanksgiving holiday comes but once a year, I believe that on each and every day we can give thanks for something in our lives that makes us smile, teaches us something and keeps us young.

This week I spent several days at Princeton attending the Head Mistresses of the East annual conference. Despite the name, which makes me think of head witches, I had an inspiring few days focused on values-based leadership in times of seismic change. I am so grateful to have been able to attend. It was wonderful to renew old friendships, share stories, and meet new friends – all like-minded independent school educators who care deeply about how best to prepare students for a world in which the jobs they may hold one day have not yet been invented. In the U.S. there are currently 1.4 million unfilled jobs in the tech sector. Thus, teaching computer science is a must. We also learned from business leaders that we need to help our students learn the soft skills that employers need to find to create effective work teams.

Employers want to hire people with principled values, courage, empathy and resilience. Schools must intentionally help students find their unique human gifts, foster risk taking and failure, while also producing active listeners. The conference affirmed many of the values we teach at Kent School and is helping me frame my thoughts about a true liberal arts education combined with the social and emotional learning needed to work on global teams in the economy of the future.

My daughter and I were just talking about working in teams last weekend. We had a mother-daughter day in Baltimore (don’t tell her Nashville sister). Jenna is part of a team at UnderArmour and loves her job. She is an integral part of a highly functioning team and as an athlete herself, she thrives on the success of her entire team. Being a team member requires good listening skills, negotiating skills, optimism, and creativity to solve complex problems.

Like working or learning on teams, cooking Thanksgiving dinner is a team effort at our house. I love to cook this dinner, but all five of us have a responsibility, and each must do her or his part to ensure the success of our celebration. Jim is the turkey carver, Jenna is the baker, Kelsy enjoys preparing vegetables, and James keeps the day-long fire going in the fireplace. Most importantly for me, we all have to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade together and see Mr. and Mrs. Claus enter Herald Square before we can even begin cooking!

Writer William Arthur Ward wrote: “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” I am truly grateful for every day of teaching and learning at Kent School and my role brings me great joy. I also believe is it so important for a school to instill gratitude and joy in its students.

As I look ahead to Thanksgiving next week, I am filled with gratitude and excitement. I cannot wait to have a full nest and I know our house will be filled with laughter, love, and laundry. I am sure there will be plenty of wine and all of our traditional Thanksgiving foods, and, the best part is, there are no gifts. Thanksgiving comes and goes so quickly but I will savor each and every noisy moment.

Jim and I are deeply grateful for our family, the Kent School community and the Chestertown community. And, as you gather next week to share your harvest dinner with loved ones and friends, I wish for you a day filled with warmth, love and joy – and lots of pumpkin pie!

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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