IMAGINE by Nancy Mugele

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Labor Day Weekend, made a day longer by the preceding Friday, my final summer holiday and Jim’s birthday, was a fabulous whirlwind four days of food, family,  friends and fun. Kelsy flew in from Nashville and Sara, her college roommate and one of her closest friends from Ocean City, joined us. Jenna drove over from the Western Shore, braving the holiday traffic, so that we could all enjoy a crab feast from Chester River Seafood. My friend Emily, who is an incredible baker, made the strawberry layer cake that marked the occasion of Jim’s birth, and we toasted with some treats from the Chester River Wine and Cheese Co. and Pip’s.

James could not make it back on a very busy fly fishing weekend in Montana but he called Jim for his birthday with a story that touched our hearts. A few days before James had taught an older gentleman named Walt how to cast a fly rod on land and then took him out on the water. The conditions on the river the day they ventured out were not great for a veteran angler, let alone a beginner. It was windy and the water was rough. Walt was having trouble maneuvering in the water and as James grabbed his arm to steady him, Walt informed James that he had stage four cancer and had just had chemo on his leg, so that was why he was having trouble with his footing. It was a bucket list item for Walt to catch a fish on a fly. His friends had told him that was one wish he would never achieve, because it takes years to learn to fly fish. Yet, with James at his side, the man was able to cast on his own, and he caught his very first fish on a fly – a beautiful rainbow trout. He hugged James after he caught his fish, and again as he released his fish, and they took several photographs. James knows that he will never see Walt again, but the interaction touched his heart forever.

Connections to family, friends, and sometimes strangers, give purpose and meaning to our lives, often in ways we can’t even imagine. On Sunday, my nephew Matt, his wife and their three young children, visited from Minnesota. They have a new baby daughter and it was my first time meeting her. I snagged the first cuddle after her afternoon nap and I am still smiling as I think about our visit. Our niece, Amanda, arrived from Boston and we celebrated the closeness of family and the gifts of love and friendship that we so dearly treasure. There was also a little of the old familiar button-pushing amongst cousins, yet it felt as magical as Christmas Eve (which is definitely another story).

As our festive holiday weekend drew to a close I began to prep for the opening of the academic year at Kent School. For me and my fellow educators, September is our January. So, Happy New Year! The promise of a new academic year brings clean slates, new challenges, resolutions – and all of the same excitement of January. September in schools is a time when anything, and everything, is possible.

I have always wondered why we sing Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Eve. The Scottish song written by poet Robert Burns in 1788 means “times gone by.” With all due respect to my Scottish friends, I believe that at the very start of the New Year, or on the First Day of School, we should be singing about the times yet to come. This month at Kent School we will do both. The 2018 – 2019 academic year marks the 50th Anniversary of Kent School. We will gather on September 28 at an All School Convocation where we will honor our past, and the visionary individuals who built the solid foundation on which we stand today, as we also celebrate our bright future. 50 golden years is a huge milestone! I hope you will join us at some of our events!

Kent School is also my family. I thought about each and every student during Labor Day Weekend with fondness and was excited to welcome them back to school on Tuesday. It was a really wonderful week on our campus as friends reconnected and new relationships were forged. Kindness is at the heart of the Kent School experience past, present and future. This year we will continue our work with Character Counts!, Harvard University’s Making Caring Common initiative and also spend time learning about disability awareness with Changing Perspectives. Building empathetic and kind leaders is at the core of our mission and I am inspired each and every day by the work going on in our classrooms.

I have chosen the word IMAGINE as the theme for this academic year and our learning community will spend time to IMAGINE what Kent School can be in its next 50 years.  Pablo Picasso, the Spanish painter, sculptor, poet and playwright, said:

Everything you can IMAGINE is real.

Indeed.

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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