My Summer Reading List by Nancy Mugele

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We made it! If you are a student or an educator, pat yourself on the back for making it through another academic year. Summer has arrived for the Kent School employee group with our 50th Graduation celebration and last day with students on June 6. Last week on Chestertown’s First Friday, the School was closed for our first Summer Friday. For the Administrative team who works throughout the summer months to prepare for the upcoming academic year, Fridays off from mid-June to the end of August are a wonderful gift to help recharge and rejuvenate. And, while this past week we were all on campus for closing meetings, today truly marks the official start of summer for us.

Last week’s First Friday was the first one in a long time where there was no rain! I admit I am a fair weather First Friday reveler, so I was really happy to see the sun last week. Jim and I started our outing at Dunkin’ where it just so happened to be National Donut Day. I truly enjoyed my complimentary chocolate glazed donut. I did, however, regret my 5:00 p.m. coffee choice much later in the night, but that is another story.

A leisurely stroll down High Street brought us into RiverArts exhibits, the beautiful 100-year-old Chesapeake Bank and Trust building, and the Garfield to name a few. We got sidetracked talking with lots of friends and never made it down Cross Street to visit several of our favorite shops. As a result, I also missed out on Lockbriar Farms ice cream – next time!

For me, the best part of the summer is not the fresh produce at the Farmer’s Market, Chester River crabs, or the grilled dinners outside on the porch, although all of those make summer so much fun! For me, the best part of the summer is so much time for reading – in fact, one whole extra day! Those of you who know me, know that I always say “Books are your Friends” – a mantra from my mother, a First Grade teacher. But, also a belief I have internalized for myself and my loved ones. Like it or not, I always give my children one meaningful book for Christmas. I also share my love of reading with students at Kent School where I read aloud weekly in Little School, Kindergarten and First Grade.

Reading boosts your intelligence, makes you a more empathetic human and can help you relax. Reading is magical – for yourself or for those listening to you read aloud. Reading takes you places that life cannot. Author Anne Lamott wrote in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life:

For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.

This pretty much sums it up for me. If you are looking for me on a summer Friday, check the porch. There is a stack of books there waiting. My summer reading list to-date includes, in no particular order:

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep, an Eastern Shore author.

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell, soon to be a film about Roland Park Country School alumna Virginia Hall.

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

WOLFPACK: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game by Abby Wambach

Hacking School Discipline: 9 Ways to Create a Culture of Empathy and Responsibility Using Restorative Justice by Nathan Maynard

Middle School Matters: The 10 Key Skills Kids Need to Thrive in Middle School and Beyond–and How Parents Can Help by Phyllis L. Fagell who will join us at the Garfield on October 16, so please mark the date.

And, of course, Mary Oliver’s Devotions, which never leaves my stack.

Happy Summer Friday!

Tea Party by Nancy Mugele

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Come along inside….

We’ll see if tea and buns can make the world a better place.

The Wind in the Willows

One of my favorite children’s novels, The Wind in the Willows, by British author Kenneth Grahame, depicts the adventures of Mole, Rat, Toad, and Badger in the English countryside. What began as a series of bedtime stories for his son, became a beloved classic illustrating the importance of friendship. Afternoon tea and fireside chats also play a role in this book, as might be expected coming from a Brit. Yet, the simplicity of a cup of tea, alone or shared with a friend, is healing in so many ways.

According to Chinese legend, the history of tea dates to 2737 BC when the Emperor Shen Nong, ruler and scientist, accidentally discovered tea (peets.com). It is believed that tea was brought to India, today’s largest producer of tea, by the silk caravans that traveled from China to Europe centuries ago, and it was first brought to Britain in the early 17th Century by the East India Company. The first tea shop was opened in 1717 by Thomas Twining and the rest is history.

Tea is the world’s most widely consumed beverage and it is no surprise why. My allergies have been horrible these past two weeks and there is only one thing that soothes my throat, and becalms my soul, Evergrain Bread Company’s lavender tea latte, fondly named London Fog. I am obsessed with this satisfying brew, and its ironic name always makes me smile when I order it. Ironic only because our beloved town has a bit of a love hate relationship with the British.

Fake news or not, the Chestertown Tea Party is a local legend and a source of great civic pride. Claimed to have taken place in May 1774 as a response to the British Tea Act, Chestertown tradition is that, like the more famous Boston Tea Party, colonial patriots boarded the brigantine Geddes and threw its cargo of tea into the Chester River (Wikipedia). The event is celebrated each Memorial Day weekend with a festival and historic reenactment aboard the Schooner Sultana. Kent School is a proud sponsor of the Chestertown Tea Party Festival and our 5th Graders, dressed in Colonial garb, rode into town on a float in the parade and proceeded to recite the Declaration of Independence at the reviewing stand. I was so proud. Their efforts were rewarded with a First Place win for parade floats!

My Boston family does not believe that a second Tea Party happened anywhere else, but I most certainly do now that I am a Chestertown resident! I love that a Tea Party, one of my most favorite childhood activities, is part of my heritage and now also my present! Both of my Boston grandmothers collected bone china teacups. (My grandmothers lived across the street from each other, making it awkward to visit only one, but that is another story.) They each had a vast collection of unmatched floral-themed cups and saucers which I have inherited. Too delicate to use, I love looking at their dainty shapes, pretty designs, and vibrant colors in my china cabinet.

In Jim’s family sweet southern iced tea is the drink of choice, a drink he discovered while in college in North Carolina. It is also a favorite in our house. Jim has a secret recipe given to him by the mother of a friend when he lived with them during his baseball career in the Carolina League. The tea is super sweet, too sweet for me, but all of my children are obsessed with it! Jenna visited for Tea Party last weekend and immediately upon arrival opened the refrigerator to pour herself a tall glass.

On Mondays, when Evergrain is closed, I have to make my own tea. Thank goodness for Lockbriar Farms Clover or Blueberry Honey to sweeten my cup to perfection. Or, I could also go to Afternoon Tea at our Pre-Revolutionary War landmark, the White Swan Tavern. So many beau-tea-ful choices.

And, to the owner of the aptly named Tea Time docked at the new Chestertown Marina during Tea Party weekend – well done.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of the Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, a member of the Board of Chesapeake Charities, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

In  the Garden by Nancy Mugele

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I don’t have the patience for formal gardening. Don’t tell my friend, Baltimore writer Kathy Hudson, who, among other things, writes a regular feature about beautiful gardens for Style magazine. Kathy and her friend, Penney Hubbard, who In 1969 began to create a garden at her home north of Baltimore which became recognized as one of the finest in Maryland, penned a gorgeous book about the Hubbard garden. I highly recommend On Walnut Hill for transporting us into the garden, through stunning photography and text detailing its beauty in each of the four seasons.

I recently read a post by one of the editors of Well-Schooled, a site for educator storytelling, which I am honored to write for. In her reflection “In the Garden,” Ari Pinkus states: I imagine education as a diverse garden culture where we are the stewards.  This metaphor fits Webster’s definition of a garden as a “rich well-cultivated region,” and its definition of culture as “the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.

I love the imagery of education as a garden, planting seeds of learning in our students which we cultivate over time. Teachers, responsible for the care and feeding of their seedlings, transmit knowledge to generations of learners who blossom in vivid color before our eyes.

My Kent School colleague Tricia Cammerzell, is an accomplished poet who writes when she says she has “a quiet mind.” I recently read her poem “In the Garden,” inspired by her own garden and the memories she has of her father working in his garden – transferring his knowledge to her. Gardening and muscle memory combined in a poignant tribute.

These three in the garden reflections have been on my mind for the past two weeks, especially as Kent School’s unparalleled environment for learning is blooming with spring color seemingly overnight. I stopped into The Mill at Kingstown this week to add herbs and flowering plants to my porch. Mother’s Day weekend always signals to me the start of hanging basket and flowering pot season – that is another story, but I am now finally gardening. Well, that is if you can call watering porch plants, gardening.

In addition to the order of potted plants and herbs on my porch, I prefer an impressionist landscape, complete with the messy mix of untamed native plants and grasses growing wildly in unexpected places outside of the porch. I love wildflowers constantly in bloom, untimed, unordered and unburdened by boundaries. This less formal nature culture is also a metaphor for education which values creativity, perseverance, resilience, and grit.

Whether a formal garden or potted plants on the porch are your ideal, this quote from Sitting Bull sums it all up so eloquently.

Behold, my friends, the spring is come;

the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun,

and we shall soon see the results of their love!

Wishing you love in the garden this spring.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of the Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, a member of the Board of Chesapeake Charities, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

Poems, People and Leading Your Life by Nancy Mugele

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We all need to read a romance novel once in a while, and I have just read Jill Santopolo’s More Than Words. What I picked up to read quickly last week, at the suggestion of my sister-in-law Tracy, ended up making me think about the journey of life and love for far longer than it took me to read the book.

One of the main characters says something profound early in the book that made me pause and reflect on my family and friends. “I think of people like poems,” he said. “Maybe someone’s a haiku, or a villanelle, or a cinquain, a sonnet – our length and form are predestined, but our content isn’t. And each form has its own challenges, its own difficulties, and its own beauty.”

Or, are poems like people as author Benjamin Alire Sáenz suggested in Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. “Poems are like people. Some people you got right off the bat. Some people you just didn’t get – and never would get.”

So true, that there are people you will never understand. And, then, there are those who you understand perfectly. Don’t tell Jim and my children, but I am going to describe them in poetry today with love. But, I better start with myself, so they will not be mad.

Although William Shakespeare made Sonnets famous, the word “sonetto” is actually Italian for “a little sound or song.” This 14 line form has held the heart of poets for centuries, especially one of my favorites, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I think this may be the metaphor for me – Italian, filled with love, a little dramatic, and a bit lyrical.

Jim is definitely Prose Poetry. Although that might seem to be contradictory, prose poems maintain a poetic quality although they appear to be written as prose. I think this describes Jim well. He is straightforward, a person of incredible integrity, and one who always tries to do the right thing. He also likes to talk, tell stories and be social. But, lest he be prose alone, he also has a soft, sensitive poetic side.

Jenna is Haiku. This form of traditional Japanese poetry follows a specific syllable pattern.

It contains three lines, with a total of 17 syllables. Haikus are usually about nature. Jenna is numbers-oriented, ordered, and matter-of-fact, and very serious about her career which is moving upward quickly. She is also our traveller who believes deeply in experiences. And, when I see her trip photographs she always manages to capture nature’s beauty.

Kelsy is a Narrative poem, and thank goodness she is. A narrative poem tells the story of an event in the form of a poem. Kelsy is the family news source, always filling us in on her puppy, her boyfriend, her job, her sister, her brother, her cousins, her lacrosse team and her friends – not necessarily in that order. She also knows everything and anything about pop culture, and can accurately answer any tv, movie or music question you have.

And James, well that one is the easiest – Free Verse – because these poems do not follow any rules. Their style is completely up to the writer. James is living his best life in Montana where he just started his own fly fishing guide business, living his life his way.

In addition to making me think about people as poems, More Than Words focuses on the eternal question – are you leading the life you were meant to lead? (Granted the heroine is involved in a love triangle, not a career choice, but that is another story.)

I decided I wanted to be a Head of School at The Head’s Network Leadership Seminar for Women fifteen years ago. Last weekend I had the honor and privilege to return to this seminar as a member of the faculty. 54 women from across the country who aspire to be school heads converged at The Agnes Irwin School in Rosemont, PA for a weekend retreat led by ten female Heads of School. For me, this was a full-circle event in my life, and I feel truly blessed to have been a part of this special weekend. Women uplifting women, and mentoring them along the way. I now have five mentees from schools in OH, PA and TX. I will be asking them in the months to come, are you leading the life you were meant to lead?

I am so fortunate to be leading the life I was meant to lead here in Chestertown, while serving Kent School. I wish the same for my children as they navigate life and love.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of the Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, a member of the Board of Chesapeake Charities, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

Signs of Spring by Nancy Mugele

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Last Saturday at Kent School we offered a free Egg Dyeing event for the greater community in advance of Easter Weekend. The turnout was wonderful as moms and dads decided to leave the mess with us, and took home beautifully decorated eggs. Along with the traditional cups of dye and lots of bright paint, our inventive Little School teachers created bags of food-coloring-infused uncooked rice which served as a shaker for eggs. I had as much fun as the children shaking my egg, like a chicken leg in a Shake ‘N Bake bag, and the resulting speckled shells were simply surprising! A great morning was had by all.

Dyeing eggs was my least favorite “mom” activity to do with my children (with the exception of helping them learn how to drive a car, but that is another story). I did not like the mess, or the dye soaked into my fingertips for days. Somehow a cup of the dye always spilled, soaking the newspapers we had carefully spread, and dripping dye on the table surface and the floor.

As Easter approaches each year, people around the world make hardboiled eggs and dye them brilliant colors. Did you ever wonder why? There may be many reasons, some religious, but at the heart to me, eggs are symbolic of rebirth and new life, making them a meaningful part of the celebration of springtime.

In my childhood, we dyed eggs each year and ate them at Easter Brunch. The first time I had Easter with Jim’s family, I admired the beautifully dyed eggs on the tablescape. As I reached for a hardboiled egg and proceeded to crack and peel it, the entire table froze and no one said a word. One of Jim’s sister’s finally asked what I was doing. I said “eating my egg.” Jim’s family was completely stunned. Apparently, eating the dyed eggs was not a universal tradition!

And, then there are those colored plastic eggs. Not as pretty as real ones, but definitely happy, especially when they are filled with candy and treats. Yes – we held Easter Egg Hunts annually. Truth be told we only stopped doing them last year when the participants became more and more scarce! I can attest though that adult children are very competitive when it comes to finding the golden egg! Amazon gift cards replaced the huge chocolate bunny years ago and created the cousin’s egg hunt wars.

One of our Kent School families brought me a dozen eggs this week from their chickens. Some of the eggshells were a brownish blue. I have never seen blue chicken eggs before, although I have seen pale blue robin’s eggs. Nature is truly amazing.

Jim and I are anxiously awaiting the sight of eggs in our osprey nest signaling success for our birds of prey who are, at the moment, very busy “nesting.” For the past two years, the osprey couple has not been rewarded with nestlings. Or, should I say, we have not seen any fledglings. Crossing our fingers the third spring’s a charm. The nest is looking quite sturdy, large and homey. You can be sure we will celebrate if baby ospreys should appear.

Happy Spring!

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

Going Forward at Fifty by Nancy Mugele

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I have heard it said that life can only be understood by looking back; even as it must be lived going forward. Well, for Kent School that is exactly what we will be doing on this 50th Anniversary Weekend as we celebrate our golden milestone and imagine our future.
Today we are holding a Golf Tournament at the Chester River Yacht and Country Club spearheaded by my fellow Spy columnist and Kent School Trustee, Jamie Kirkpatrick. I am offering my gratitude publicly although I know he would never want that. But, when you have a column to write it is always fun to give shout-outs. I would also like to thank all of the local businesses that are supporting our weekend events. Our greater Chestertown community is amazing and we are so very grateful for the generous spirit that abounds.
Tomorrow evening we will be holding a Gala celebration event at Brittland Estates. Fifty years is an incredible milestone in the history of any independent school and I am very proud to be the one holding the School in trust at this moment in the School’s history. I will salute all of the School’s founders for their vision to create a school, and all of the Trustees, School Heads, faculty and administration who have built Kent School’s foundation, and who sustain it now.
Kent School is not the same school it was 50 years ago, or even 10 years ago. Schools need to grow and develop just as our students need to do the same. As a school, we are committed to continue to build an inclusive and diverse student body. Today, we know much more about how students learn and think, and our knowledge in mind, brain, and education science informs pedagogy and our understanding of best practices in education. We are proud to be the only PK – Grade 8 school in Maryland, and now also globally, using research-informed teaching strategies in our classrooms with our partner the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning.
Last year we joined 180 independent schools in Harvard University’s Making Caring Common initiative to teach kindness, empathy and leadership and we celebrated Global Character Day this past fall with schools from around the world.
We are a dedicated Maryland Green School and we continue to refine and enhance our nationally recognized Chesapeake Bay Studies program expanding it to encompass all grades from Preschool through 8th Grade, working with wonderful partners like: Washington College and its Center for Society and the Environment, Sultana Education Foundation, Echo Hill Outdoor School, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and the National Aquarium.
I am so pleased that the Horizons academic program to reduce summer slide returned to Kent School last summer, and along with the YMCA of Greater Chesapeake, our campus is now filled with joy all year round. The future of Kent School is very bright.
I just read Mary Saner’s new book What Else You Got? Freelancing in Radio. In her piece about Chestertown, she writes fondly about what drew her and her husband Buzz, a former Kent School board president, to the town. I could relate. It did not take long for Jim and me to be drawn to the friendly, welcoming character of Chestertown, and it is no wonder we felt that same warm and welcoming feeling the minute we both stepped onto the Kent School campus. Kent School truly is school – the way school was meant to be.
Kent School offers an unparalleled environment for learning on the Chester River just outside of historic Chestertown. Our students are challenged by a relevant and rigorous curriculum, enhanced by visual and performing arts, athletics and outdoor education. Character, friendship, and kindness are essential elements of our program, and we celebrate, appreciate, and preserve childhood.
Do come visit us if you have never been, and find out how you can become a part of our next 50 years!
Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, a member of the Board of Chesapeake Charities, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

The Artists’ Gallery Features Nancy R. Thomas in “Dreamscapes”

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For the month of April, The Artists’ Gallery will feature “Dreamscapes” by Nancy R. Thomas.  After many years of painting from life, it was the desire of the artist to paint a series based on inspiration from the mind’s eye. The result was “Dreamscapes,” a collection of conceptual landscapes inspired by past observation and experience. This series done in the studio, reflects her love for the rural landscape and waterways surrounding her home in Ridgely, MD.  In production of the show Thomas drew loosely on past plein air works in oil and a process called Clay Monoprinting.   Clay Monoprints are original pieces, hand pulled from a leather hard slab of clay. The medium is pure pigment and kaolin mixed with water. The artist starts with a concept, but from there the method is very intuitive and develops with the application of layers, giving a three dimensional look to the finished work. It is a method developed by Mitch Lyons, with whom Thomas studied.

“Moonlit,” oil, 24×18 by Nancy R. Thomas

Thomas became a Partner with The Artists’ Gallery in 2010.  She is a juried member of the Baltimore Watercolor Society and the Working Artist Forum of Easton (past President) and an associate member of Oil Painters of America. She participates in many regional plein air festivals, the Local Color Show and the Oxford Fine Arts Festival. In 2018 Thomas was juried into Plein Air Easton, the premier plein air festival in the country.  One of her exhibition pieces, “Kingston Landing View,” was purchased for a permanent collection of agricultural related paintings being assembled by an agricultural committee. Upon completion, the collection will become a touring show.

The opening reception for “Dreamscapes” is First Friday, April 5th from 5 to 8 pm.  Come and meet the artist! The Artists’ Gallery is located at 239 High Street in Chestertown and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m -5 p.m. and Sundays from 12:30-4:30 p.m.  For more information about The Artists’ Gallery, please visit www.theartistsgalleryctown.comwww.facebook.com/6goodpainters or call the gallery at 410-778-2425.

Dressing Barbie by Nancy Mugele

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Some of my fondest childhood memories include Barbie. I know that is not something you might expect to hear from a self-proclaimed feminist, but it is true. Barbie celebrated 60 years on March 9 and I recently read Dressing Barbie by Carol Spencer. The author designed thousands of outfits for Barbie over her 35 year career at Mattel. In a perfect coincidence, last week when I flew to Florida to meet with Kent School alumni over spring break, I read an article on the 86-year-old Spencer in People magazine (my favorite airplane reading material, but that is another story).

The iconic (and sometimes controversial) Barbie doll was invented by Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel with her husband Elliott, whose daughter was named Barbara. Barbie was introduced as a teenage fashion model in 1959 at the American Toy Fair in New York City. Barbie originally came as a blonde or brunette, and I had the brunette version as a young girl. I loved my Barbie doll collection, but, most importantly, I loved her clothes. Barbie always dressed in the most current and exciting fashions of the day, and because it took two years for a design to become available in stores, Carol Spencer always had to be forward-thinking. Girls would certainly know if Barbie’s clothes were dated and out of fashion.

I was most definitely inspired by the fashions Barbie was sold with, but I had a secret weapon. My Nana. She was a seamstress by trade who specialized in creating custom bridal dresses in the 1960s and 1970s. She had a huge basement workshop in her home in Boston which served as her sewing room, complete with a large cutting table that my grandfather made for her of knotty pine. She had several sewing machines that were operated by foot pedals, and spools and spools of vibrantly colored thread hanging neatly in rows. I loved her sewing room and spent long hours watching her meticulous work. I witnessed many bridal party fittings, and was so proud of my grandmother’s handiwork. She was a designer and a perfectionist.

When Nana began to outfit my Barbies I knew I was the luckiest girl around. She made dresses, coats, skirts and slacks for my Barbie in the latest fabrics and fashions. Sometimes she made me and my Barbie matching outfits! My friends may have had more Barbie accessories – like the car, boat and dreamhouse, but I had the most clothes by far! When I saw the title of Carol Spencer’s book, Dressing Barbie, I immediately thought of my Nana in her sewing room. She dressed Barbie for many years as well.

Barbie does get a bad rap sometimes, especially as it relates to body image, with her height and her busty, small-waisted build – not to mention her feet, pre-formed to fit into high heels. Spencer realized the times had changed by the 90s and she wrote: I don’t think she was so out of proportion – people don’t understand doll scale. And, she’s a doll!

Spencer helped create many different career Barbies over the years and is proud of her work. She wrote: During the women’s movement all of us designers belonged to the National Organization for Women, but we didn’t flaunt it. It was this quiet goal to start promoting women. I wanted more choices for Barbie. I wanted more choices for myself.

Today, an estimated 100 Barbies are sold per minute. My favorite, and Mattel’s best-selling Barbie, was the Totally Hair Barbie sold in the 1990s. She wore a Pucci-esque mini dress designed by Spencer. Hair drama and high fashion in one doll.

Happy 60th Birthday, Barbie. Thank you, Carol Spencer, for your vision and fashion sense. And thank you, Nana, for making my Barbies the best-dressed dolls anywhere!

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, a member of the Board of Chesapeake Charities, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

Learning to Lead by Nancy Mugele

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“If we want people to fully show up, to bring their whole selves including their unarmored, whole hearts—so that we can innovate, solve problems, and serve people—we have to be vigilant about creating a culture in which people feel safe, seen, heard, and respected.” — Brené Brown, Dare to Lead

I am a huge Brené Brown fan. From the moment I first heard her speak two years ago at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) annual conference, I have been hooked. Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston where she holds the Huffington Foundation Brené Brown Endowed Chair of the Graduate College of Social Work, is the author of five #1 New York Times Best Sellers, and I have internalized all five. She has studied courage, vulnerability, and empathy for two decades and she shares it with an easy comfort.

At NAIS, she described earning her worst evaluations from students after a hurricane devastated Houston and she felt the university reopened too soon. Brown “was her worst self,” as she put it, because of “how I was showing up.” It was a powerful reminder that, as leaders and educators, we cannot bring our own personal issues into our work. This takes courage. And courage’s foundation is vulnerability. “We’re not wired for vulnerability but it is the birthplace of love, belonging, and joy,” Brown said. She closed with gratitude for the educators in the room. “Ten years from now in an interview, they will bring you up,” she said. “They’ll say they didn’t believe in themselves, and you changed that.”

In September 2017 I devoured Brown’s Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. I wrote about it to parents of Kent School students and also in this column. “True belonging,” she wrote, “ is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”

I love the book and quoted it a lot last academic year, as I constantly told students that I BELIEVEd in them and that they should BELIEVE in themselves. (My word for last academic year was BELIEVE, but that is another story.) Kelsy must have missed the column because she gave me the book as a Christmas gift two months ago. I was deeply touched. She selected the thoughtful gift because she knows I admire Brown and that I would really appreciate the topic. She does not know that now I have two copies – one at home and one in my office. Seems to be a pattern with books that inspire me!

When Brown’s latest, Dare to Lead, was published this past October, I did not immediately purchase it. I thought it might have a business bent because of its description: Daring Greatly and Rising Strong at Work. But, lately, I have been thinking a lot about leadership, developing emerging leaders in the Kent School employee group and developing leadership in students. Why are some people compelled to lead? Are leaders born? Or, are they taught?

During DEARS (Drop Everything And Read Silently) at Kent School I have just finished Dare to Lead, based on Brown’s twenty years of research, and the past three years specifically conducted with leaders, change makers and culture shifters. The book is a must-read for business leaders, and educators.

In her book she claims that true leaders are people who hold themselves accountable for recognising the potential in people and ideas, and developing that potential. The more I thought about this, the more I realized that this is exactly what teachers do each and every day. Teachers dare to lead their classrooms and their students with empathy, courage and love. Teachers create a safe classroom culture where each student is heard, valued and respected. Teachers teach students how to lead with kindness and offer many opportunities for students to grow and shine.

Next week I will have the privilege to connect with several Kent School alumni in NYC and in Florida. All are entrepreneurs and leaders in business. I am looking forward to asking them what Kent School means to them and how the School prepared them for life.

I firmly believe that if we educate the minds, and also the hearts, of our students we will prepare them to be daring leaders who will possess the courage and empathy needed to lead lives of purpose in the global community beyond Kent School. I have watched several of our Student Government Association representatives learning to lead this year, and I am in awe.

Leadership can, and should, be learned.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, a member of the Board of Chesapeake Charities, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

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