Head's Corner, March 5, 2013

March 05, 2013

Greetings CMS Families,

I trust that you had a terrific weekend.  My hope for you is that your weekend was better than terrific.  Instead I hope that is was amazing! Amazing weekends typically come around like true friends, once every blue moon. My idea of an amazing weekend includes being challenged intellectually; being inspired to soar to greater heights; listening to music that dwells deeply in my soul, causing me to dance as if my life depended on it; pleasing my palate by devouring delectable cuisine that leaves me clamoring for more; and feeling like I can make a difference in the universe through my actions. A true friend is someone who challenges you to be your best, encourages you during good and bad times, feeds your soul with love, hope and courage, and thinks that you are the bread to the butter or the jelly to the roll, and that despite what anyone else thinks, that your “stuff” does not stink!

Just like true friends, amazing weekends far exceed your expectations.  They bring you joy when you need it most and they give you that inoculation that makes you feel as if you can conquer all of your fears and accomplish all of your dreams beyond the Monday morning blues.  That’s what makes them so special.  They are rare.  Priceless. When my family moved to Norwood when I was just three years old we were one of two African American families that lived in the town.  We lived on one side of town and the other family lived on the other side of town.  We never saw them because we were in different school districts.  My siblings and I quickly acclimated to our new environment and became just like everyone else, “townies.” 

Although I loved my friends and teachers, I used to secretly pray every school year that God would bring me a black friend.  Judy Blume had nothing on me.  “Are you there God, It’s me Margaret” soon became “Are you there God, It’s me Ingrid—please send me a black friend.”  I prayed for ten years (yes since Kindergarten) that I would have someone that I could share tips about rocking my corn rows or going to the beauty salon where I would spend all day getting my hair “pressed.”  I wanted to talk about my musical interests, the Jackson 5, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Marvin Gay, Donna Summers and everybody else that my family jammed to in the privacy of our home and while in the car listening to my dad’s 8 track every single Friday as we drove back to the city for those weekend inoculations of friendship. 

My circle of friends consisted of people who were Irish, Italian, Polish, Catholic and Jewish--but no one just like me.  By the time I got to tenth grade I decided to give up praying for a black friend because it wasn’t going to happen. I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to wait until college to fill that void.  The first day of tenth grade I sauntered into the auditorium ready to begin another school year.  My hair was pressed, my clothes were starched and I was ready to make the best of my sophomore year. Only this time, there was a speck of chocolate sprinkled amongst all of the vanilla that filled the room. I immediately rushed over to the girl who looked like me and was rocking the black version of the Farrah Fawcett look.  We called ours the Christy Love “do” which was named after a character in a police show in the 70s.  The rest was history.  Crystal Lynnette Sewell became the true friend that I prayed for all of those years.  Today she is still my best friend.  I’ve made more true friends since but it’s rare.

When I was in sixth grade, I attended overnight camp for one week with twelve girls from my Girl Scout troop.  It was a defining moment in my life.  It was the first time that I felt connected with that many girls, none of who on the surface were like me. We bonded with our Troop leader who was very inspirational and believed in us.  She made us feel like we could do anything if we really tried.  We set up tents and campfires, made our own food, toasted marshmallows and made smores, challenged each other to do difficult tasks like the ropes course and climbing a mountain.  We baked fresh bread, learned to sew, canoed, picked cranberries from the bog and made fresh cranberry sauce.  We had a talent show where we reenacted the hit movie Grease.  We really thought we were Sandy, Danny, Rizzo and Kenickie.   It was the first time that I can remember laughing so hard that I cried for what seemed like hours.  I had so much fun I didn’t want the week to end.  It was truly amazing and a pivotal moment in my life.

This past weekend was also truly amazing.  I attended the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Conference.  NAIS is a U.S. based membership organization for private, non-profit, day and boarding schools enrolling students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Their mission is to be the national voice of independent schools and the center for collective action on their behalf.   Founded in 1963, NAIS celebrated its 50th anniversary!  Sound familiar?  The theme was Revolutionary Traditions, Think Big, Think Great--and baby, was it great!! NAIS went all out.  They challenged Independent School leaders to evolve, to challenge, inspire and prepare students for an open-ended future.  Outgoing President Pat Bassett has been a champion for the organization for the past 12 years.   He has been an inspiration to thousands of school leaders. I am a huge fan!

Bassett is an artist who often uses filmmaking as a tool to convey his message.  It was no surprise that NAIS would pay tribute to him creatively.  Bassett was introduced to the sea of educators by emerging from the Philadelphia Convention Center stage with the Star Wars theme.  The lights dimmed and there were stars flashing across three large screens.  As he was rose from a stage that was beneath the audience, the theme song played loudly in the background.  He walked on stage with such confidence and set the tone for the conference.  He encouraged us to become revolutionaries.  His words and mere presence had a profound affect on me.  Powerful.  Great.  Inspirational.  Mr. Bassett then introduced one of my favorite authors, Jim Collins, whose books include “Good to Great,” “Great By Choice” and “Built to Last.”  Collins made his grand entrance to the stage with AC/DC playing in the background.  As the music blasted, Collins strolled on stage and reminded us how important it is for us to take our schools from good to great by making good choices about people and being disciplined.  He too reminded us that the future of education lies within independent schools.  No fear. 

Then Sekou Andrews, a school teacher turned national poetry slam champion--who has become the world’s leading voice for a cutting edge category of speaking that combines story telling and inspiration--came out on stage to some funky beats that got the crowd rocking.  Sekou has performed for President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Oprah and Maya Angelou.  He has opened for Carlos Santana, Jay Z, Maroon 5 and the Pasadena Pops Orchestra. He reminded us of the changing demographics in the United States and how we need to meet learners where they are.  He made us think about ways we can value different learning styles and differences in general. His poetry was thought provoking and inspiring.  His poetic justice was the “perfect beat over a tight lyric.” On the last day of the conference, Terenai Trent, Human Rights activist, discussed how she turned oppression into opportunities.  She is one of Oprah’s favorite guests.  She passionately shared her journey from an African village to earning her doctorate.  She connected with the President and CEO of Heifer International who proudly impacted her life by helping her not only to dream but also to make her dreams come true. Dr. Trent discussed the importance of education and how it transforms lives.  The NAIS Conference was like an educational concert that filled my soul and left me clamoring for more from start to finish.

Their messages were quite clear.  If we continue to do things the way that they have always been done, we will get the same results.  However, if we value our traditions and combine them with thinking and dreaming big, we will prepare our students for the future.   It will take a modern day revolution.  We will need to be bold like those in the American Revolution, Civil Rights Era, Tiananman Square, Eastern Europe and all of us immersed in the trenches.  Revolutionaries are dreamers.  But revolution is dangerous and hard. We need to be both. I left the conference feeling like I gained both a true friend and an amazing weekend.  My cup was completely filled.  Actually my cup was running over.  The Beatles sang beautifully about a revolution.  I love that song.  I don’t know about you, but I am ready for a revolution!  Are you?

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know that you can count me out
Don't you know it's gonna be all right
All right, all right

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We'd all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We're doing what we can
But when you want money 
For people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait
Don't you know it's gonna be all right
All right, all right


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