On the Road to Kindness – A Fall Welcome to Our Families from Supriya

Reentry to school or work after vacation often brings new vision and fresh perspective. The down time of summer revitalizes adults and children alike. Greeting the youngsters on Day One is one of my favorite moments of the school year. Students return with taller bodies, longer or shorter hair, huge smiles (sometimes with new front teeth) and jump off the bus looking for faces both familiar and new at the bus stop. Teachers and students alike share vacation stories with a glint of excitement as they articulate some of their summer experiences.

My husband and I spent much of July camping in the mountains along the west coast from northern California to Washington. We hit a record of 15 days camping out along beautiful headwater rivers and falls. There are so many reasons to be outdoors in the wilderness areas, but one of the strongest take away messages for me is the majesty and enormity of nature. I was reminded that life is so much bigger than my mere existence and that continually pulls me out of myself to see myself in a new light. The alpine lupines that blanket the Mt. Rainier glacier landscape have a short bloom cycle and the insects buzz in those few weeks, pollinating and reproducing while they can. So much of nature goes on unnoticed, as it should, for each species’ preservation. We, as humans, catch a glimpse now and then, and marvel at the beauty of natural world and the ecology of life which enlarges our appreciation of our own existence.

An enlightening moment (besides a Paul McCartney concert in Seattle) was an article from the New York Times featuring George Saunders' convocation speech for Syracuse University’s 2013 graduates. When it was first sent to me I thought, “oh boy, another grad speech by a famous person.” However, this touched me differently once I got to the part about kindness. The first and main class rule in my days as an elementary teacher was, “Be Kind.” Mr. Saunders analyzes kindness in a whole new way that instinctively feels true. For those of you who would like to read the whole article, the link is http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/george-saunderss-advice-to-graduates/   A few key points that stood out for me are excerpted below (though I encourage reading the whole article for Mr. Saunders' great storytelling).

On Kindness “So let me just say this. There are ways. You already know that because, in your life, there have been High Kindness periods and Low Kindness periods, and you know what inclined you toward the former and away from the latter. Education is good; immersing ourselves in a work of art: good; prayer is good; meditation’s good; a frank talk with a dear friend;  establishing ourselves in some kind of spiritual tradition – recognizing that there have been countless really smart people before us who have asked these same questions and left behind answers for us.

Because kindness, it turns out, is hard – it starts out all rainbows and puppy dogs, and expands to include…well, everything.”

One thing in our favor:  some of this “becoming kinder” happens naturally, with age. It might be a simple matter of attrition:  as we get older, we come to see how useless it is to be selfish – how illogical, really. We come to love other people and are thereby counter-instructed in our own centrality. We get our butts kicked by real life, and people come to our defense, and help us, and we learn that we’re not separate, and don’t want to be. We see people near and dear to us dropping away, and are gradually convinced that maybe we too will drop away (someday, a long time from now). Most people, as they age, become less selfish and more loving. I think this is true. The great Syracuse poet, Hayden Carruth, said, in a poem written near the end of his life, that he was “mostly Love, now.”

And so, a prediction, and my heartfelt wish for you: as you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love. YOU will gradually be replaced by LOVE.  If you have kids, that will be a huge moment in your process of self-diminishment. You really won’t care what happens to YOU, as long as they benefit. That’s one reason your parents are so proud and happy today. One of their fondest dreams has come true: you have accomplished something difficult and tangible that has enlarged you as a person and will make your life better, from here on in, forever.

On Success “When young, we’re anxious – understandably – to find out if we’ve got what it takes. Can we succeed?  Can we build a viable life for ourselves?  But you – in particular you, of this generation – may have noticed a certain cyclical quality to ambition. You do well in high-school, in hopes of getting into a good college, so you can do well in the good college, in the hopes of getting a good job, so you can do well in the good job so you can….

And this is actually O.K. If we’re going to become kinder, that process has to include taking ourselves seriously – as doers, as accomplishers, as dreamers. We have to do that, to be our best selves.

Still, accomplishment is unreliable. “Succeeding,” whatever that might mean to you, is hard, and the need to do so constantly renews itself (success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it), and there’s the very real danger that “succeeding” will take up your whole life, while the big questions go untended.”

So having seen some really big mountains, my goal for the year is to take the “Be Kind” rule seriously and practice it with myself, with others, and prioritize the parts of my life that inspire and support me to model and practice kindness with students, knowing we need patience, understanding and lots of room for forgiveness as we journey through life together.

We look forward to seeing you soon; below are a few calendar dates and updates. We have two Community Events coming in October to help raise funding for the gym. Prabha Pacey and Friends' Musical Benefit Concert at PCC on October 19th and the MMS Golf Tournament (details being planned)

August 29, 6:00-7:30pm, Overnight Field Trip Program Overview @ the Courtside Bldg, for parents of grades 3, 4, 5

September 3, First day of school (except new preschoolers)

September 9, New preschoolers’ first day of school

September 11, County fair field trip for grades 2, 3, 4

September 25, 6:30-8:00pm Elementary Back-to-School Night @ classrooms (childcare by advanced reservation for grades 3 and up.)

September 28-29, Taste of Morgan Hill community outreach event (Parents are needed to staff a booth for MMS. If you are available for a two hour shift, please contact Pamela Blunden in the Advancement Office, ext 235)

Staffing Updates:
Please join us in welcoming Micha Scott as our new dance teacher for grades 1-5. Micha was became a professional dancer at age 18, joining the Garth Fagan Dance company. More recently she has choreographed for the Magic Apple Afterschool program and Mountain Elementary School. She is a dance instructor and artistic director for the Tannery World Dance and Cultural Center, and teaches modern dance at Dancenter in Soquel. Micha is also a guest lecturer in the UCSC Theater Arts Department’s “Introduction to Modern Dance”; and at Santa Clara University. Her previous experience includes lecturing at State University of New York, Brockport, and working on “Modern Dance 2.”

Micha is excited to work with MMS students – and we are so pleased to have such an accomplished dancer and choreographer join our staff!

Facilities Updates:
Much facilities maintenance is completed over the summer and the key improvements this year include: the preschool deck replacement, Courtside door, floor and window repair to the fourth grade classroom, and tenting the Courtside and Farmhouse annex for termites.

We hope you enjoy the rest of your summertime. Our Faculty Retreat begins August 19 in preparation for the new school year. Our curriculum focus for the Lower School this year is sharing, exploring and updating our reading and language arts program.

In kindness and peace,


Supriya McDonald, Head of the Lower School
August 2013

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