Peggy Procter's Blog
Choosing the Right SchoolPosted by Peggy Procter on 2/22/2019
As I reflect back on my own search to find the right school home for my daughter, I am reminded of both the anxiety and the beauty of the process. I think of our prospective parents and of our Echo Horizon parents who are considering middle schools, and the questions they are asking. Do we have enough information to make this decision? What will it be like to go to x school? How well will our precious child do at x school? None of these questions are fully answerable, as the future is unknown and who and how your child will react to any situation is impossible to predict. As parents, all we can do is our best—ask good questions, explore our options carefully, and ultimately to trust our instincts that we know what is best for our family in this particular moment. As G. F. Bradenberg, teacher and blogger, stated in a Washington Post article to parents seeking schools for their children, “Nobody is a better expert than you are.”
The anxiety: My daughter walked into her interview and visit day pretty overwhelmed. She picked a fight with her dad right outside the building, and proceeded to share her negative vibes and energy with—yes—the Director of Admission. When my husband told me I was horrified, and thought about what a terrible parent I was, as clearly, it was my fault that she was being bratty. How had I not prepared her? Why hadn’t I fed her a better breakfast? Luckily, she did recover and was able to show her positive self during the visit. The Admission Director reassured me that acting out is developmentally appropriate and normal during this process. Phew.
The beauty: The decision about which school to select is an opportunity to focus on what your family values and what type of environment you feel your child and you, as parents/guardians, will thrive in. Selecting a school helped me to hone in on a few key beliefs: that kindness matters, that diversity and inclusion matter, and that curiosity and scholarship matter. I wanted a school that would welcome all of the questions and wonder that my little girl has in her head. I wanted a school that saw her for exactly who she was in that moment and that could honor that person despite deficiencies and missteps. I wanted a place that valued community and that would challenge my daughter and my family to broaden our perspective and teach us more about the world and other people’s stories. I wanted a place where joyful learning was at the center of it all; a place whose graduates are confident, curious, and kind students. I encourage you all to take the time to reflect on your own family and what matters most to you, as matching your values to an institution’s values is so important.
In closing, I want to share with you some wisdom from an article in The Atlantic by Gail Cornwall. She states how important it is for parents to consider a wide array of factors when considering a school. She suggests that parents search for “better information—information on things like the relationships between teachers and students, how students interact with each other, and the degree to which students are engaged and happy to be there.” At Echo Horizon, we believe in academic excellence in a diverse and balanced environment, where all faculty and staff care deeply for children and where students and families are seen, heard, and valued. For our prospective parents: If our mission matches your values, we truly hope you’ll join us for a journey of Joyful Engaged Learning. And please, don’t hesitate to reach out to me or any member of my Admission or Leadership Team if you have any questions or just want to talk more with someone about this process and our school. We want what you want—the best school/home fit for you and your child and family.
1 Jay Matthews, “9 ways to pick a great school for your child,” the Washington Post, February 16, 2012.
2 Gail Cornwall, “Why Parents Make Flawed Choices About Their Kids’ Schooling,” The Atlantic, October 18, 2017.
On Loss, Love, and KindnessPosted by Peggy Procter on 12/11/2018
On October 24 in Catalina, after a long and beautiful day of kayaking, hiking, and enjoying our fifth graders’ company, I stared at a glorious California full moon. I wasn’t sure why, but that moon felt magical, meaningful, and important. As I looked up at the gorgeous moon, little did I know that my mother-in-law, Elaine Johnston, was at that exact moment making her journey from life to death. When I learned of her passing, I felt sad that I hadn’t been with John by her side at her home. But that thought was fleeting because I knew in my heart that I was exactly where she would want me to be: by the side of her youngest granddaughter and the 29 other beautiful fifth-grade children that I consider mine on their journey of growth and exploration.
Elaine was one of the kindest people I have ever known. She was deeply religious—her faith guided who she was and everything that she did. In my fourteen years of knowing her, she was always gracious and welcoming, thoughtful and sweet. Honestly, she never once raised her voice, not even when her precious son was being difficult. I certainly can’t say the same! Born in Chicago in 1923, she was the first in her family to go to college. She taught math to high school students until she married Thomas Johnston and went on to have and raise five children. John was the only boy and the youngest by many years, so Sidney was her late-in-life gift, the seventh and final grandchild, whom she loved with all her heart. She and Sidney spent many lovely days at her home by the San Francisco Bay, reading books, playing piano and dominoes, and feeding peanuts to the blue jays who frequented her rose-filled patio. The two things she valued most were her family and her church and thankfully, she spent her final days surrounded by family and the parishioners of St. Hilary’s Church. The priest who spoke at her service shared a story of a unique gift Elaine had sent to him last Christmas—a big box of Omaha steaks—and a card that wished him to enjoy this gift in the company of loved ones.
As the world around us gets more chaotic, more unkind, and less tolerant, I will think often of my mother-in-law and channel her spirit of gentle kindness. In the words of Mother Teresa, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless.” Elaine has affected me in endless ways and I hope to honor her memory through simple acts of love and kindness.
In loss one seeks community—a space of safety and warmth where one is surrounded by people who care. There is no better place to be at a time of sadness and grief than surrounded by the children of Echo Horizon, who like Elaine, make the world a better place through their joy and kindness. I see little glimpses of Elaine in all of their smiling faces. I will never forget returning to work on the Monday after the service to find a card in my box from a kindergartener, who likely knew nothing of my loss. It read, “Ms. Procter, Thank you for working so hard. You are so good at being Head of School!” Later that week, a third grader appeared in my office with a little gift, a lovely blue crayon she had made in the Makerspace engraved with my name and that of Echo Horizon. These simple acts have gotten me through sad days and help remind me to cherish and honor this gift of life. I am so grateful to our Echo Horizon children who continually lift me up and remind me of what it means to love and be loved! Please accept my heartfelt gratitude for all that you do to make Echo Horizon so beautiful and kind. Wishing you and your family much love, joy, and kindness this holiday season!
Heroes Come In All SizesPosted by Peggy Procter on 10/17/2018
As adults, we speak of the importance of facing and overcoming difficulties as integral to growth and the development of character. Yet, we do what we can to avoid difficulty and struggle for ourselves and those around us. I have lived a happy and healthy life and done my best to embrace the obstacles that came my way—but boy, have I worked hard to avoid as many of them as possible. With age, I have gotten stronger and better at handling adversity and failure, but the path to openness and acceptance of struggle has not been one that I easily embraced.
About fifteen months ago, as I began my journey as Head of School at Echo Horizon, I met a vivacious rising first grader who was full of life and excitement to join our school. I learned that she had been out of school for quite some time while she battled cancer. Her hair had grown back when I met her and she looked so sturdy that I had trouble believing that she was sick. Her courageous parents knew that it was going to be hard for her to enter a new community and handle the demands of transitioning back to full-day school. But in their hearts, they knew she was ready and they knew she was strong enough to take on the challenges ahead.
It wasn’t easy. There were good days and bad days. Days when she didn’t want to leave her parents’ arms, knowing it would be easier to curl up at home. Days when she felt nauseous and weak. Days when her legs ached as she tried to keep up with her classmates as they walked the long hallways. Days when she sat on the bench as her friends played on the structures at the park. Recently, I thought to myself, “Did I ever doubt her parents’ decision to tackle school again?” I wish I could say no, but at times I ached as I watched her struggle and wished that she might be back at home, safe on the couch with a good book and her favorite doll. But her parents knew that she could do it, as they had watched her battle this disease valiantly for years. And deep down, she also knew that nothing could stop her from succeeding.
Elysa and her parents embraced the struggle of her return to school. She returned to learn, and equally important, she returned to teach. She teaches us how to stand strong in the face of adversity and how to push forward through pain. She teaches us how to sit on the sidelines gracefully when she doesn’t have the strength and when to call it quits on days when she just needs to head home. As I learned through the wise words of research professor and bestselling author Brené Brown, “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” Many of us won’t even show up if we don’t feel 100 percent, but Elysa keeps showing up day after day with full knowledge that she might have to call it quits in front of her peers and teachers. Some days, she shows up at school with braces or a scooter to make it from class to class. Showing vulnerability and struggle is as brave as showing strength.
And last but not least, Elysa also teaches us to savor life’s simple things, even in the face of the unknown. She stands by her Dodgers in good times and bad, loves drawing pictures for her friends, and enjoys afternoons at the park. Her sunny disposition and positive outlook make our community a happier place.
Dear Elysa, we are overjoyed that your treatments are coming to an end and your good days of strength will be more and more frequent. You have fought so hard and taught us so much and no one deserves a respite from it all more than you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all that you have shared and given to our beautiful community during your battle with cancer. While the cancer may be gone at last, the lessons you have taught us will live in our hearts and minds forever.
“Life will throw all kinds of obstacles our way. It is our job to scramble over them and hunt for the little miracles tucked away, then leave some reminders for the people that follow behind us.”
Click here to view a video of Elysa's journey, set to a song that her dad wrote!
Creating Cultures of ThinkingPosted by Peggy Procter on 8/31/2018
Dear Echo Horizon Community,
I can’t believe that our new school year is off and running! While the adults had a lovely summer in our quiet building planning, preparing, reflecting, and researching, we truly missed the joy and laughter of our young scholars and their awesome parents/guardians.
This summer was filled with deep thinking about our students’ education. The majority of our faculty attended professional growth conferences and workshops in innovative pedagogy, equity and inclusion, social-emotional learning, and curriculum development. The entire team engaged in an important summer read, Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools by Ron Ritchhart, Senior Research Associate with Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Ritchhart’s book is about transforming schools and classrooms into amazing learning communities through the active and intentional shaping of school culture. In the introduction, he states that “As educators, parents, and citizens, we must settle for nothing less than environments that bring out the best in people, take learning to the next level, allow for great discoveries, and propel the individual and the group into a lifetime of learning. This is something all teachers want and all students deserve.” Ritchhart calls for us to move away from the view of “. . . teaching as transmission and toward the creation of a culture of thinking and learning in which curriculum comes alive.” The eight forces of transformation include:
Each chapter focuses on one of these forces and gives us an in-depth analysis of its importance and the strategies that educators can use in their classrooms and schools to make thinking a priority.
We had the good fortune to have Mr. Ritchhart come to campus in August to engage with us for a full-day workshop focused on exploring the book more deeply and discussing and practicing the strategies he proposes. Mr. Ritchhart opened the session with a powerful quote, one that we struggle to accept but all know to be true: “Any lesson sinks or floats based on the culture of the classroom.” How often I have spent hours crafting a beautifully structured lesson, only to see it fall short as I had not yet built the necessary trust in my classroom! How often I have observed a classroom teacher with all the credentials and training in the world fall flat with a lesson because the teacher failed to find relevance and connection with the students! How often have I seen a brilliant mathematician fail to motivate a group of students because of an inability to engage them in the thinking and learning process? Thinking and learning are, of course, an intellectual pursuit, but we must not fail to see them also as a social endeavor.
What I love most about Echo Horizon is the fact that each and every faculty and staff member is wholeheartedly committed to the pursuit of a culture of thinking where we partner intellectually and emotionally with our students to learn, discover, question, and marvel at the world around us. Lev Vygotsky, an early 20th-century developmental psychologist who created a theory of child development that focused on the influence of culture on a child’s growth and development, said in his seminal work on the zones of proximal development that “Children grow into the intellectual life of those around them.” We are dedicated to ensuring that Echo Horizon is a vibrant intellectual learning community where children are surrounded by peers and adults who challenge and inspire them to reach their fullest potential as they grow their minds and hearts. We are so excited to partner with you—parents and guardians—this year and in years to come to surround our Hawk scholars with a meaningful intellectual and social environment in which to grow, thrive, and connect.
Awe, wonderment, and delight…Posted by Peggy Procter on 7/16/2018 1:30:00 AM
I recently returned from a lovely twelve days in the Pacific Northwest, which included the San Juan Islands, Seattle, and the Olympic Peninsula. As I sat quietly in my hotel room in Philadelphia, reflecting on both my travels and on the first day of the UPenn Character Lab conference, a realization about my vacation came to me: The simple moments of awe and wonderment brought me the most joy. Dan Heath, bestselling co-author of Switch and Made to Stick, spoke to us today about his most recent book, The Power of Moments. His research and insights on how moments matter and have the power to change us inspired this “aha” moment of reflection. I’d love to share with you my three most memorable moments of awe and wonderment from the Olympic Peninsula.
The first occurred in the beautiful Canadian waters off the San Juan Islands. My biggest dream for this trip was to see orcas in the wild. For the first few days, I kept saying to John and Sidney, “Find me an orca!” (I sensed they were a bit fatigued by this broken record.) Sadly, due to the recent decline in the salmon population, which is their primary source of food, orcas are struggling to survive. About an hour into a boat trip, the ship took a sharp turn and sped up— had the captain seen or heard of something? And then, there they were, a group of about seven or eight orcas frolicking in the cool waters surrounding our boat! It was hard to know where to look first and I didn’t want to miss even a single glimpse. I was overwhelmed and overjoyed by the magic of the moment and honored to be in the presence of such beauty. I will never forget this gift.
A second moment of awe and wonderment occurred at Chihuly Garden and Glass, a museum in Seattle. A friend recommended that I visit this fabulous place, and I admit to knowing very little about the artist, the renowned Pacific Northwest glassblower Dale Chihuly. From the moment I stepped into the first exhibition room, I was blown away (no pun intended!). Chihuly himself states, “I want people to be overwhelmed with light and color in some way that they’ve never experienced.” This was certainly the case for me. Each unique room held vibrant pieces in strong colors that took my breath away. Chihuly succeeded in creating indescribable moments of awe and wonderment for me.
A third powerful moment came about during a hike up the cold and dramatic terrain of Olympic National Park at Hurricane Ridge. Bundled in our thick fleeces with rain gear in our packs, we trudged up Hurricane Hill with the wind blowing and clouds threatening, surrounded by peaks of snow. As I glanced down to protect my face from the wind, I was greeted by hundreds of colorful wildflowers. I felt in awe of their strength and beauty. How did they survive in this harsh environment? They were tiny, gentle, and bright in contrast to the commanding peaks of the Olympic range. Awe and wonderment abounded.
In a Huffington Post blog titled, A Sense of Wonder, writer Mary Paleologos reminds us that there is no better way to witness wonder than through observing children. Paleologos states, “A child’s whole world is viewed through the eyes of wonder and excitement. A child has no judgements of why things are so, but rather a child is in awe of life and views life through innocence, purity and curiosity.” She continues, “Their sense of wonder is an innate quality they are born with and navigate through their young life seeing the world with much amazement.” Each and every day at Echo Horizon, I am honored to witness the wonderment of children—as they learn to read, create beautiful art and music for the first time, grow gardens, conduct science experiments, and learn new things from and about their multicultural and diverse friends and teachers.
Socrates said “wonderment is the beginning of wisdom.” We watch our young scholars building their knowledge and growing their wisdom and understanding right in front of us. How lucky we are to spend our days with them! As adults, I’m afraid we risk losing our sense of wonder as our egos, desire for success, and need for control get in the way. This summer trip was a reminder for me to never lose the sense of awe and wonderment that keeps me young, inspired, and grateful. We owe it to our Echo Horizon children to model wonderment and to wonder with them. They inspire us with their natural curiosity and they deserve to be surrounded by curious adults who wonder freely.
Thank you to my Echo Horizon scholars and to the natural world—for continually reminding me of the importance of moments of delight, awe, and wonderment. May you and your families be overjoyed and awed this summer too!
The extraordinary spirit of Team WhelanPosted by Peggy Procter on 5/15/2018
A young man, microphone in hand, addressed a crowd of friends and strangers at the Run For Hope. He thanked us for supporting him during times of struggle, thanked us for giving him strength. All I could think of as I stared at my former student, this strong and articulate once boy turned man, is that he was the one who gave me strength. He was the one who inspired us and made us better. He was the one who deserved thanks. All I had done was to show up. What he had done was truly remarkable.
As I looked around at the crowd surrounding the stage where Nick spoke, I was amazed. Children and adults of all ages, colors, and backgrounds, brought together in sadness and in hope by two beautiful communities and one beautiful family. A family that had loved fiercely and lost tragically, a family that showed grace and resilience in times of sickness and struggle, a family that reminds us of the power and beauty of family, friends, and community.
Thank you, Nick, Will, Victoria, and Pat….
- For giving us the strength to persevere when faced with adversity;
- For reminding us to cherish and treasure our relationships;
- For showing us what true courage and resiience look like;
- For modeling gratitude, kindness, and selflessness;
- For welcoming us into your family.
Victoria and Pat, we miss you and you are in our hearts forever.
Nick and Will, your Echo Horizon family is always here for you, supporting you when you are near and cheering for you when you are far.
We are honored to be part of Team Whelan.
Shaping Our Intellectual CulturePosted by Peggy Procter on 3/6/2018
Shaping our intellectual culture by Peggy Procter
Last week, Meg Baltazar and I had the pleasure of spending three days on the rugged Monterey coast at the Art of Coaching conference led by educator, author and expert Elena Aguilar. The key themes of the conference included building high performance teams, creating learning organizations, and culturally responsive teaching. All of the workshops and keynotes were quite relevant to the work we are tackling this year at Echo Horizon and we returned to campus energized to share what we learned and to continue this important work!
One of our keynote speakers opened her talk with a simple and powerful quotation by psychologist Lev Vygotsky - “Children will grow into the intellectual life of those around them.” Throughout the year, I have been listening and observing and engaging with the community in order to best understand and to continue to shape our Echo Horizon school culture. As I think specifically about our intellectual culture, a comment by a parent member of our Strategic Planning committee comes to mind. As we grappled with the types of students we seek and we graduate, she described them as “thinkers”. I wholeheartedly agree. So, reflecting on this comment and this powerful quotation, I wish to ponder the question “How might we ensure that we are creating a rich intellectual learning environment at Echo Horizon that encourages every child to reach his/her/their fullest potential as a scholar and lifelong learner?” I believe that this goal is one that we as educators and parents must strive for. It starts with honoring the innate curiosity in every child who, the research shows, at age five asks “Why?” over 150 times a day. First and foremost, we must embrace these whys and never get frustrated by our children’s incessant questioning. Then, we must help them to explore and problem solve their whys, guiding them to figure things out on their own. Embracing the whys also requires us to be nimble and flexible in our classrooms, studios, and makerspaces by taking the time to follow our children’s curiosity and wonder with them. Questions like “Why can’t humans live on Mars?”, “How do bees make honey?”, and “Why do some people struggle to be kind?” are phenomenal opportunities to explore together the complex world around us. If the adults in our community are continually modeling lifelong learning and curiosity, it will trickle down and positively impact our children. If the adults are taking risks, asking good questions, reading books, and exploring the world around us too, we are modeling important skills and habits of mind that our students will emulate.
I can’t wait for my next Pre-K and K recess where I might spend time building a shelter for a beautiful caterpillar that our students may find or digging in the sandbox and wondering why the deeper wet sand is better for building a mountain than the dry sand on top? I can’t wait for the next chance to make slime with my daughter and her friends to experiment with which materials work better – shaving cream or contact solution - to get the slime to the perfect texture and stickiness. I can’t wait for the next time a group of students appears at my office to discuss with me their proposal for ways to improve respectful interactions on the playground. Or my next chance to hang out in the Makerspace as the kids create, build, and iterate. I look forward to my next conversation with 6th graders about what they are studying in science class – I learned so much last month about the arguments for and against GMO’s in a casual conversation in the hallway with two of our elder scholars.
It is imperative that we create environments where our children are surrounded by meaningful inquiry and dialogue, by constant exploration and discovery, by frequent opportunities to build and create, and by chances to explore and understand the similarities and differences that exist amongst us. They may be small, but their brains and minds are buzzing with wild and creative thoughts and ideas and questions that must be pondered. We are honored to play a significant role in building your children’s vibrant intellectual life and look forward to working in partnership to continually strengthen our dynamic culture of thinking and learning.
Reflections on the Holiday SeasonPosted by Peggy Procter on 12/18/2017
A few days ago, my daughter asked me about Judaism, curious to understand more about the religion and culture. We spoke for a while and we even took the opportunity to speak with a friend’s mom who is Jewish to learn more. Shortly thereafter, my daughter said something lovely. “Mom, one of the things I like most about Judaism is that their holidays are more about family and love and food and being together, and less about presents.” This is just one example of the types of conversation I’ve had and the thoughtful comments I’ve heard from my daughter over the last few months since she began attending Echo Horizon. This is what Echo Horizon is all about - inspiring our children to be curious and ask questions and to engage with and learn from people of differing backgrounds; helping our children to be empathetic and compassionate and to think about others; encouraging them to see difference as beauty. This is what drew me to Echo Horizon last fall during the search process and this is the reason I am so grateful to be a part of this magical place.
Experiencing Winter Program for the first time was breathtaking. It is a beautiful representation of our values and our spirit, the same things that my daughter is embracing in her first year at Echo Horizon. It was a gift to watch our sixth graders lead confidently while also taking such good care of our younger students. It was a gift to experience the brilliance and supportiveness of our entire faculty and staff as they collaborated, under the tremendous leadership of our arts team, to put on a fabulous show. It was a gift to not spend one minute worrying about the set-up and food knowing that Mayra and her team and Josh and Lisa and their team of volunteers were organized and willing to do whatever was needed for a beautiful experience. And it was the icing on the cake to see all of our students shine on stage, displaying their talent, enthusiasm, hard work, focus, and willingness to take risks. The final song, The Wish, brought tears to my eyes as I watched our students and our graduates, arms around one other, connected in love and in song by their Echo Horizon bond.
As 2017 comes to an end and with 2018 just around the corner, I send my final blog post filled with deep gratitude and awe. You amaze me Echo Horizon. Thank you for sharing your joy and love with me and my family these first few months - my heart is full as I head off for a much needed “long winter’s nap”.
PS - I humbly share with you my poetic toast - not sure it will read as well without the laughter and cheers and chatter of our beloved students in the background!
‘Twas the night before vacation
By your poetically challenged Head of School with a little help from Clement Clarke Moore
‘Twas the night before vacation and all through Echo Horizon School
Faculty and students reminisced about how these first months had been so cool.
Our great faculty was busy crafting the final lessons of the year
In hope that their kiddos would leave with a cheer.
The students were nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of kind teachers danced in their heads
The school year began with a new Head and a heat wave
Postponing Popsicles in the Park certainly wasn’t our fave
Then came Burger Truck, Pinwheels for Peace and a pep rally with the Hawk
Doing the Cha Cha slide together, not even Dr. Patterson did balk
Birthday celebrations were a blast with yummy treats and best wishes
The Around the World Picnic in the park with extravagant international dishes
A Points of Pride ceremony focused us on kindness and trust
Re-committing to these ideals was definitely a must
New Spirit gear arrived and off the racks it quickly flew
People purchasing both the vintage and the brand spanking new
We donned our beautiful new Echo gear on our Friday spirit days
Our sixth grade leaders inspired us to show Hawk pride in creative ways
Taking care of our neighborhood at the cleanup at Ballona Creek
Lots of garbage, cigarette butts, and even an old microwave we did seek
All School picnic was loads of fun with yummy fried chicken and desserts so sweet
Joyful to bring the community together despite the unrelenting heat
When Halloween preparations began there arose such a clatter,
That the Leadership Team appeared to see what was the matter.
A petition from fifth grade requested costumes be worn
After much deliberation, a new tradition was born
Faculty appreciation snacks at meetings filled our bellies and our hearts
Who knew the parents would spoil us with finger sandwiches and apple tarts
We sent kids off on amazing adventures to Catalina and to Pali
Where they snorkeled, hiked and learned about the geology of Cali
Grandparents and Special friends day arrived with a trivia game so fun
We learned so much about our school’s history by the time that it was done
We learned about inclusivity and each other led by the one and only Roger
He kept us motivated and inspired despite a loss by our dear Team Dodger
This evening is Winter Program bringing us holiday music and cheer
Vacation is just around the corner and the start of a brand new year
It’s hard to believe it’s December 14th and we’ve made it this far
Our amazing faculty inspiring each student to reach for a star
What good times we have had what great memories we share
It’s been incredible to see how much each one of you does care
Peggy sprung to the stage, to the whole community gave a shout
Let’s get these vacations started, before the students begin to pout
And we heard her exclaim as she flew out of sight
Happy Holidays to all and to all a good night.
The Power of GratitudePosted by Peggy Procter on 11/14/2017
I often feel overwhelmed as holiday decorations appear while I’m still unwrapping my favorite pieces of Sidney’s Halloween candy. Our culture often seems obsessed with the accumulation of stuff, and it feels more intense as the holidays approach. That is why, as November comes and the weather cools and darkness comes earlier, I try to remind myself of what this month and the next are truly all about - giving thanks. It is time to turn our energies towards preparing our annual celebrations where our actions and conversations can turn towards community gratitude and the unique opportunity to share our time, voices, love, and good fortune with others.
Gratitude is a word that we hear more often as the holiday season ramps up. As the author Melody Beattie states, “Gratitude can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend”. In the simplest of ways it is sharing small moments with others that creates a feeling of warmth, comfort, and joy as this quotation suggests. The quality of our exchanges, both in the Echo Horizon community and in the greater community, are at the heart of our gratitude practice. Our fourth graders spending the last few weeks spreading random acts of kindness in their communities, a kindergartener pausing in the hall to ask me how my day is, a second grader dropping canned goods into the Thanksgiving Food Drive bins, a parent sending a teacher a kind email, a student making me a lovely gift in MakerSpace - these are the simple yet profound acts that turn a regular day into a truly joyful one.
There is a growing body of research on the power of gratitude. In Forbes magazine, Amy Morin shares the scientifically proven benefits of gratitude with her readers. These include:
- Gratitude opens the door to more relationships
- Gratitude improves physical health
- Gratitude improves psychological health
- Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression
- Grateful people sleep better
- Gratitude improves self-esteem
- Gratitude increases mental health
Robert Emmons, Ph.D, a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression, something we wish for in ourselves and wish for even more in our children. We must bring as much gratitude into our lives and into our joyful engaged learning community as possible!
It is time to remind ourselves not to underestimate the importance of gratitude and appreciation in our lives. I know that, in the excitement and busyness of everyday life, I sometimes forget to find time for gratitude. I will challenge myself and you, to do as John F. Kennedy challenged us to do: “We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” Take a moment this Thanksgiving holiday to thank a friend, a teacher, a sibling, a neighbor, an employee, even a stranger, for something they did that had a positive impact on your life. Take a moment to meditate or do some mindful breathing and think about the good fortune in your life. Take a moment to appreciate those who came before you who gave you so much.
Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving break and a well-deserved few days of rest, togetherness, and gratitude.
7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude that will Motivate You to Give Thanks Year Round, by Amy Morin, Forbes Magazine, November 23, 2014.
The Importance of GivingPosted by Peggy Procter on 11/2/2017
As you’ve heard from my many family stories, I had a wonderful dad. My dad taught me lots of things that remain with me today and which likely (sorry Sidney!) I will try to pass onto my own child. Aside from teaching me how delicious dog biscuits are and how important sunscreen is (or in the absence of sunscreen, sun cardboard to block the nose), he taught me about the importance of gratitude and giving.
My father was a scrawny child, and he struggled socially in his adolescent years. He was a good athlete, but his small size made it harder and harder to compete as everyone around him got big and tall. At the age of 15, like me, he went off to boarding school. While he excelled academically, he struggled socially. Then, one day, his dorm head, who also happened to be the track and cross country coach, urged him to start running and to join the team. My father had always love baseball and basketball, but these required height and strength, which he still didn’t have. So he decided to go for it, and honestly, his life changed. He worked hard, and found a great deal of success as a runner. And more importantly, he became part of something, a team, where he was accepted and valued for who he was. HIs last two years at Exeter were much better than his first due to the encouragement of a wonderful mentor and coach and the unconditional support of his teammates. Despite all the difficulties, my father never forgot what he gained during his time at Exeter and was always grateful. So, on the day I graduated from Exeter, my father pulled out the Exeter alumni magazine, and proudly showed me his name - *Arthur Wyman Procter, Jr.. I asked him what the asterisk stood for, and that’s when he told me that an asterisk indicates a person who has given to the Annual Fund EVERY year since graduation. He was very clear to me that it was not the amount of the gift that mattered - what mattered was giving whatever you could consistently. What mattered was showing, in small ways, the deep gratitude he felt for the people and the place that had given and taught him so much. I always remembered that lesson, and I have tried in my own small ways, to show gratitude each and every day. Of course, somehow in my busy life, I missed a year so I don’t have an asterisk next to my name in the Exeter Bulletin, but every time I do remember to donate to the Annual Fund, it reminds me of my beautiful dad and I do so with a smile and a generous heart.
In closing, allow me to send a long overdue thank you to you, the Echo Horizon community. Thank you for welcoming me and my family so warmly. Thank you for supporting us in “co-parenting” our daughter. Thank you for sharing with me what you love most about Echo so we can best preserve its beauty. Thank you for your honesty in sharing with me constructive and helpful feedback to improve my own leadership and make Echo Horizon the best it can be. Last, but certainly not least, thank you for simply being good, kind, caring people. It is a gift to share my life with people like you.
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