December 2010 Archives

Friends - some kind words from Matt Bradley, head of school at West Chester Friends:

Resiliency
Emerson Card
My wife, Melinda, gave a card to me about a year ago with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

 

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us."

 

The card sits on my desk and is a helpful reminder that, when faced with even the most difficult decisions, the answers - or at least the road map that leads to those answers - can be found within ourselves.

 

I thought of the Emerson quote again earlier this week when John Scardina was speaking at the PTO meeting about raising resilient children.  In his usual thoughtful and caring way, John acknowledged the natural inclination that many of us have, when our children are faced with challenges, to tell them what to do or to fix the problem for them.  Our actions may be well-intentioned.  After all, we want our children to be happy, don't we? However, our taking care of problems for them can actually have the opposite effect in the long-run, keeping our children from developing the resiliency and skills needed to handle difficult decisions as adults.

 

So, what should we parents do?  John's advice for raising resilient children has been published twice, first back in February by examiner.com.  The December issue of Good Housekeeping magazine includes John's "Resilience Rules" which can be found on his blog.

 

Helping students develop resiliency and problem solving skills is something our teachers do every day.  At this fall's Back to School Night I had the pleasure of sitting in T. Claire's room as the parent of a fourth grader, listening to her speak about the importance of resiliency and describing how her routines and expectations serve to cultivate it in her students.  I wasn't watching the clock, but I believe Claire spent more time speaking about building this and other life skills than she did about math and reading - and that was just fine with me.

 

When I first came to West Chester Friends School ten years ago, one of the primary draws for me was the quality of the faculty and the strength of the academic program they create.  Experiencing the school as a parent, as I have for the past six years, my appreciation continues to grow for the ways that our teachers nurture "what lies within."  

Living Mindfully in the Light

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We are approaching the winter solstice - a time of dwindling daylight and long, cold nights. No wonder our religious holidays invoke images of light at this time of year: we all need some illumination and enlightenment.

 

Quakers speak of the Inner Light. George Fox, a founder of the Religious Society of Friends (which used to also be called the Children of the Light), asked us to speak to that of God in every person - yes, Quakers believe that God lives in each of us! Indeed, the Divine Spark may be most evident in our children - especially when we witness their sense of awe in these coming holidays - yet it can also thrive in us over our entire lifespan.

 

A Friends school is an institution that nurtures this spark, however fragile it may be in times of challenge and worry. Meeting for Worship becomes a sanctuary, a respite from the bustle of the day, and maybe a place to rekindle the flame of our being. That flame may take many forms for our students - a passion for soccer, a love of the violin, a gift for poetry, or a gentle spirit helping others - yet it can also be nurtured and fed in times of mindful worship with our community.

 

I believe that all of us benefit from the spiritual discipline of mindfulness as a way to renew that Inner Light and refresh our souls. Whatever your parenting and work demands might be, there can always be time for mindfulness: a yoga session - alone or with others; breathing exercises while sitting in traffic; a moment of silent grace before eating; a time for quiet reflection and (perhaps) an inspirational reading in the morning. Maybe this can be a resolution to carry over in to the New Year: spend some time being mindful every day.

 

Mindfulness practice is free, takes up as little or as much time and space as we choose, and is available to us all the time. May we find ways to live mindfully in the Light as we approach this season of winter and celebrate life with our loved ones.

 

In peace,

Teacher John 

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