Dear Parents,

Joy. It’s a word I use often, and a central theme of this school year. As you have no doubt heard me share with our community, happiness is central to our work with students. Though it may seem obvious, we can sometimes lose sight of happiness in our day-to-day activities. Today at the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) conference, I had the opportunity to hear from Amy Blankson, a neuroscience researcher and author in the field of positive psychology who reaffirmed the idea that happiness is a critical lever for productivity, satisfaction, and success. 

I share this because in our work with children and adults, the attitude we bring matters. Our brain is constantly bombarded with information, and how we choose to process that information also matters. If we actively seek to understand information through the lens of positivity, we can actually rewire our default settings that oftentimes direct us to things we find stressful, rather than joyful. Helping our children reframe information positively can lead to much greater outcomes for them in the future. In fact, there is a growing body of research that shows that happiness actually leads to healthier and longer lives in individuals. 

Our work together is enriched when we build meaningful connections between one another, rooted in positivity. I encourage you to think about how you can work with your children at home to build what Amy Blankson describes as, “constellations of positive habits”— i.e. chances to reinforce the good and positive in each of our days. Think about incorporating journaling as part of your nightly routine with your children to give you and your family a chance to reflect on the things for which you are grateful; encourage your children to think of something different each night. Come up with “conscious acts of kindness,” where you and your family do something thoughtful for another person each day.

Community, and caring about others, is one of the hallmarks of our school. However, community is not something that sustains itself. Rather, it has to be nurtured and cultivated through conscious behaviors that seek to include everyone. As I visited our fifth and sixth grade students at Nature’s Classroom yesterday, and saw the beautiful way in which they played together as a community, I was reminded how fundamental it is to create spaces for that kind of learning. 

Wishing you all a beautiful weekend,