November 1, 2016


Dear Members of the Kent School Community,

Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.

These poignant words written by R. J. Palacio in Wonder resonate deeply with me as they echo the tenets central to a Kent School education - Integrity, Respect, Responsibility and Friendship. Modeling, teaching and helping our students embrace these important qualities will no doubt lead them to greatness here at Kent School and beyond our walls. This fall the entire Middle School is reading Wonder . R. J. Palacio describes her debut novel as "a meditation on kindness." It is the hopeful story of Auggie Pullman who has Treacher Collins syndrome - a rare medical facial deformity which is the result of genetics and an illness. The book follows his path from the safety and comfort of being home schooled to the difficulties of adjusting to life in middle school. Bullied and left out, Auggie perseveres and ultimately finds friends and learns to appreciate who he is.

Middle School is a rollercoaster as students embark on a sometimes winding journey to discover their true selves. No one wants to stand out, yet it is sometimes in the "standing out" that students are appreciated for who they truly are.

On December 6, Middle School students and faculty will welcome Vermont educator Sam Drazin for an afternoon assembly. Born with Treacher Collins syndrome, he had seven reconstructive surgeries by the time he was 18 - five of them at the age of five. Two years ago, when Wonder was published, Sam created the nonprofit Changing Perspectives to provide curriculum for disability awareness. Sam will share his story and compare it to Auggie's account in Wonder . To prepare for his visit the Middle School will be discussing kindness and friendship in Advisory and will hold an all Middle School meeting to discuss the book once each grade has completed its reading. I urge you to read the book if you have not done so already. Wonder is clearly one of the best books ever written for Middle School readers on many levels. Sam is the friend of Pat Parkhurst, Art teacher, and we are delighted that he will also deliver an evening lecture open to our entire School community and to the public. Please mark your calendar. Details to follow.

Under the leadership of Pat Parkhurst and the Student Government Association we will be holding an Empty Bowls event on campus on November 11 to benefit the Kent County Food Pantry. Empty Bowls is an international project to fight hunger, personalized by artists and art organizations on a community level. Each Kent School student handcrafted a unique and beautiful ceramic bowl for this effort. Please join us for soup and for $10 you can select a ceramic bowl to take home. You may also reserve your son's or daughter's bowl. 3rd Grader Keely Bakker described it best, " Take part in art that comes from the heart."

I also need to share some additional revisions to the Middle School schedule which will take effect on November 7. The schedule has been a work in progress and while we value the longer classes and the rotation there are two areas that need to be addressed. One is Science and the other is 7th Grade Math which is divided into two sections. As a result of needing additional time once a cycle to complete lab experiments in Science across all four grades and to offer each 7th Grade Math section an additional class we need to move the arts classes back to the 35 minute class periods that we have had in the past. I assure you that this is not compromising our extraordinary visual art, music and physical education programs. We will continue to review the Middle School schedule keeping the best interests of our students at the forefront as research tells us when we give them more time to process information, they learn better.

I am proud to share that Christine Betley, Middle School Math teacher, who is attending the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics annual conference this week, has been working closely this fall with the Math Department Chair at St. Andrew's School. SAS recently adopted a problem solving based math curriculum and Christine is learning from them about their successes and challenges as well as making sure our program expertly prepares our students for secondary school. In addition, in coordination with Stevenson University, she is holding professional development workshops with the Upper School math faculty at two area AIMS schools - St. James School in Hagerstown and St. Paul's School in Baltimore - both are changing their curriculum and sequencing and are interested in learning about Christine's teaching methods. Collaborative projects like measuring my tire pressure to determine the weight of my car is just one example of this great 21st Century approach to teaching and learning math at Kent School.

In the Lower School this fall we have experienced one of the best monarch butterfly hatchings in recent history.  Lower School students in every class have released adults into the School garden.   In one day students located nine caterpillars which were brought indoors to observe their metamorphosis.  We are excited to have hatched and released over thirty adult monarchs for their journey to the mountains of Mexico - more than twice what was released last year or the year before!

In the past month I have continued my weekly read-aloud in Kindergarten - where I also learned some Halloween songs; played Math Facts Hockey in First Grade; joined the Second Grade as they searched for bird nest "ingredients" and designed their own bird nests; celebrated Ancient Greece with 3rd Grade, (complete with a toga!) and had lunch twice with Fourth Grade - once while they were writing their books with our Kudner Leyon Visiting Writers Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr. The Lower School is noisy, busy and JOYful and I cannot help smiling each time I walk down its hallway!

In our Little School, two new students joined us in October and Stacy Denny has joined our team of teachers on a part time basis. The Little School is vibrant, full of energy and full of fun and I get to witness it firsthand each week when I read to our 3- and 4-year-olds. I absolutely loved watching our very youngest students parade by my office in their Halloween costumes yesterday!

Just as you know JOY is my favorite word, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I look forward to celebrating with my family as we begin a new tradition this year in Chestertown. As you gather with your family and friends in a few weeks, I wish for you a JOYful harvest feast surrounded by the warmth of your loved ones. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nancy Mugele
Head of School


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