September Letter from the Assistant Headmaster
September 16, 2019
Dear Parents and Guardians,
The first days of school are some of the most exciting, and most stressful, of the year. I intentionally use the word stressful because I want to separate that word from the word traumatic. Trauma is necessarily bad. Stress is potentially helpful in learning and in the growth and development of our students. We intend to stress your children as learning and stress often are inherently intertwined, and helping students engage productively with stress is a goal for us every year. At the opening faculty meeting, Headmaster MacMullen shared that a top priority must be our work in helping students become more resilient and capable as they encounter stress. He cited two authors and their research, and I will talk about one, Kelly McGonigal , here. 
If we think of stress as something good, we help ourselves and our children develop greater capacity to benefit from stress. I say benefit because two things can/do happen when we are stressed. One thing that happens is that our body produces cortisol — the stress hormone. It prompts our body to do things like raise our heart and respiratory rates and other responses to stress. These things are preparation for what is to come, getting us ready to successfully navigate this challenging moment. The more the individual views this as a positive, the more likely the person is going to better navigate a moment of stress. 
The other component of stress produces oxytocin. This hormone is the one that causes us to all feel connected and together in navigating this stressful moment. This is central to helping us build community and connect on solving shared and significant problems. Stress helps to release this hormone, prompting people to look for support and connect to others. It builds the community necessary to solve challenging and significant problems.  
Your child will be facing some stress at several points during their time at Taft. For some students (and for some parents), the transition to Taft is a stressful moment. Taft, however, is designed to help your child benefit from stress. We are a tightly knit community where we are working to connect with each other to navigate the challenges of growing adolescents. We need to care for each other in navigating stress and some might argue that Horace Taft had this in mind when he selected our school motto: not to be served, but to serve. We need to think of stress as helpful and, in the words of researcher and author Kelly McGonigal , “when you think of the stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage.” 
We do our best to help stress serve positive educational ends in this way. We communicate regularly with our students that: 
  1. You are part of this group — we are leveraging oxytocin 
  2. This group is special; we have high standards here — we have difficult and stressful problems to solve 
  3. I believe you can reach these standards — you can do this and we are here to help you 
I know many of you will have moments this year of talking to and supporting a child who expresses feelings of being overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed. These are difficult moments for parents, especially when you are far away. In those moments, help your child think of stress as helpful and to utilize the many supports here at Taft: friends, faculty members, dorm parents, coaches, counselors, advisors, etc. I promise we are paying close attention. The connections and experiences your child has here are exactly the ones that help them develop that biology of courage, which will serve them well throughout their life. 
In closing, we teach the whole student and a critical part of that is to develop our students into the adults who will be positioned well to navigate the myriad challenges they will face. Having courage, being resilient, and seeing stress as a means to a positive end are central to their success. While challenging and uncomfortable at times, the Taft experience has done and continues to do this well. If you ever need a bit of oxytocin, know that many of us are here to support you, too! Just give a call. As ever, I appreciate your feedback and have a great day. 

All the best,
Jeremy LaCasse
Assistant Headmaster
From the College Office
Parents of Upper Mids - Mark Your Calendars!

Our Introduction to the College Process will take place from 9 to noon on October 27, the Sunday of Family Weekend. Invitation and registration information will be coming towards the end of this month. We hope that you can join us!
From the Deans Office
By now you should have received one or more email communications from a new system we are using at Taft called REACH. This system does not change any of our Taft rules or permissions; rather, it simply streamlines them into one system and allows us to account for all of the students on campus. Any time your child signs out to leave campus (anywhere other than to walk into town), you'll be getting an email asking for your approval. We'll also be using it to account for kids in case of an emergency and in some drills in the coming weeks. Please take a moment to log in to your REACH account, and feel free to reach out to the Dean's office is you have any questions. 
From the Athletic Office
The athletic department would like to remind parents that students are expected to remain on campus until their last formal activity is completed.  That includes athletic contests that are scheduled for the afternoon of Saturday, October 12th.  
You may also sign up to have your son or daughter's team schedule added to your calendar.  If you go to the Taft Athletics website , you can click Select Team, find their team and then click on schedule. In the upper right-hand corner of the schedule you will see two icons. Click on the one that is gray and looks like a WiFi signal. That will allow you to add it to iCal, Outlook or Google Calendar.  
From the Development Office
We have a host of upcoming events. Please join us! 

October 10-12 - Taft Today Program for all new Taft families, Taft
October 22 - San Francisco Reception
October 23 - Los Angeles Reception 
Please contact the Alumni Office at (800) 959-8238 if you have any questions regarding upcoming events. In addition, you can visit our events page .
From the Communications Office
Interested in learning more about daily life at Taft? Parents are encouraged to visit the Taft website and follow Taft’s social media channels, which are listed in the footer of this email. Photos of arts, athletics, and other events are available to view and download at . (To download high resolution photos, click the download icon located in the corner of an image.) Videos of Taft speakers are posted on the Taft Vimeo channel .
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