Mesmerizing Dance: Arts on the Move was moving

DSC_0730I am continually impressed by the quality of the Arts program at Episcopal. Thursday night I attended “Arts on the Move,” and once again, I was blown away. I was prepped for the evening with a wonderful early morning chapel that focused on music and the spirituality of it. The jazz band and string ensemble played, and Mr. Erwin courageously took to his acoustic guitar and eventually got us all singing “We Shall Overcome” hand in hand. What I love about the evening event was the blending of the arts. There was instrumental music (both with group and individual performances), dance, visual art, and theater. Student and teacher passion, collaboration, and dedication were all on display.

I may have to convert this to several posts, but let me begin with Dance. It seems our dance program just keeps growing and improving. From Brian Sean’s solo masterpiece to the power of the ensemble pieces, I was touched by the athleticism, teamwork, and true artistic sense of the group. Leah Marchant opened the evening tapping along with the Jazz band, and over the course of the next 45 minutes, I was treated to a stylistic and funny number with “Clue,” an amazing ensemble piece with “Underground,” and a truly powerful interpretation of Maya Angelou’s “Touched By an Angel.” The use of light and music heightened the emotional impact for me.

I often sit and wonder about the educational aspects of the student experience, but I must confess, our dancers had me lost in the moment. I can only now reflect on all that they must have been taught, all they thought about, and all the hours they put in to make this amazing. I reflect on it now because last night I was simply mesmerized. They demonstrated what we heard earlier in the day- the arts have an inspirational power to touch our spirit. Bravo!

Madeline Levine on Positive Encouragement

In her keynote address at the Biennial conference for the National Association of Episcopal Schools, Madeline Levine described how we engage toddlers with our full attention and smiles of encouragement when they are struggling to walk.

We say, “C’mon you can do it. Get back up, you can do it. I know you can do it.”

She then posed, “How come we don’t have the same reactions with teenagers when they struggle or fail?”

It would be weird to say to a toddler, “You better pick yourself up or you’ll be flipping burgers all your life!”


Some parenting advice from Madeline Levine

thumb.aspxMadeline Levine gives some advice to parents:

1. Don’t do something for your child that he/she can do.

2. Don’t do something for your child that he’she can almost do

3. Don’t confuse your needs with your kids needs

She used an example of a parent who was putting a lot of pressure for his child to apply to Harvard, and after some therapy she discovered the dad was the only one in his family who did not attend, and he wanted to show his family he was good enough by getting his kid in.

The Price of Privilege: “I want to be a V.C.!”

5-300x450I recently heard psychologist Madeline Levine give the keynote address at the Biennial conference for the National Association of Episcopal Schools. Her book, The Price of Privilege, has received praise from many educators, and so I was curious to hear her talk. I have not read her book, so I will not try to capture its essence here, but I thought instead I would share a few interesting tidbits. I’ll spread it our over a few posts.

One of her 8-year-old patients had an interesting response to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The little boy said, “I want to be a V.C.”

The boy had no idea what a venture capitalist does, but he knew they make a lot of money. What was even more interesting was his explanation for what he needs to do to achieve his goal. Remember this is an 8 year old… I am paraphrasing:

I need to go to an independent school (he named a specific independent school). Then I need to go to Stanford. Then I’ll get an internship at Goldman Sachs. Then I’ll go to Harvard for my MBA. Then I’ll work at Bain for a few years, and then I’ll be a V.C.

Her point was that this is obviously coming from the parents. The crowd got the point that this was a problem but still gave it a good chuckle. I even heard someone in the audience say, “Sounds like a good plan. That’ll probably work.”

From her website: “In this controversial look at privileged families, Levine offers thoughtful, practical advice as she explodes one child-rearing myth after another. With empathy and candor, she identifies parenting practices that are toxic to healthy self-development and that have contributed to epidemic levels of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse in the most unlikely place — the affluent family.”

Learning from our friends at Philadelphia University

Philly UIn September, I was fortunate enough to take a short field trip in the afternoon to Philadelphia University to learn more about the work they have done over the last several years with innovation. Their President, Dr. Steve Spinelli, was gracious enough to spend some time with Dr. Hall, Dr. Dinkins, and me sharing an academic philosophy that focuses on “innovation, real-world experience, and transdisciplinary learning.” We were also fortunate enough to spend time with several professors as well as their leaders in communication and admission.

There are many impressive aspects to the school. They have a progressive approach, combining their business, design, and engineering schools into one program. The fact that students are working on teams as consultants to major companies is impressive and worth emulating. It seemed similar to the approach that IDEO takes. It is refreshing to see higher education take the lead with innovating our schools. Kudos to Steve and his team.

The senior administration also spent a great deal of time talking with us about modernizing the communications and admission processes. Their use of targeted consultants and big data have led to impressive results. They certainly pushed our thinking.

While visiting other independent schools will always be a good form of professional development, I continue to believe that ideas from Higher Education and other sectors will help push us in new and exciting ways.

Foxcatcher: Not in our backyard….but close!

With the movie Foxcatcher receiving major Oscar buzz prior to its release this Friday, I am sure that many are wondering whether the 1996 murder of Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler Dave Schultz occurred on current EA property.

According to police records and the many folks in the know with whom I’ve spoken, the Lister Dairy Farm land that Episcopal purchased and now sits on is on the complete opposite side of the duPont’s 480-acre property where the shooting took place. The incident occurred in a white farmhouse on the Goshen Road side of the du Pont’s estate that was given to John’s parents by his maternal grandfather William Liseter Austin.

So, while this was nearby, it did not take place on our actual property. From what I am told they did not shoot the film on the actual property either. Still, it is interesting to think that such a bizarre set of events happened so close to our current location.

Guest Blogger Reverend Tim Gavin: SIMPLY BREATHING IN, BREATHING OUT


Challenging and nurturing Mind, Body, and Spirit, we inspire boys and girls to lead lives of purpose, faith, and integrity.

IMG_1185Inspire is one of the words that by-passed me in our mission statement. Considering the fact that I am a priest and one of the chaplains of the school, I feel somewhat embarrassed in overlooking it. The word inspire in Hebrew is ruah, which is the same word for breath and spirit. Hence, we look to the second creation story of Genesis in which God breathes his spirit into Adam, and, as a result, Adam receives life. In Greek the word pneuma is the word for spirit. It also means wind and breath. The religious implications of the word inspire is breathtaking – no pun intended. We receive the breath of God and live. At the end of our lives, we commend our spirits back to God. In other words, what we have received at the initiation of life, we return at the termination of life.

The word inspire in our mission statement, especially as a church related school, implies that we are to take the spirit that God has given us and pass it on to others – both our colleagues, students, and parents. However, the gift of inspiration or having the spirit enter into us signifies that our lives come from God, and, therefore, our lives must dwell in God just as God dwells in us. It is important then to become aware of God’s presences within us and within others. In essence, it is having the image of God in me recognize the image of God in you. This awareness of self and others can lead us to a greater respect of all people – especially our students.

As a result, the best way we can challenge and nurture the mind, body, and spirit of young people is to direct our own spirit to embrace the needs of other as our own. We, ourselves, must live lives of purpose, faith, and integrity if we expect our students to follow suit. In essence, they breathe in the spirit, which we have already exhaled into our surroundings. The only way we can challenge our students is to challenge ourselves to acknowledge the spirit of God that is all around us. The best praise we can offer to God is to be mindful of his spirit that is in us and to direct our intentions to glorify that spirit by sharing his ruah and pnuema with our students by helping them to recognize his ruah and pnuema within themselves.

How can we do this? First, we can share ruah and pnuema with our students by giving them the respect they deserves as people who carry God’s spirit within them. Do we show them respect when they fail? Do we talk to them as people and not as second class citizens? Do we encourage them to set appropriate goals? Do we encourage them in their success and failures? Do we inspire them to do their personal best. Can they trust that we are doing our personal best? Second, we can hold fast to the faith of ruah and pnuema that it will allow us to challenge and nurture our students based on their needs and not based on our own needs for success. Third, we can practice self-control in thoughtfulness of the spirit that is around us. Helping our students to believe that there is something greater than ourselves and inspiring them to want to be part of it. Fourth, we can be honest about our own shortcomings and come to rely on the gifts of others and the righteousness of God to supplement our own limits so that we can, even in our limits, grow in mind, body, and spirit. Fifth, we can show kindness and courtesy to everyone we meet on our campus and beyond, practicing hospitality as a way of life and community. Sixth, we can be generous with our remarks, acts, and thoughts. We can practice the spirit of God by embracing the needs of our students as if they were our own. Yes, that may mean practicing the Golden Rule even when they, in our own estimation, may not deserve it. Seventh, we can show the gratitude for this God given spirit and mindfully worship God and give room to others to do the same, especially if they see God differently than we do. Eighth, we can have the courage to admit our mistakes and shortcomings, seek forgiveness and offer forgiveness, and realize that there is no such place as a mistake free-zone.

As a profession, education happens to be prescriptive in practice; nevertheless, we need to be more introspective. We often tell students and parents what they need to do in order to succeed. We also need to have the courage to say there are things we need to do in order for our students to succeed. We can have the courage to allow others to fall short of our expectations and allow them to use that experience as a springboard for development and growth. Finally, we can demonstrate sportsmanship in all aspects of our lives – not just in athletic contests. In closing, to inspire our students goes far beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic, it goes to the place God has set aside for us to be fully human, fully alive, simply breathing in and breathing out.