Heads Up: Weekly Letters from Tim

Creating Culture
Dr. Timothy M. Johnson

In the hustle and bustle of doing, it's so difficult to find time for being, that opportunity for reflection that allows us room to check in with ourselves, acknowledge what we're feeling, and consider why. And yet, it is the flexibility in reflection—the ability to recognize that I felt this way then but I've since learned these lessons, had this conversation, been moved by someone else's point of view—that helps us to grow. Discovery, both of self and others, is at the heart of what is uniquely Pingree. It requires honesty, courage, a safe place, and the resilience to withstand the friction of many points of view. I keep a journal filled with hastily-scribbled notes, rambling reflections, and inspirational passages to track movement through my days on campus.

After our open forum on Tuesday morning, a student requested to meet with me to talk about recent community conversations and what it means to him to be part of the Pingree community. He shared developing thoughts on how best to share different viewpoints to create new spaces for understanding. "We create our culture every day," he shared. "When we listen and stay open to questioning our perspectives, we actually create and transform culture instead of trying to make everyone see things like we do. This is about evolution, not resolution." Yes, yes, yes! I ran back to my journal after our talk to keep his words close.

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Winter Events and Academic Program Updates
Dr. Timothy M. Johnson

Setting the stage for the winter stretch, I am sharing select winter events of note for your calendars and a letter from Kristin Brown on mid-year academic program updates and perspectives. As we settle into January, a reminder that spring break is a week earlier than past years, beginning March 4. We made this decision to more evenly balance the number of school days by trimester.

The following dates represent select events of note and is not exhaustive of all winter events.

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Marshmallows, Luck, and State of the School Inquiry
Dr. Timothy M. Johnson

Bring on 2019! Right after Thanksgiving, I begin to look forward to year-end reflections, especially the articles, top-ten lists, and best-of compilations that steer me in the direction of books, movies, music, and all things missed during life. On one of these winter-break explorations, I learned, in a New York Times Magazine article by Susan Dominus, that Walter Mischel passed away in 2018. A renowned psychologist, Mischel is best known for his work on self-control, his most lauded research being the infamous marshmallow experiment that tested delayed gratification.

The experiment involved having children sit alone in a room with a single marshmallow directly in front of them. If they could restrain themselves and not eat the marshmallow, they would receive a second marshmallow as a prize. Confectionary compound interest. Videos of replicated experiments with children squirming in front of these white sugary clouds are hilarious.

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Framework Focus on Place
Dr. Timothy M. Johnson

In this fourth installment of introducing Pingree's Framework for the Future, I am excited to share with you Pingree's vision for the development of our campus. Much of Pingree's magic is rooted in our history as a former home, which we hear often from students, alumni, and families. In our strategic planning, we will evolve our campus in ways that honor the original home while also serving forward-thinking programs for students and teachers. We will create dynamic, flexible, and varied learning, social, and community spaces; we will work to build upon the successes of our existing sustainability programming by further defining and expanding our stewardship efforts as citizens of the North Shore; and we will enhance our auxiliary programs to strengthen relationships with surrounding communities. To learn more about place at Pingree, please click this link or the video above.

Mark your calendars for a presentation on the state of the school on January 31 at 7:00 p.m. in the theater with board chair, Richard Tadler, program leaders, and me. We will share details on the health of Pingree and the strategic initiatives related to the Framework for the Future. Food and refreshments will be served in the theater at 6:30 p.m.

I hope to see you at tonight's student art show opening at 5:30 p.m. and the performance of the Nutcracker at 6:30 p.m.

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Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors
Dr. Timothy M. Johnson

Over the last decade, we have been fortunate to engage directly with the authors of our community read books. These conversations add dimension and new perspective to the text, affording deeper dives into the personal lives of the people behind the words, as well as the process and purpose of their writing. On Monday morning, students video conferenced with Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give, during an assembly in the theater.

Thomas was a breath of fresh air on a transitional morning back from break. With authentic charm and humor, she shared her background (and Air Jordan sneakers!) from her office in Jackson, Mississippi. She spoke about her motivations for writing the book, provided context for its characters, and shared her personal story of attending an independent school and the challenges of navigating the two different worlds of home and school.

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