Come See an Authentic Middle School Play

This Thursday (March 12), at 7pm, the Middle School students will perform their annual play.  This is a common event in most middle schools.  However, in most middle schools, the play packets are purchased through a company that sells pre-written scripts like Aladdin or Willy Wonka.   At FWM, the Middle School students actually write their own play.  They first develop a concept, then the plot, and then begin character development and lines.  The entire process is collaborative and helps children learn to compromise, develop ideas, and intellectually work together a team.  Once the script is developed, students then design and create the set and work on the choreography.  FWM’s Middle School play is a student-centered, student-powered, and student-created experience.  Though the final product (Thursday’s performance) is sure to please, it was the overall process that reaped the most benefits.

Please consider attending the play this Thursday evening with you family.  Families can see firsthand the quality of the learning in our Middle School by experiencing the result of our students’ endeavors.  The play is called Sugar Hills Heist.  It is appropriate for all ages and runs about one hour.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Today is the birthday of Dr. Seuss,the famous American author who wrote and illustrated over sixty books. Dr. Seuss was known for his whimsical language and clever storylines that captivated children for decades.  I’d like to remember Dr. Seuss for some of the important messages he shared with children through his stories.  Please see the below article that extracted memorable quotes from some of Dr. Seuss’ most beloved books and then provided a brief interpretation of their meaning.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

YOU are the only YOU. Isn’t that awesome? There’s nobody alive who can be you better than you. So never aim to be just like someone else. It’s a waste of a perfectly good you.

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.”

Sometimes when people grow up they lose their sense of wonder. Little things aren’t as exciting anymore and life can seem, well, boring at times. But fantasy isn’t just for children. Anyone — college student or adult — can be a kid at heart.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

It can be very easy to hand off the responsibility to someone else. “I don’t have to help the starving children abroad; someone else will,” or “I’m sure someone will stop to help that guy whose car just broke down.” But if everyone is waiting on others to make a change in the world, then who will do it? Be the person who changes the world with your kindness.

“You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go …”

You won’t always be on your own. You’ll have friends and family to help you throughout life, but don’t let them decide how you live your life, because you’re the one who is stuck with your choices. Follow your dreams and don’t give them up for anyone. As Dr. Seuss also said, “only you can control your future.”

“Read. Travel. Read. Ask. Read. Learn. Read. Connect. Read.”

Never forget the magic of reading for fun, the importance of asking questions or the joy traveling can bring you.

“Be who you are and say what you feel because the ones who mind don’t matter, and the ones who matter don’t mind.”

Those who truly care for you will still care for you when you speak your mind.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Some people can’t stay in your life forever, so don’t take anyone for granted. One of the hardest parts of growing up is losing people you love, but you can still hold on to the good memories. They’re not tainted just because the person is no longer in your life.

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

Most of the time, in your heart, you know the right solution to your problem. Don’t be scared to do what’s right.

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

No matter how successful you become, never let yourself get into the mindset that you are better than others. Everyone is your equal. So never judge a book by its cover because some people may surprise you once you get to know them, and you can never have too many friends.

“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act.”

It can be very hard to balance everything that is important to you — your family, friends, hobbies and school… But remember while balancing all of these may be hard it’s worth it.

“I’m afraid that sometimes you’ll play lonely games too. Games you can’t win ’cause you’ll play against you.”

Don’t let yourself be your worst critic and your greatest enemy. Love yourself, and others will, too.

“Think and wonder, wonder and think.”

It’s OK to be a daydreamer. Let your mind wander sometimes. You’ll be surprised at the brilliant thoughts that come to you.

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

Don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled. Always be yourself, unapologetically and unashamed. Be original and don’t be afraid to be YOU-nique.


More than a Good Grade

One reason why the partnership between the home and FWM tends to be stronger than most schools is because there is mission alignment.  Parents and caregivers who choose to enroll their children at FWM believe in the Montessori approach.  They believe that a school should do more than just prepare a child to get good grades; our parents believe a school should cultivate compassion and kindness.  When I ask prospective families what they hope their child will gain from an FWM education, a common response is, “I want my child to be a good person.”  FWM is a school that does a very good job helping children to become their best selves.

We are most effective at teaching children to be their best selves when we, as adults, are our best selves.  Hence, we need to expect all the adults in our community – teachers, staff, parents, and caregivers – to strive to we be good citizens and act in ways that demonstrate the values that we adhere to at FWM.  When we do so, we are authentic with children and model the appropriate ways to act and behave.  I feel so fortunate that our community not only understands this, but also lives it.

Seeking your Thoughts and Insights

Last week, Jill Papanek, FWM’s President of the Board of Trustees, and I emailed a link to an important survey we are asking all parents to complete.  The results of the survey will help us develop a three to five year strategic plan for FWM. As mentioned in last week’s email to the community, a strategic plan is a series of defined steps and realistic goals which a school establishes after reflecting on its vision for the future.   For FWM, our vision is rooted solidly in Montessori and our mission (We cultivate compassion, confidence, and joy of learning.) is the North Star guiding our path forward as a school.  Therefore, the final strategic plan will include specific, actionable goals to support several, big vision goals.  Your input is essential as we develop these goals and shape the overall plan.  Please complete the survey and share your feedback with us.  All the results from the survey are anonymous and will be used for long-term strategic purposes.

If you have not done so yet, please click here to complete the survey.

Thank you for your support and feedback as we move forward with this important strategic initiative.



It’s all about the Mission

Do you know your child’s school mission?  Most parents who send their child to independent schools are unable to answer this question.  This is because schools don’t always do a good job emphasizing the deep and profound meaning of a mission.  Nor are they clear about why a mission is so vital to the future direction of a school.

Why is a school’s mission so important?  The school mission helps everyone understand where the focus should be when any decision (big or small) is being made in the interest of the school.  This includes day to day decisions like how to structure car dismissal as well as big decisions like building new structures on a campus.  When a school (or any organization) keeps its focus on and remains true to its mission, the school thrives.

At FWM, our mission is simply written:

We cultivate compassion, confidence, and joy of learning.

Here is a breakdown of what each of the three parts mean:

Cultivating compassion is more than learning to be a good person.   Developing a child’s compassion means helping a child understand the importance of “stepping into another’s shoes”  and then showing the child the importance of taking action to alleviate another’s suffering.  It also means learning to be present to those in our midst; this includes people in our school, home, and wider community.  Having compassion means being patient, forgiving, kind, and caring; it is putting goodness into action.  Compassion helps one to be successful in relationships while also developing a sense of gratitude and love for one’s own life.

Developing confidence helps a child to become independent.  “I can do it myself” is a phrase confident children say.  Developing this mindset helps children to tap into their strength – these are the seeds of leadership that will blossom as they grow.  In addition, when children believe in their abilities, they take calculated risks.  When true confidence is cultivated over time, children learn to be resilient because they have the self-awareness to know they are capable of more.  Confidence spawns motivation and helps children develop into people with a strong sense of self.

Children who have a joy of learning, begin to develop an intrinsic love for the work they are doing and perceive the work as worthwhile and important.  When this happens, they achieve more and find greater success at school.   Consequently, value begins to be placed on the process and not the product; children who have a joy of learning care about the experience more than they do about the grade.  In addition to being more productive students, a joy of learning makes children better thinkers.   Curiosity, discovery, and wonder are all outcomes in a learning experience filled with joy.

My Favorite Super Bowl Commercial

It costs over five million dollars to air a thirty second commercial during the Super Bowl.  Americans across the country are entertained by these short and often clever advertisements; most are full of humor or have famous media icons promoting a product or service.  Personally, I find the commercials amusing but I prefer to watch the game.

However, this past Sunday there was one commercial that I found particularly profound and moving.  The commercial discussed the four different words that the Ancient Greeks have for love.  For each word, there was a contemporary story that illustrated the different way humans experience love.  What was striking was how sophisticated this emotion was for people of long ago; it was a reminder of how deeply love has been woven into the human experience since the dawn of time.  It was also a reminder about how important it is to love the work you do so that your life has purpose and meaning.  Educators understand this which is why the work we do is filled with love.  Of the four words used by the Ancient Greeks, the word that best describes the work educators do would be agape.  Below is the commercial, I hope you enjoy it!


Join A Book Study

I am finishing a book that has risen to one of my “Top Five” parenting books of all time.  In fact, I feel so strongly about the benefits of this book that I am planning a Book Study for FWM parents.  The book is called How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims.  Below is a synopsis of the book:

In How to Raise an Adult, Julie Lythcott-Haims draws on research, on conversations with admissions officers, educators, and employers, and on her own insights as a mother and as a student dean to highlight the ways in which overparenting harms children, their stressed-out parents, and society at large. While empathizing with the parental hopes and, especially, fears that lead to overhelping, Lythcott-Haims offers practical alternative strategies that underline the importance of allowing children to make their own mistakes and develop the resilience, resourcefulness, and inner determination necessary for success.  Relevant to parents of toddlers as well as of twentysomethings – and of special value to parents of teens-this book is a rallying cry for those who wish to ensure that the next generation can take charge of their own lives with competence and confidence.

The Book Study is open to all FWM parents (Toddler through 8th Grade) because the content is relevant to parents of children ages 2 years through 27 years of age.  The only commitments are: 1) purchase the book 2) read (or listen) to the book ahead of the meeting  3) attend the Book Study which will be sometime in May.  Very simple!   If interested, you can purchase the book at AMAZON by clicking here.  If interested in REGISTERING for the Book Study (it’s free!), please click here. I hope you will join me for an engaging and enjoyable discussion!

The Function of Education

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”  These words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. summarize the purpose of schooling.  Good schools unlock a child’s potential for cognitive thought while cultivating those characteristics that make them into good people.   Maria Montessori understood this well and would have agreed with Dr. King; however, she would have added that the function of education would need to lead to a singular goal: to achieve world peace.  It is important to clarify here that Maria Montessori was developing her methods during a time of global unrest and war.  She believed that her approach not only unlocked a child’s intellectual potential but also their ability to be compassionate, caring, and kind.

How would each school answer the question: “What is their primary function or goal in educating children?”  Unfortunately, too many schools are focused solely on raising test scores and achievement levels; they focus on the product instead of the process.  At FWM, our primary goal can be summed up in FWM’s mission which is eight words in length: “We cultivate compassion, confidence, and joy of learning.”  We have seen that one of the key by-products of our mission has been providing a challenging, academic program that, in the words of Dr. King, “teaches children to think intensively and to think critically.”  Like Dr. King, we believe that intelligence plus character are the recipe for true education.