Head's Reflections

  • Posted May 17, 2014

    Character Development: An Impressive Feature of the St. Mark’s Athletic Program

    May Head's Reflection

    Athletics plays a very important role in the St. Mark’s educational program. Our requirements signal the School’s belief in the educational and health benefit that athletics provides, whether a student is on track to compete interscholastically in college or will spend most of his or her time on Thirds and Junior Varsity teams. The number of hours many St. Mark’s students devote to athletics every season is substantial and provides an excellent opportunity for important growth.

    For Director of Athletics John Levandowski and our coaches, this growth focuses especially on character, and I am proud of the explicit and implicit emphasis on character development evident in St. Mark’s athletics. I am proud too of the overall success of our athletic program in the most commonly used metric: wins and losses, and I am proud of the way coaches define success for their players when wins are less frequent than desired. Examples of these more nuanced metrics include the number of quality at-bats in a game, the number of face-offs won, and keeping mental mistakes or unforced errors to a minimum.

    Given how deeply I care about character development, and given how impressed I am by the focus on character development I see when I watch athletic practices and games, I sought to gain a deeper understanding of the ways John Levandowski leads the athletic program to emphasize development of character. I was very pleased with what I learned.(read more)

  • Posted April 29, 2014

    Dr. Francis Parkman: A Significant Figure in our History

    Chapel Talk April 29, 2014

    My life belongs to the whole community, and, as long as I live, it is a privilege to do for it whatsoever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment; and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

    George Bernard Shaw
    From a 1907 Speech at Brighton


    As you walk into the Main Dining Hall, entering from the front door, and cast your eye to the right hand wall, you see, nearest the raised platform, a portrait of a rather bald man of youthful appearance dressed in a military uniform. I suspect you have looked at the portrait many times. Perhaps, though, you have not reflected on who the person is except to assume he was a St. Mark’s Headmaster, and you may not have reflected on why he is wearing a uniform.

    I have been looking at the portrait since 1970. Only recently, thanks to research, especially from a draft of the School history Mr. Noble is writing, have I come to understand how important that man is to St. Mark’s and have I come to understand the significance of his choosing to be painted in his uniform. I would like to spend my time today elaborating on both of these points.(read more)

  • Posted February 19, 2014

    The Benefits of Small Class Size: A Response to Malcolm Gladwell


    One of the characteristics I most treasure about St. Mark’s is the small size of our classes, and the resulting small number of students each of our faculty members teaches in a year. Small class size is tremendously helpful to a student’s ability, in any discipline, to develop mastery of the required content and skills. Only with small classes, for example, can students receive the individualized attention that best supports the development of analytic and creative thinking skills. Crafting an excellent argument, mathematical proof, poem, story or drawing is very hard work that results from extensive practice and is aided immeasurably by extensive commentary from a skilled teacher who has the time to offer individualized feedback about ideas and the expression of the ideas. Small classes also allow teachers to provide the help students need when they are stuck; when they are unable to master particular content or a particular skill on their own or with help from peers. (read more)

  • Posted January 13, 2014

    Humility and Inspiration...and Fun

    Chapel Talk January 6, 2013

    “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is in being superior to your former self.”
    --Ernest Hemingway

    Many people, including some of you, have asked me, “how was your trip to Swaziland and Australia?” The answer is, “great!” I have always wanted to see lions, especially because as a proud St. Marker, the lion is our mascot. I had the good fortune to see lions at a Swazi game reserve. I also had the good fortune there to see elephants, a giraffe, hippopotami, rhinoceroses and many other special animals. In Australia, I saw huge thousand year old trees in a rain forest, many species of beautiful birds, including a king parrot that thought my shoulder was the perfect place to perch, kangaroos, most notably the reclusive tree kangaroo, and gorgeous fish in the fragile ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef. So, in short, I had great fun on my trip.

    As I have processed and reflected on my experience, I have come to realize that I also had two emotional reactions which are particularly salient, and those are humility and inspiration. These emotions were evoked particularly from my interactions with students and teachers at the two partner schools we visited: Waterford Kamhlaba and St. Hilda’s. (read more)

  • Posted May 2, 2013

    A Case Study of Innovative Instruction

    This spring, Ceramics students in Aggie Belt’s class and Studio Art students in Sarah Meyer’s class engaged in a project that serves as an excellent example of the forward-looking education which makes me so proud to be leading St. Mark’s at this moment in our history. The students in each class paired up with someone from the other class to create abstract three dimensional objects inspired by the microscopic patterns found either in crystals, plants, or mammals. The beautiful, deceptively simple, finished products are now on display in Taft (see photo at right). Aggie and Sarah advance skills many have identified as essential for success in the 21st Century world and they use technology and incorporate ideas from beyond St. Mark’s in ways that meaningfully advance our students’ learning. (read more)