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Head's Reflections

On the Importance of Perspective Taking
One day a foreign scholar came to Aksehir and asked to talk to the wisest man in the city. The villagers took him to the Hodja. When they met, the foreigner took a stick and drew a large circle on the ground. The Hodja looked at the circle, took the stick, and drew a line across the middle of the circle. The foreigner drew another perpendicular line, dividing the circle into quarters. The Hodja gestured as though he were taking three of the sections and leaving the fourth. The foreigner then put his fingers together, faced them toward the ground, and shook them. The Hodja raised his hand to the sky and stretched out his fingers. When the meeting was over, the foreign scholar explained, "Your Hodja is very smart. When I indicated that the Earth was round, he responded that an equator divides it. When I divided the Earth into four sections, he said that three-quarters of it is water. When I asked him what causes rain, he told me that water evaporates, vapor rises, then clouds form and turn into rain." The villagers asked the Hodja what happened during the meeting. He answered, "That glutton! He told me he had a pan of baklava. I said that he couldn't eat it alone and that I would eat half of it. Then he asked me what I would do if he divided it into four pieces. I told him that I would take three of them. Then he said, 'Let's sprinkle nuts on it.' I said, 'Fine, but you can't bake baklava on a weak fire; it has to be strong.' He felt defeated and went away."

This story dates from the 1400s and comes from the Turkish folk tradition. According to legend, the creator of the tale is Nasreddin Hodja, a wise teacher who told many stories to make points about human nature, politics, and the differences between social classes. Indeed, the word Hodja means teacher. Many of these stories have been passed down from generation to generation orally and in writing. [1]

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Doc Avis & Miss Pliscz: Inspiration for Generations of St. Markers
When I first arrived at St. Marks I was graciously welcomed into the Science Department by Doc Avis. I found him to be always supportive and encouraging and a good listener. Early on, in my first year, I asked if we could purchase an analog computer kit for the AP Physics students to put together, he approved it and took interest in what the device could do. Later on, the school installed our DEC digital computer, Doc Avis agreed it would be only available for student use, with an open door policy. He also agreed to modify the III Form Science course (required of all) replacing the physics trimester with computer science. This had many future ramifications, as students were able to study what the machine could do, the results of this policy you can find in the ranks of our alums.
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Resilience and Adaptability: Our Daily Challenge
"Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it's less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you've lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that's good."
― Elizabeth Edwards

"Adaptability is the simple secret of survival."
―Jessica Tarahata Hagedorn

I have spent a lot of time this academic year repeating the mantra resilience and adaptability, two characteristics I value highly. Resilience, as commonly defined, is the capacity to keep going in the face of difficulty, and adaptability is the ability to adjust to new circumstances. I am proud of the way everyone in our entire School community―students, faculty, and staff―has displayed resilience and adaptability in the face of a multitude of challenges.
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2020 Convocation Talk: Becoming a Truly Antiracist School

Welcome to the 2020-21 academic year. Convocation is, typically, a time for us to gather physically as an entire School community and mark the beginning of an academic year. On this occasion, we welcome new members of our community, celebrate faculty milestones, and present student character prizes. A responsibility I treasure on this occasion is to offer some observations to help set the tone for the year.

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St. Mark's Spring 2020: Embracing a Remote Approach to School
When the news of the Novel Coronavirus (later named COVID-19) was first reported late in 2019, its worldwide impact was hard to imagine. Indeed, the impact on school operations was unimaginable to many of us even in early March when the only question we thought we needed to answer was whether the School's Spring Break travel programs—cultural and athletic—could proceed. Shortly thereafter, of course, the educational landscape changed radically. The focus immediately became how to develop an outstanding remote academic program, an outstanding approach to caring for our students, faculty and staff, and an outstanding approach to maintaining routines that would keep our community feeling together even while apart. We immediately recognized that the focus of our planning for the time of physical separation needed to be comprehensive: academic and personal, individual and collective.
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Prior to 2017-18
Head of School

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John Warren '74