New Year’s Message 2016

Dear MMS Families,

I will keep my personal New Year’s resolutions private (They’re not that exciting really. If you think of words and phrases like “kale,” “gym,” and “Tolstoy yes, House of Cards binge watching no,” you’ll pretty much know them.), but I do want to share my institutional resolution with you: Marin Montessori will always be the school where the unique radiance and intelligence of each child is honored and cultivated carefully and wisely. This commitment matters now more than ever.

With the unprecedented blossoming of technological companies in the Bay Area, we feel the influence of Silicon Valley in our school every day: there is an exciting spirit of innovativeness all around us and within our families. The Montessori star has never been so attractive, too: Bay Area folks know that in this globalized world and disruptive economy, the capacity to collaborate, innovate, and problem solve creatively is what our children need. And this is what Marin Montessori is all about. Indeed, from the Royal Family’s announcement that theirs will be a Montessori prince, to the recent piece in Forbes arguing that businesses need to become more Montessori, we are all gratified by the recognition of the value of our approach to teaching and learning.

Why do I bring this up, though? Because of the popularity of Montessori, it can be tempting to become a school where we simply focus on giving kids a leg up over others, of being the “it” school where kids get ahead. In and of itself, this is not a bad motivation: the world is a competitive one, and if we want our children to someday be independent, certain skills and credentials likely increase their opportunities. When getting ahead becomes the dominating drive of our parenting and approach to education though, things can get very bad for our kids. You need only to read the disturbing recent cover story in The Atlantic on the crisis among Silicon Valley teens or Frank Bruni’s troubling Op-ed piece, “Best Brightest—and Saddest”, to recognize that there is an approach to parenting and schooling that, while seeking to elevate, can actually sometimes destroy those who are most precious to us.

This is why I share my New Year’s commitment to you: every MMS student will feel seen and valued for who he or she really is, while simultaneously being challenged to learn more deeply, think more rigorously, create more bravely, and relate more compassionately. We do this not because it will give our students an advantage over others—though it may—but because these are the habits of mind and heart that will empower your children toward adult lives of flourishing.

Mirroring this New Year’s goal, decades ago civil rights leader Howard Thurman put it so well: “Don't ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

Happy New Year, MMS!