Janet McMillion shares her thoughts about her time at MI and MICDS.

Listening to My Life

Mrs. McMillion shared her thoughts about her time at Mary Institute and then MICDS at the Parent Association Spring Luncheon on April 12, 2019.

I’m not sure how I arrived at this point in my life so soon. But here I am with you, people who have lived this life alongside me and shared your children with me, for all of 38 years. It’s great, and I’m honored to be asked to speak to you.

I love this quote from Parker Palmer:

Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.

It captures a theme for me, especially as I’ve been at life’s crossroads, and as I’ve come to realize, even in the small moments of the day.

For example, I was in Senior Kindergarten the other day and a child at the computer took off his headphones and quietly asked me if I knew what my job is. I smiled, delighted, and crouched down. I talked to him about how I am the head of Lower School, that I help make sure the people at school are doing their best at learning, taking care of themselves and others, and having what they need to do that. He solemnly watched me the whole time. There was silence, and then he said, politely, “No, do you know what my job is to do on the computer?”

Sadly, I did not. I did, however, know enough to send him to the teacher.

Every day, if I listen, my students will not only tell me who they are but help me know who I am.

My time, experiences and work here have contributed enormously to the person I am today, and MICDS and its incredible people have supported and challenged me to be my best self. I raised my own children and watched them graduate from MICDS. And I met some of the smartest, thoughtful, hard-working and compassionate people I could have ever hoped to meet, both grown-up and little.

At MI, and then MICDS, I got to make music, develop best practices in instruction and curriculum design, and open children’s hearts to that unparalleled joy of music. After many years my life told me to look for new challenges and MICDS said, “There is something we believe you can do.” So, I met prospective families and learned all that goes with admission work: technology, marketing, and the importance of data to inform decisions. Then, when my life told me to look for a new challenge, MICDS said, “There is something we believe you can do.”  And I was blessed with the opportunity to lead the Lower School.

As Head of Lower School, it’s been my privilege to work with an extraordinary faculty, administration and staff.  One of the things that I am most proud of is the work we’ve done together to grow our academic program, one which works because it is supported by research, experience and data. Our teachers have studied, gotten advanced degrees and researched ways to bring their teaching to the highest level. And among other things, we’ve also built a robust and fun Extended Day program and created special Beasley traditions such as our assemblies and Beasley Community Day. Our adoption of Responsive Classroom®, which impacts every aspect of the student experience, has been powerful. Beasley feels like a community of friends who can learn and grow together.

I’ve loved being a guide, a helper, an encourager, a safety guard and a problem solver. I’ve loved planting a kindness rock garden, writing a birthday card for each child, and being the person they can count on to nurture respect and responsibility. Parents, you have trusted me with your brightest and sometimes most difficult moments, and I am grateful for your partnership. I have learned from you, and loved our Parent Coffee Conversations. The children have hugged me, shared their stories, celebrations and worries, and when we have had to have one of those serious conversations, they have always tried hard to do a “better job next time.” I have learned way more than I have taught, and I will always be grateful. I actually do feel I’ve been able to live a life of purpose and service while at MICDS, and am looking forward to continuing to do that in new ways next year. I am thrilled that Amy Scheer is stepping into my office. I’ve admired and loved working with her for years and my teachers feel the same. Beasley is in good hands.

If I get to leave you with a thought from my life I chose this one that has made a difference for me as a parent and an educator and although I’m not always successful, I try to live by it: It’s to love the child that is in front of me. To listen to, see and love this child; not the one I wished for, not the one that would fill my dreams, not my assumptions, but the small human who is more wonderful and complicated than any dream I could imagine. To pause, to pay attention and to be present as often as I can in the small moments that reveal everything that’s true. And to go back to the Parker Palmer quote: to allow the child to listen to his own life telling him who he is.

Finally, those of you who have read my Friday Parent memo, know I like to share poetry and I couldn’t let this opportunity go by. The poem is called The Summer Day, and it is by a favorite poet of mine, Mary Oliver. To me, this poem expresses what it feels like to be part of a child’s journey, with the wonder, the discoveries, and the open horizon of possibilities. What a challenge and joy it is to be a friend, a guide, and an encourager on that journey.

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down–
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?