“You have five seconds to get people’s attention,” says the finance writer Morgan Housel. “Books, blogs, emails, reports, it doesn’t matter—if you don’t sell them in five seconds you’ve exhausted most of their patience.” I tend to think he’s right, which is why I’m excited to talk to you today about Milk Duds.
I enjoy reading Housel’s blog. Recent installments include ruminations on adversity, expectations, environmental sustainability in Latin America, a few books he has read recently, and the elusiveness of sustained excellence. The last of these recalls a conversation in 1990 between Jerry Seinfeld and David Letterman about Seinfeld’s new sitcom. “Jerry said there was one frustrating problem: NBC supplied the show with teams of comedy writers, and he didn’t think they were getting much good material from them.” Letterman demurred. “Wouldn’t it be weirder if they were good? Wouldn’t it be strange if they could all just produce reams of hilarious material day after day?” Seinfeld laughed. Yes, he acknowledged, “it’s supposed to be hard.”
I have written about patience before, noting what the British-American poet W.H. Auden had to say about it: “Because of impatience we were driven out of paradise, because of impatience we cannot return.” I suppose this is where Milk Duds come in. Last week, a Middle School parent told me a story about her sometimes cerebral daughter musing about “time folding over on itself,” and supposing that our own MICDS playground may be the very point in the universe where this phenomenon occurs. “How about a Milk Dud?” her mother asked after enjoying this bit of astrophysics. I thought I had missed something. “Why a Milk Dud?” I asked. “Because it’s a good candy for thinking,” she said. “Skittles and M&Ms go really fast, and before you know it you’ve had too many, but Milk Duds take a while, and one is usually enough.” Perhaps even half a Milk Dud will do if you’re standing at the spot on Linda’s Playground where time folds over on itself—although I suppose it depends on the number of folds.
Wednesday commenced and today concluded the Milk Dud days of our fall semester. Conferences provide teachers, parents, and, as soon as they are ready, students with important opportunities to reflect, assess, and plan. This is Milk Dud work, not Skittles work. I love that we pause at MICDS to take stock of where we are in the learning process, and where we hope to be, by making time for these essential conversations. They are deliberate acts of patience in an impatient world.
“Every market valuation,” Morgan Housel writes, “is a number from today multiplied by a story about tomorrow.” Translate this equation from terms of corporate to human capitalization, and its essence is unchanged: The value of every education is what someone knows today multiplied by what they will learn tomorrow. Conference days embody our commitment to the whole student equation at MICDS—past, present, and future—in partnership together. Thank you for your participation in them.
Always reason, always compassion, always courage. Have a wonderful weekend!
Head of School