From the Desk of Jay Rainey – October 22, 2021

Every weekly meeting of our administrative leadership team at MICDS begins with a “gratitude and gears” exercise. We gather in assorted pairs, and each of us shares something for which we are grateful as well as concerns that are top of mind—thoughts that are “turning our gears.” Earlier this week, I reached out to several MICDS students selected at random to inquire about their own “gratitude and gears.” I loved reading what they had to say.

In our junior kindergarten, Kushal is thankful “for my friends and for everyone in my family and Molly my dog.” He was particularly happy on the day that we corresponded “because I had a good dream about playing with my friends, and now I get to see them at school!” Physical activity also made the “gratitude” list for several of our Beasley students. Rory loves the playground, Terrence loves playing basketball, Emma loved playing field hockey with our varsity team last weekend (“I got an award for the relay race!”), and Braxton loves kickball at recess and, of course, this week’s roller-skating fun in P.E. There’s plenty of thanks to go around for other Lower School activities, too: blocks (Nash), reading (Terrence), learning (Braxton), and lunch (Ryan). Gratitude also abounds for family (“my parents and little sister,” says Emma), friends (“Joey and Reed!” says Kushal), and faculty (“my teachers and specials teachers,” says Ryan).

Appreciation for the people in their lives dominates the responses of Middle and Upper School students to my “gratitude and gears” inquiry as well. Many students cited quotidian acts of devotion (“my mom drove me to school today, and I am thankful for that,” writes one 6th grade student), of connection (“I am grateful for talking to my sisters every day, even though we are miles apart,” says a 10th grade student), and of serendipity (“waking up and feeling well-rested, getting a good spot in the soft-serve line, or getting a call from my brother who’s off at college,” says a 9th grade student). Thanks also abound for more generalized support. “I am grateful for my teachers, my family and friends, and my coaches for giving me the opportunities I have today,” says Cooper, who is in 8th grade this year. “I want to work hard at my hockey practices or in the classroom, work hard to be the best I can be, because my coaches and teachers are giving me the opportunity to improve myself.” Writes Arnav, a 10th grade student, “I am grateful for my mom because of all she does for my family.”

As for “gears,” Kushal in junior kindergarten is “thinking about the book I got from the library yesterday, The Tooth Fairy Wars. It is so good!” Rory in senior kindergarten is preoccupied with “the little cat character in my book bag,” Several of our Beasley students’ “gears” are rotating around personal goals. “I am thinking about keeping my balance when I skate,” says Terrence. “I am thinking about getting my work done and practicing piano so I can play games,” says Ryan. Still others are turning toward special events. “Pizza and movie night on Friday!” says Emma. “Halloween!” says Nash. “We are going to have so much fun!” Braxton’s time horizon is more expansive. “I am worried about pollution,” he says. “I want us to have a cleaner world.” (But Braxton is also excited about his upcoming birthday, of course!)

Responsibilities tend to preoccupy the “gears” of our Middle and Upper School students. “Doing homework is on my mind today,” says one 5th grader simply. “I have been thinking about preparing for my tests this week,” says Angelina in 8th grade, “and also getting ready for Nutcracker on Ice, a figure skating event that I am taking part in.” Bo in 6th grade is intent on his basketball commitments, and Teaghen in 11th grade wants to do well on an upcoming macroeconomics test. Some students are thinking in more general terms. “Right now, I am focusing on making the most of everything, such as my education, my sports, my friendships, and my family,” writes Cooper. “I want to make sure that I can look back and feel like I wouldn’t want to change how I did things.”

One Upper School student, Joe, finds his gears turning around the onset of independence from adults that is inevitable and indispensable to the process of growing up. “An event at school today made me think about how the perspectives of MICDS students and teachers can be pretty different,” he writes. “No matter how approachable a teacher may be, sometimes feedback doesn’t get through. This is often not really a bad thing, but it’s so helpful to have outlets to comment.”

I am reminded of the scene in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby in which Jay Gatsby, having finally reunited with his beloved Daisy, finds that he no longer attaches “colossal significance” to the green light at the end of her dock toward which he had yearned for so long. “His count of enchanted objects,” Fitzgerald observes, “had diminished by one.” Joe’s reflection above makes plain that the count of enchantments that occupy our younger students—blocks, little cat characters, pizza nights, Halloween, roller skating in the gym—will and must diminish over time. It also makes plain, however, our intentionality at MICDS in seeking input and providing “outlets to comment” as children become adolescents and then young adults over the course of the years that they spend with us, and as we endeavor to support them in their growth—even if it is growth away from us and toward their independence.

I so appreciate that students like Joe are grateful for such opportunities to express themselves as they grow up in our community, as life’s complexity steadily reveals itself and as their “gears,” therefore, encounter increasing resistance against which to turn. Jay Gatsby, who ends up “running down like an overwound clock” in the novel that bears his name, spends too much time in his gears and too little in his gratitude—too much time in future plans and too little in present joys. No matter what grinds our gears, there is always joy to be discovered and gratitude to be felt and shared. Nash in our senior kindergarten deserves the final word. “I’m thankful for our whole entire school!” he proclaims. I am too, Nash. I am too.

Always reason, always compassion, always courage. I wish you a very joyful weekend with your families and loved ones.

Jay Rainey
Head of School

This week’s addition to the “Refrains for Rams” playlist: Transatlantic by Aoife O’Donovan and Kris Drever, a song that harmonizes in Irish sympathy with our Upper School’s wonderful production of Dancing at Lughnasa last weekend.  (Apple Music / Spotify)