“Does Your Face Light Up?”: Five Words That Changed My Teaching and Parenting

Posted by Deborah Farmer Kris on Sep 10, 2019 6:14:41 PM

Many years ago, I heard an Oprah interview with the novelist Toni Morrison, who passed away in August. Morrison described how, when her children came into the room, she thought she was showing care by fussing over their appearance, “to see if they had buckled their trousers or if their hair was combed or if their socks were up.”

But that was not what they were looking for, she said. Instead, she offered a different measure for care, “Does your face light up when your kid walks in a room?” Does your expression say, I’m so glad you are here?

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What Helps Young Women Thrive Professionally? Mentors

Posted by Deborah Farmer Kris on May 7, 2019 9:34:32 AM

In a recent report, the Lean In organization wrote that “mentorship is critical to the success of women across industries,” opening doors and providing vital training and support. According to one study, the majority of women in business view mentoring as “highly valuable” in advancing their careers, yet 63% report never having had a formal mentor.

Near the end of their senior year, as Montrose twelfth graders turn their sights to college and beyond, we wanted to address this opportunity and gap head-on in our first annual Senior Summit. The students traveled to the boardroom of The Bowdoin Group, an executive search firm, and engaged in mentoring conversations with women leaders who offered candid insights into the habits, experiences, and mindsets that have helped them flourish professionally.  

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Grit, Gratitude, & Growth: Helping Students Aim High and Finish Strong

Posted by Deborah Farmer Kris on Apr 23, 2019 11:44:49 AM

As students head into the final two months of the year, they sometimes feel like sheer grit takes over: an inner strength that propels them forward through the “home stretch.” 

Grit is a wonderful trait, something that helps us persevere toward our goals in the face of ordinary and extraordinary challenges. Dr. Angela Duckworth, researcher and author of Grit, describes it this way:

Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals. . . . [G]rit is about having what some researchers call an”ultimate concern”– a goal you care about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything you do. And grit is holding steadfast to that goal. Even when you fall down. Even when you screw up. Even when progress toward that goal is halting or slow.

In our middle school Habits of Mind classes this month, we are taking a look at this and the other strengths that can help students end the year on a high note. And like most of what we cover in the class, it’s a useful reflective exercise for adults, too.

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Let's Talk: How to Engage in Difficult Conversations

Posted by Deborah Farmer Kris on Apr 9, 2019 10:12:59 AM

In our polarized political climate, how can we help students engage in constructive dialogue? To communicate without attacking? Even if two parties do not change their views, can they change the way they relate to one another? Do we reduce people to their opinions, or do we see their full humanity?

Each spring, Montrose faculty engage in a two-day intellectual retreat.  This year, we heard from Dr. Jenny Driver, who presented a workshop called “Dialoguing Across Divides.” Driver, a research physician and a professor at Harvard Medical School, is invested in helping doctors and patients communicate more effectively –  and in bringing these key skills to schools and families.

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Giving Students "Ownership Over Their Journey": Reflections from a UK Researcher

Posted by Deborah Farmer Kris on Mar 28, 2019 1:37:14 PM

In February, Montrose School hosted visiting research fellows from the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues in Birmingham, England. One of the researchers, Rachael Hunter, described what she learned about "What Can We Learn From Character Education in America?"  We reprint it her post here with permission. 

A thorough response to this question would take many more words, and hours, than a blog post. However, having just spent a few days in Boston with leading Character Education advocate Karen Bohlin, I wanted to briefly reflect on some of the more pertinent lessons that I took away from the experience. Karen is a senior scholar at Boston University and head of school at Montrose School, a private girls’ school, which seeks to embed character education into every element of school life.

At Montrose, character education is taught discretely, but it is also embedded across all subjects in the curriculum. This means that character education forms a consistent thread through the pupils’ educational experience, allowing them to see how their character development is happening in every moment of school life.

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Visiting Speakers Remind Students to Pause and Reflect

Posted by Maevis Fahey '21 on Mar 19, 2019 9:43:41 PM

It’s that time of the year: your schedule is packed, you’re never sure what day of the week it is, and you can’t tell if it’s going to feel like summer or a blizzard outside. You’ve finally gotten used to writing “2019” instead of “2018” when dating your papers, and you feel like you made your New Year’s resolutions ages ago. February and March are busy months for Montrosians. Thankfully, the special lineup of speakers propelled us through our school activities.

They served as a reminder to take a moment and reflect upon where we are in life and where we are headed. From stress management, to keeping an open mind about our futures, to the importance of friendship, their advice and encouragement resounded with all students.

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Pay Attention! 3 Ways to Help Students Strengthen Their Focus Muscles

Posted by Deborah Farmer Kris on Mar 12, 2019 9:52:54 AM

“How many of you have been told to ‘pay attention’ this week?’” I asked the middle school girls on the first day of our Habits of Mind class. Every hand shot up, accompanied by audible groans.

As adults, we want to teach our children how to pay attention because we know that focus is a vital intellectual habit. So how do we do it?

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The Power of Compassionate Self-Talk

Posted by Deborah Farmer Kris on Mar 5, 2019 11:04:04 AM

Recently, I was talking to a former student about some of the struggles she had faced in high school -- painful insecurities, academic pressures, social missteps, and health and family concerns.   She’s nearly 30, and her journey has led her to a career that she loves and that enriches the lives of others.

It’s a familiar story -- who among us hasn’t faced and overcome challenges?  What struck me was the compassion in her voice when she talked about her teenage self. She expressed a longing to go back, give her young self a hug, and say, “I understand things feel tough right now. You will find your way through this.  You are stronger than you realize.” Her whole manner exuded empathy and kindness.

I recently spoke with Dr. Kristin Neff, the leading researcher on the topic of self-compassion, and I have had a chance to share some of what I have learned with several students here at Montrose. It’s a message worth sharing with you, too.

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Unlocking Creativity: The Dangers of Multitasking

Posted by Dr. Michael Roberto, P'20 on Feb 11, 2019 12:26:41 PM

How can focus and concentration help us become more creative? In this excerpt from his new book Unlocking Creativity, Dr. Michael Roberto –  Professor of Management at Bryant University and a proud Montrose parent –  explains.

Getting away and concentrating exclusively on a project has clear cognitive benefits.   Still, many of us spend a great deal of our day attempting to multitask.  Admit it.   How many times have you been checking email, browsing the web, or reviewing a report while on a conference call?  Or perhaps we have eaten our morning bagel and conducted a teleconference while driving to work.   We have come to believe that we are superheroes, able to juggle many duties simultaneously with ease.  In reality, we are fooling ourselves.  

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Does Music Help Students Do Their Homework?

Posted by Deborah Farmer Kris on Feb 6, 2019 1:35:39 PM

"Should I listen to music when I'm studying?"  

That’s one of the first questions middle school students asked me back in September.  Since then, I have given several parent presentations on learning and the brain, and this question has come up in every Q&A.

All of which tells me there are some active parent-child negotiations going on around homework and music!

So does music help us focus or does it distract us from learning? The short answer is this: It depends.

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