Convocation 2017 Opening Remarks

Thank you to Francesca for sharing your thoughts and ideas with us. I am delighted to work with you and the rest of Community Council to continue making Hackley a special place to work, live, and grow for all of us. As we open this year, I wanted to share some ideas with you. More specifically, I want to share some ideas about the idea of ideas just to give you an idea of my idea. Get the idea?

The children’s book, What Do You Do with an Idea?, written by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom, tells the story of a child with an idea. At first, the child didn’t know what to do with the idea. Experiencing doubts and worries as to what others might think about the idea, the child walks away from it, hides it, and pretends it is not there. But deep inside, the child still sees the idea and understands it to be something special.
The child realizes that for the idea to grow, it requires food, play, attention. Eventually, the child grows accustomed to the idea of the idea and begins sharing it with others. In doing so, the child faces initial rejection and criticism of the idea by others. The child does not give up.

“But then I realized, what do they really know? This is MY idea, I thought. No one knows it like I do.
And it’s okay if it’s different, and weird, and maybe a little crazy.

I decided to protect it, to care for it. I fed it good food. I worked with it, I played with it.
But most of all, I gave it my attention.”

The child’s approach helped the idea grow and grow, which further encouraged the child to think bigger thoughts and helped the child see the world differently.

“It is good to have the ability to see things differently.” said the child.

As the story closes, the child can’t imagine the world without the presence of the idea.

“It wasn’t just a part of me was now a part of everything.
And then, I realized what you do with an idea...You change the world.”

What Do You Do with an Idea? offers many lessons for the start of a school year. Over the course of the coming months, not only will we share our own ideas, but we will listen to the ideas of others. This has already happened twice this morning: first Francesca and now me.

Ideas are important in a school community. Like most schools, Hackley is an institution of ideas, created in part for the purpose of ensuring that knowledge - the ideas of others - is passed onto subsequent generations. The lessons of this book however, run deeper and speak to Hackley’s emphasis on character, including touching on the character virtues that will be explored in the Lower School this year: courage, determination, adventure, honesty, and empathy.

As the story begins, the child confronts feelings of worry about what others will think of the idea. Pushing through those concerns, the child demonstrates courage and embraces the idea. I am sure that every one of us can relate, having experienced anxious moments imagining the reaction of others to our ideas.

Courage becomes determination, as the child commits to the idea and moves past the point of hesitation. An idea will never change the world in the absence of the courage to bring it forward and the determination to see it through. The child’s commitment opened a world of new possibilities, an adventure. A willingness to explore the unknown, to take a measured risk, and to be open to new experiences took the child on new adventures. In presenting your ideas, whether in class or in the ways that Francesca articulated, I hope that each of you approaches the 2017-2018 school year with courage, determination, and adventure.

So where do honesty and empathy enter our story? In the book, a friendship develops between the two characters, the child and the idea. Honesty and empathy, keys to any healthy relationship, form the basis for communication and trust. While the book focuses on sharing ideas with others, it is important to remember that just as often, we are the receivers of others ideas. As a listener, are we empathetic to those sharing their ideas? Do we provide an honest sounding board, yet also understand the risk that our peer took in sharing the idea in the first place?

In this year and the years ahead, I challenge us all to engage with the Hackley community in the ways that Francesca noted. Have the courage to share your ideas and the determination to see them through. Be truthful and honest in your words and actions, be empathetic and understanding about their impact on others. And may you be open to the adventure that lies before you and that you have a hand in shaping. Here’s to a great 2017-2018!