April 11, 2019

Dear Harbor Families,

“I will work hard. I will be kind. I will be mindful.” Harbor students regularly spend time reflecting on our school pledge and considering ways in which they can improve in our collective aim to persist through difficult tasks, be genuinely kind to others, and to live in the moment.

This week at our all-school morning meeting,  we recognized what it takes to fulfill the first statement of our pledge - I will work hard. We talked about growth mindset, a term coined by Carol Dweck in her book entitled Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Based on current understanding of the malleable brain, the underlying concept of growth mindset is that failure makes us better. Someone with a growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed one, doesn’t give up easily because they view a difficult task, truly, as the learning experience that it is. This idea is central to how we teach at Harbor. Teachers encourage students to take risks and learn from their mistakes all the time. Just think about our three step design thinking process - Explore. Create. Iterate. It’s the iterate part where the learning is most palpable.  

At yesterday morning’s weekly all school morning meeting, students heard three stories from adults in their community that illustrate a growth mindset. Students were absolutely captured by the stories; I wish you could have seen their faces as they listened. Kindergarten teacher Debbi Nichols described growing up painfully shy, the difficult risk that she took in second grade to be in the school play, and how that experience changed her. Our music teacher, Yuki Wilson, talked about her experience 30 years ago (today in fact!) of coming to the United States from Japan with no knowledge of English. And I shared a story about my first time trying trapeze. After all of the sharing, and a difficult, long-held plank pose to practice persisting when things are hard, all together as a school, we asked the kids to share their stories with each other.

Here’s mine:

Did you know there’s a trapeze rig in southeast DC by the Navy Yards? I didn’t until eight years ago, when I was invited to a party there - that’s right, a trapeze party! The story I told the kids yesterday was pretty transformational for me. I remember being really nervous looking at how high the platform was - but also excited to try it. Even though I was safely secured with a belt and ropes and a net below, wow was I scared. I managed to make that first jump, but every instruction following that - to put my legs over the bar, to release my arms over my head, even to let go to be lowered down to the net - I refused, paralyzed with fear. Once my feet were finally planted on solid earth again, I burst into tears. I wanted to run out of the rig and never come back, but instead, resolved myself to go back up the ladder. That second try, though also very intimidating, was much different than the first, and by the end of the two-hour class, I was exhilarated - and completely hooked! I signed up for a weekly class, learning new skills, and six months later performed in a trapeze show at the youthful age of 36. You can see a photo of me flying in the morning meeting slides, along with the other content from our meeting yesterday.

Yesterday was a long and exciting day, as most are at Harbor. Last night, after an evening with many of you at California Tortilla and Baskin Robbins (which was so much fun!), I scooted out to visit our friends at KID Museum for an event. KID was holding a panel discussion with four educators and leaders in the community, moderated by Dan Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, Drive, and several other influential books in education and business (and it so happens, the father of a student who was in my second grade class years ago). Entitled “Future-Proofing the Next Generation: A Community Conversation”, the evening’s discussion focused on how we can best teach learning dispositions such as resilience, grit, creativity, curiosity, perseverance, adaptability, and agency. There was a lot of talk about how schools need to do better with this. And while - of course, coming from a growth mindset - we at Harbor can and should continue to do better, I couldn’t help but be incredibly proud as I took in the discussion. We really are “walking the talk” here - preparing our students for their future by teaching and learning through a growth mindset, during our children’s most important years of growth and development.

This weekend, ask your child(ren) to tell their story about trying again when something is hard. And then tell them yours! It’s important for their future.

Warm regards,

Leah Musico

Head of School

The Harbor School

Harbor School