Head of School in Dunk Tank

I have decided to call this blog "The Power of Three." As NPS parents and faculty know from some of my speeches and presentations, I prefer to stick with three main points in my remarks. I can't claim originality here. When I became a Head of School in 2012, a friend noted that it is good practice to limit messages to three. "No one wants to hear more than that anyway," she said.

The symbolism of the number three also appeals to me. In many religions, three is a sacred number. It is also considered lucky and magical (e.g. "the third time's the charm"). The number has many connotations and manifestations: the Trinity; spirit, mind and body; triangle; a symbol of completeness; the number of "time" (past, present, future; beginning, middle, end). At NPS, I have referred to the partnership between parent, child, and school as a "3-legged stool." Three is everywhere! The "Power of Three" also is a subtle nod to my family: my wife and I have three children. Accordingly, my blogs moving forward will have three segments. This, in fact, is the first part of this month's Power of Three.

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Last week I attended the Annual Dinner for the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington. AISGW serves approximately 80 member schools in the greater Washington, DC area, which educate over 30,000 students from early childhood through high school. The Association provides guidance, resources, professional development, and networking opportunities. I sit on the AISGW Board with 12 other Heads of School and one Dean of Education of a nearby college.

The keynote address at the Annual Dinner was delivered by the Very Reverend Randy Hollerith, Dean of the Washington National Cathedral. Dean Hollerith, himself the product of a local independent school—and parent of independent school alumni—delivered a lively, informative, and humorous speech that centered around one theme: Core Values. 

He spoke about many of the challenges—and opportunities—facing our schools, the country, and the world, and he kept coming back to the topic of Core Values. "When all else is unclear and uncertain around you, you fall back on your Core Values to guide you." While I doubt Dean Hollerith was specifically referencing NPS, it seemed that he was.

Love, Respect, Responsibility, Honesty, Safety

It impresses me how well-known the Core Values are at NPS and how quickly the students learn them. From our youngest Cardinals to our parents, faculty, and staff, our community doesn't just know the Core Values—they are exhibited through our guiding statements and curriculum, and even posted on many of our walls.

Not merely abstract ideas, the Core Values are woven into the fabric of our daily lives at NPS.

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Last month's blog about my summer reading generated responses from NPS parents and faculty. From those, I learned about books, authors, and book groups—some consisting entirely of NPS parents.  Many shared their recommended reading with me; thank you to those of you who reached out! Here are some of the book titles that were passed along, listed alphabetically by author:

Moonglow, Michael Chabon
Fate and Furies, Lauren Groff
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson
Euphoria, Lily King
The Son, Phillip Meyer 
The Orientalist, Tom Reiss
Rabbit, Run, John Updike.    
Dear America: Notes of An Undocumented Citizen, Jose Antonio Vargas
The Time of the Hero/La Ciudad y Los Perror, Mario Vargas Llosa
Sing, Unburied, Sing, Jesmyn Ward
No Better Friend, Robert Weintraub
The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead

In the blog, I shared that one of the best books I read over the summer, The Invention of Wings, included a reference to my father in the afterword. I explained that I was curious about the author's connection to my father, now deceased, and hinted at wanting to reach out to her to find out more. Some NPS parents wrote to me and encouraged me to contact her. Buoyed by their encouragement, I did just that. Within days, the author, Sue Monk Kidd sent me the following email:

Thank you for reading The Invention of Wings and for reaching out to my publisher. It is so nice to hear from you. I’m very sorry to learn of your father’s death. He was an inspiration to me. I never had the privilege of meeting him, but I read his work, including his children’s books. It was while reading To Be A Slave that I came across the quote referenced in the Author’s Note at the end of The Invention of Wings. Your father’s words gave focus and meaning to what I was trying to do in writing my novel. I wrote his words on a card that remained on my desk during the 3½ years I worked on the book. When I traveled about the country speaking about the novel, I always closed my talk with the quote, referencing your father.  I wish I could have thanked him in person. Please accept my gratitude on his behalf. 

How wonderful – the interest from NPS parents in this connection, the gracious response from Sue Monk Kidd, and the further knowledge about my father. 

And that seems to be the perfect and fitting way for me to end this month’s installment of “The Power of Three.”

Contact Malcolm Lester
Email: malcolm.lester@nps-dc.org
Twitter: @NPSHeadofSchool

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