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2017-2018 School Year

Praise vs. encouragement

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By: Dr. Lucie Pentz

I can remember it as vividly as if it were yesterday even though it was nearly twenty-five years ago. I was in High School babysitting for an American family when I overheard the American mom say, “Honey, I am so proud of you. Great job!” praising her young son. I remember thinking to myself how strange it was to hear such (in my mind)  exaggerated praise for some routine kid behavior. I paused for a moment realizing how odd this praise sounded to my ear. Then the curtain opened to the endless inner dialog. Wait a minute. My parents never praised me like that? Does it mean they were not good parents? Did they not love me? Is this parenting behavior normal? Is this really strange? Why is she talking in such a high pitched voice? I managed to calm down and proceeded to walk down  memory lane, recalling all the parental behaviors that showed me that indeed my parents loved me. I lived in a culture where the implicit mantra was “talk is cheap,” but as I have become more acculturated, I must admit to having picked up a some of the more postmodern  and admittedly hyperbolic buzzwords like fantastic, fabulous and epic and have embraced the land of great job, terrific work, and what an amazing accomplishment. So, why am I experiencing such a conflicted relationship with praise?

Let’s be honest–praise is often not about the object of our praise, but rather more about us. Praising our children makes us feel like we are good parents, nurturing and caring. Lack of praise is almost equated to emotional neglect. Quick “great job” does not require much mental energy. We can quickly throw a speedy superlative without spending much time inwardly deliberating. We become praise junkies.

So what is the difference between praise and encouragement? Frequently thoughtless praise is like driving through McDonald’s–picking up a quick burger, some fries and a milkshake. It quickly and mindlessly takes care of the hunger in exchange for a stuffed tummy and a food coma. Quick praise can leave our children with inflated heads or egos, but with no real emotional nutrition.  Encouragement, on the other hand, is like concocting a gourmet meal–it takes time, effort, and quality ingredients. Besides, it requires some thinking too. But the reward of that effort is that your child’s spirit will be nourished.

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Jazz Band

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By: Dr. Lucie Pentz

Over the weekend I was talking to my husband who is a fellow child psychologist and knows our community well. I was preparing a talk for parents and staff and looking for a musical metaphor to describe the St. James Academy community.  I said “I think that SJA is like a large orchestra” and he looked at me and said “No way, orchestra is way too prescribed.  St. James is more like a jazz band.” So, SJA is like a large jazz band.  The more I thought about it, the more the description seemed to fit.

So what do we know about playing in a jazz band?

— There’s the band leader, the player most in charge.

— There are different instruments, gifts and talents of the musicians, and parts of the music, but one melodious musical sound. We’re all different, but we play together and produce music.

— This beautiful music does not happen without following certain rules and structure. Everyone plays together in the same key and the same time signature but NOT the same notes. We have the SJA Honor Code, Handbook etc.. to provide the structure within which we get to improvise and play our individual parts.

— There’s time to solo and time to be play a supporting role while attentively and sensitively listening to our fellow band members.

— Every player has an equal value but a different role producing a balance between individuality and conformity. So on one hand… we have the beautiful individuality of each talent and on the other hand we have the conformity of following the rules, structure and boundaries as we all listen to and follow our band leader and fellow musicians.

— There’s a fine balance between focusing on ourselves and our own contribution to the music and noticing (not criticizing) what others are doing. When we mess up or others mess up, we extend grace to ourselves and others.

— This is also a good time to realize and respect that not everyone will make music the same way you do or the way you would like them to.  There’s always the squeaky saxophone that may annoy you, but it might be liberating to know that sometimes we get to be the squeaky saxophone to somebody else.  You will likely meet some members of the community that may not be your cup of tea. And that’s okay. You don’t have to be best friends, you just need to play well together.

— So no good music comes from chaos, everyone doing as they wish, showing little consideration for others. The “we” is more important than the “I”.

As we start another year, let’s be a great jazz band. Let’s make beautiful “cool” music together.

Permanent Head Search Update

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Dear Parents, Students, Alumni, Faculty, Staff and Friends of the Academy:

On behalf of the Board of Trustees,  I would like to welcome you the ’17-’18 Academic Year at SJA, and particularly to our new families, we welcome you to SJA. You are about to embark on a wonderful experience with your children who are the ultimate beneficiaries of all that the Academy and this community has to offer.

While much has transpired since the end of the ’16-’17 school year, SJA has experienced nothing but positive developments.  You should know that through the hard work of your Board of Trustees, its committees, SJA’s administrative team, faculty and staff, the Academy has in place an extraordinary Interim Head in Maureen Walsh.  In no small part, the parents who took the time to respond to our Interim Head Survey were instrumental in allowing us to arrive at a final decision in selecting Maureen. To that I say, thank you!

Please know further that the Athletic Committee, through the leadership of Ed Kohls, has initiated the permitting process to begin construction of an outdoor Athletic Pavilion and Athletic Field improvements beginning this Fall (a direct result of our Capital Campaign!). When you see Ed and members of his committee, who include Bryan Lopez, Fred Sheckells, Kevin Culley and Mr. Deyseu, a mention of thanks would be appreciated. They worked tirelessly over the summer on this project, although I am sure they are embarrassed by my public acknowledgment of their generous volunteer service.

Now to the matter at hand, the process to begin the Permanent Head Selection Process (PH).  The Board has approved, at the Board Level, the establishment of a Head Selection  Committee (HSC).  The purpose of the HSC will  be to  spearhead the PH process.   The following persons have agreed  to serve on the HSC:  myself, Denise Shaffer (Chair), Tom Moore (Co-Chair), Martin Porter, Chris Wooten, Gunner Beattie, Adam Snavely along with the addition of Charlie Noell  and  Mrs. Diane Weglein (Patrons President).

Briefly, and to give you some background, this group has developed a sense of interdependence and synergy which is based on the past involvement in the Interim Head (IH) selection process.  Your Board feels strongly  that the PH process should reflect a natural flow from the IH selection process into this phase of selecting a permanent head. Thus, a continuation of the core committee genuinely reflects that continuity.  The addition of Charlie Noell and Diane Weglein serves to round out the interest of the Board and the parents group, respectively.

Please be assured that you our parents, students, alumni, administrative team and faculty will be provided opportunities for meaningful input in the PH process, and there will be more to say about that as we embark on this process.  Also, you will be notified regularly of the official status of this process through the Foxhound Focus and postings on the Academy’s website.

To our entire Academy community, thank you for your patience and support throughout this process and we have much to look forward to.

Respectfully Submitted,
Board of Trustees
By: /s/ Rob Glushakow, President

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