our children are not fragile

As I begin to wrap up a thrilling and fulfilling career at SCH, I thought that having been in this field for over thirty years and a parent for forty-five, I have a unique perspective that time and experience have given me. And in packing up my professional books and looking over my dissertation, I was reminded of the authors whose books I read, some of which focused on the fragilities of adolescence in an alarmist way. However, there have been terrific authors, speakers, and psychologists, many of whom have spoken at our school, who really get kids and, while not being blinded to their challenges (and there are many), tend to be more optimistic and hopeful. I think this is why I am drawn to the writings of Rachel Simmons, Rosalind Wiseman, Dr. Michael Thompson, Dr. Ned Hallowell, and Rob Evans. But an all-time favorite is Wendy Mogel and her wonderful book, Blessings of a Skinned Knee, that I found, as a parent, an educator, and a speaker, so affirming, funny, and wise. She celebrates the trials and tribulations that all children undergo while also reminding the reader that it is okay to be average, to not always be the star, and, for parents, that sometimes a child being the tree in the school play is just that and doesn’t need a dozen long stems.


keeping memories tucked away

After the holidays, my siblings and I often call one another to catch up and compare notes. Long gone are the mornings when the seven of us tumbled into the living room through doors that were closed only once a year. With our parents now gone, we don’t see one another often enough, and our extended families create a special narrative as we hear about the many cousins who span nearly two generations themselves. My oldest sister and I have, between us, four children who are close in age and who for years waited with great anticipation to be reunited under my parents’ roof every year at Christmas. From the moment our family cars drove in, the hilarity began. It felt like a house full of kittens and yarn balls.


For the love of our kids

Last week was a magical school moment rolled over into several days. It started with a senior girl who made an appointment to ask me to write a recommendation for her application for the Horatio Alger Scholarship. When I heard about the four hours she works as a cashier at a market, her early health issues, her engagement in clubs, service, and student life, and how she manages an academic load that includes four AP’s, one of which is BC Calculus, I couldn’t help but think of my privileged high school experience and how little I thought of the comfort of my cosseted life. Although I lived in an era in which I was not shielded from consequence, my parents did protect me from need. I have been thinking a great deal about this girl’s grit and courage, as she is a testament to so much of what is right in the world. A few hours later, a senior boy came in to thank me for writing him an email in which I thanked him for his leadership and moral courage. He said it warranted an in-person meeting to say how much it meant to him. It was so gracious of him—unbeknownst to him, I remember him as a little guy, always greeting me or opening a door for me. It is so heartening to see our children grow into such lovely adults. These two students represent a cross section of a wonderful class, and I am so excited to have them leading the school as seniors.


On Failure and Flourishing

With no information other than a good pre-show review, John and I recently headed to New York to hop aboard the Nostalgia Express for a lovely evening of great music at Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. As I thought about the show later, I couldn’t help but resonate with the message of resiliency that was at the heart of the show. Living in Brooklyn with her mother, King had the tenacity to try to break into songwriting at 16, and while much of the play is no doubt sanitized, her grit and tenacity shine through in the face of a staggering personal blow and professional challenges.

Making room for adult lives

I have to qualify this blog entry by saying that my granddaughter and I are very close. She is my namesake and she likes to remind me that we are two Priscillas but not gorillas. And suffice it to say, John and I are the quintessential grandparents—we love everything she does, we laugh at all of her bad “knock-knock,” jokes and John has been known to play Calico Critters well beyond what should be expected of him. We also dread when holidays come to an end, and it is the sight of her waving good-bye and crying as her parents pull out of our drive that wrenches our hearts.

GLOBAL EDUCATION: The Chain of Learning


Over break, Middle School teacher Hadley Ferguson sent me a wonderful article:

“At Home in the Liminal World: Living in transition between cultures, we are discovering who we are.” A fascinating lens, the article is based on the works of several anthropologists including Ruth Behar, about whom I have some familiarity having read her book, Traveling Heavy: A Memoir in Between Journeys. In it she references what she has named “the liminal space, that in-between place where what has been is no more and what will be is not yet.” In her book, she writes of her own liminabilty as she and her family moved from and between multiple cultures—Poland and Turkey to Israel and Cuba, and finally the U.S. Behar, who was born in Cuba, helped her family to make the final move from a comfortable middle-class Jewish community in Havana to Brooklyn, where she was forced to learn another language and adapt to another culture. For her family the task was further complicated, as her relatives were both Sephardic Jews and Ashkenazi Jews.  Language, climate, culture, and economics all converged to make it a difficult transition. Behar managed through hard work and her commitment to education, becoming a cultural traveler, not always at home, but always learning and growing.

on self-reliance and compassion

Many years ago when I was a young mother, I lived on an army base in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Having come from Philadelphia and Washington, DC, I was unused to what I considered the lack of sophistication in the rural south. Life on an army base tested my resiliency, taught me a great deal about humility, and helped me to understand the value of community in the most profound ways that I have never forgotten.


In the winter of 1972, I flew from DC, having spent several years in Georgetown as my husband finished his doctoral work in economics. It was a lovely cerebral life but nothing stayed the same, as this was the Vietnam era and we all lived by the roulette wheel of the draft. I arrived on the base, alone with two very sick babies and a husband in the field. I stayed in guest quarters knowing not a soul and with no one to help. There is an old adage in the military that if the army had wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one. It felt a little true back then. I spent a long two days until a soldier recognized a harried mother and drove me to the army hospital and stayed with me as my children were treated. He then checked on us every day until my husband could come retrieve his non-issued family. Yet in a short time I had had my first taste of the kindness of strangers. From there, I would live for four years among women I would never have known in my former life, yet we banded together and took care of each other’s children, had huge communal sleepovers, and attended to the hardship of living much of the time alone in cramped housing with little money for extras. A lieutenant’s pay was scarcely able to support a family, but we did not lack for fun, friendship, and the ability to fix cars and ovens, paint and repair our homes, and manage the red tape of simple shopping and doctor’s appointments. We had to be general contractors and single parents all the while living with the uncertainty and dread of husbands who might be deployed with little notice.

The Parent Partnership

As an educator with many years under my belt and gray hairs under my hat, I have watched hundreds of children enter school beyond excited but a little unsure, a little unsteady, and a bit baby bird-ish—not having been out of the nest for very long. It is then such a joy to be able to watch them depart as young adults, giddily ready and anticipating their next adventure with assurance and confidence. And I have had, without question, the best seat in the house. Having worked in partnership with wonderful parents, we have, together, weathered many an in-school drama, while back on my own ranch, there was often my children’s rendition of The Three Penny Opera in full production with multiple and often simultaneous Nicene Wars going on. I can safely say that for every bromide I may have offered, one of my own offspring was busy undercutting all of my cherished and/or conventional wisdom.

Real Men Are Also Great Dads

As an educator and a school head, I have always fought down a niggling frisson of shame when asked about my family, as it usually comes up that my children are from a previous marriage. Maybe it’s my age, but divorce has always felt like a failure of sorts. There was certainly no Ozzie to my Harriet. And no rose-covered cottage on Main Street. Even still, I sometimes fall victim to the feeling that I should have led a more exemplary life, although the truth is I am actually proud of the life I have led, lack of a finale in suburbia and all. But reflection often stumbles into my conscious self without planning, and after hearing Rachel Simmons address our parents about the valuable role of fathers, I went back to the place of all thoughts, hopes, and dreams—the rearview mirror into the lives of my children.

Is intensity always about noise?

My son, Geoff, is a boys’ lacrosse coach in California. As a high school and college player, he was fun to watch because he was a consummate teammate who loved to assist as much as he loved to score.  It’s part of who he is as a person, but it is even more compelling as he takes on the role of mentor and teacher for young men.

For eight years, his dad and I saw many more of his games than we missed, in spite of our busy work schedules.  And because he went to college in Massachusetts, we rarely remember balmy spring afternoons.  Too often we were huddled under blankets, clutching cooling coffee held more for warmth than sustenance.  Occasionally we even left our Philadelphia in the wee hours to drive five hours, see a game, take him and friends out for dinner, and drive home because of our own commitments.  It was fun but not for the feint of heart.