A few years ago, I heard Adam Grant speak at a NAIS conference. He is a psychologist, a professor at Wharton, and had recently published a book titled “Option B – Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy” co-authored with Sheryl Sandberg. The book explored recovery from traumatic events, such as the one Sandberg experienced when her husband died suddenly at the age of 47. It would take a much longer post to write a full review of the book but essentially its message was when Option A isn’t available, you make the most of Option B. Grant’s book explains how to accomplish that and then find joy.
Although the subject matter was not the same, I have thought a lot about this book in the last few difficult months. So many plans have changed and so many "Option A” things that we used to be able to do are not available to us right now. I miss going to concerts and Broadway shows. I miss going out to dinner or to a movie and watching sports on TV. I missed the summer vacation. As school started two weeks ago, I missed the beginning-of-the-year excitement and seeing the kids’ smiles that are now hidden under masks. This morning, however, I was reminded again about the lessons in “Option B.”
We have four houses in our Middle School. The Middle School houses build connections and community across grade levels and give students opportunities for leadership, a higher level of engagement, and to have fun. The houses offer students and teachers the opportunity to work with one another outside of the academic arena, promote a healthy sense of school spirit, and enable students to establish connections that transcend classrooms and grade levels.
At the beginning of each school year, we host a sorting day for all of the students that are new to Middle School. In a typical year, the whole Middle School will go to the gym for part of the day for sorting and then house activities. It is a fun, loud, spirit-filled day to kick off the new year and it also gives our new students a sense of belonging in those early nervous days at a new school. We could not use the gym this year due to social distancing guidelines so Option A wasn’t available. We planned Option B, which was to use the outdoor stadium that has plenty of space for socially distanced activities. We were trying to make the best of Option B….and then it rained at 4 a.m. on sorting day. Option C, created between 4 and 6 a.m. that morning, had the kids split into small groups in classrooms to virtually watch the sorting in the cafeteria and participate in virtual team activities throughout the morning. I was sad we couldn’t do Option A and was worried when Option B fell through, but, as they always do, my teachers found a way to make Option C fun and joyful. We made quite a ruckus most of the morning but oh, how good it was to hear that excitement, spirit, and happiness! I watched as the anxiety melted away from some of the kids and there was a happy buzz for the rest of the day. We found some joy in Option C.
While I wait for a time when we aren’t worried about the social distance between students, staggered class dismissals, scheduled times for locker visits, wiping desks and hand sanitizer, I am going to continue to look for ways find the joy in the Option Bs (or Cs, or Ds!) when they come my way.
Pinewood Preparatory School’s faculty and staff members recently selected four of their colleagues as the Teachers and Staff Member of the Year for the 2019-2020 school year.
Lower School Teacher of the Year Tammy Bowers spent a number of years in the classroom as a teaching assistant prior to becoming a Pre-K3 lead teacher this year. “When I was in high school I claimed the quote, “Carpe Diem,” as my own. I have tried to seize the day every single day of my life. I absolutely love teaching, and I have always tried to make the most of each day, especially with my students. I have taught at Pinewood Preparatory School for 10 years, and it is definitely family to me! The best part about teaching three-year-olds is that they keep me young, and every day is a new adventure!” said Bowers of her teaching journey.
English instructor Olivia Guillet was voted Middle School Teacher of the Year for 2019-2020. “It is such an honor to receive this award when I work with such wonderful and talented teachers at Pinewood Preparatory School. I first joined Pinewood as a parent three years ago, and then as a middle school English teacher two years ago. I have taught middle school, high school and college-level English for over fourteen years. I endeavor to instill a love of literature and of learning in my classroom and create an environment in which children can become more confident in their abilities and in themselves,” said Guillet.
She continued, “I believe that a love of reading is one of the first steps in becoming a lifelong learner, and have created a middle school book club at Pinewood, which is wonderfully supported by students and colleagues. I am so grateful for the relationships I am able to cultivate with my students and their families, and the ways in which I am able to be a small part of their lives. I am lucky to work with the best colleagues - in the middle school, in the English department, and across the school as a whole - and have been overwhelmed by the gracious, kind, and supportive welcome I have experienced at Pinewood, from faculty, staff, students, and parents alike. It truly is a family - and one that I am proud to be part of. Thank you.”
The newly selected High School Teacher of the Year, Deirdre Hawes, will retire this year after nearly three decades of teaching science (and a host of other roles) at Pinewood. Looking back at Pinewood at the beginning of her career, Hawes said, “Time flies! Seems like yesterday that I applied for a job at Pinewood. By the way, the front circle was a gravel road, the cafeteria was in the un-air-conditioned "old gym” and the only buildings were the Breezeway and the Main Building up front. There was also a triple-wide trailer (the ‘Chuck Wagon’ - so named because our ‘Chucks’ - Mr. Kuhnell and Mr. Stjern - held court there along with a German teacher, Ms. Brenner) where Freedom Wing now resides. Gosh, Pinewood has certainly come a long way!”
As for her next steps, Hawes said, “I often reflect on the last 28 years at Pinewood and realize how blessed I've been to have worked alongside exemplary colleagues, invested parents, and students who have gone on to become amazing people in their communities and respective fields. I will dearly miss my Pinewood family, but I am looking forward to the next chapter in life. My husband Jeff, and our three dogs will be moving to Asheville, N.C., the place that has always been home to me. Who knows what lies ahead... but we are looking forward to the adventure. Go Panthers!”
Staff Member of the Year Janice Martin has lent her talents to a number of departments during her 16 years at Pinewood. Members of the Pinewood family may recall her working in the Front Office and as the attendance secretary prior to assuming the role of Facilities and Events Manager. Martin quickly embraced the opportunity to implement new processes for managing the School's events calendar and explore new solutions to enhance its facilities.
“I love getting to know all the families and making lifelong friendships. I enjoy helping others and being able to improve the look of the campus,” Martin said of her Pinewood experience.