Dear Harding Academy Learning Community,
This morning I took the second drawer to the left in my desk out of its slide and laid its contents on the small conference table in my office. Notes written in crayon, letters written in immaculate cursive, pictures of stick figures, pictures of, well, colors, and everything in between was strewn in a heap of love, gratitude, and well wishes. This drawer was where I’ve stored every note which has ever crossed my desk with a kind word for Harding Academy, our teachers, staff or leadership team. It’s been my treasure chest and in this, my last note to you all as Head of School at Harding Academy, I want to pass this treasure on to you.
In a lot of ways, these notes and pictures are manifestations of the mission at work. They are outcomes one can point to demonstrating we are, indeed, educating and inspiring young people to become thoughtful, creative, lifelong learners and self disciplined, responsible, caring citizens. Over these seven years, I’ve learned three core lessons about how we achieve this each and every day:
Community is Critical
We choose Harding Academy because we believe the PreK through 8th grade model is the best educational framework for our children during the ten most formative learning years of their lives. The part Harding Academy understands and cultivates more than any other is that these are also the ten most formative parenting years of our lives. In order to truly inspire the mind and nurture the spirit, we must partner together to make it happen. Our Harding Parents Association, our faculty and staff, our Board, and our Leadership Team keep this front and center at all times.
The second foundational understanding about how we achieve the mission is that we are obsessively child centered. This isn’t always easy. More times than not it means it makes adults' lives harder. At Harding, we’ve understood that to make this a cultural touchstone there can be no pretension amongst the adults. In the end, we all chose Harding because we want what is best for our children and we understand that it takes some sacrifice to make it happen.
Kindness is Currency
Lastly and most importantly, Harding has stood strong against the rising tide of cynicism and negativity that has characterized so many facets of our society. Owing to our elementary school beginnings and the optimism and hope that comes from dreaming of that first walk into the Kindergarten classroom, we foster a kindness of heart that only grows as our children matriculate through the grades. Harding assumes everyone is coming from a caring place and with the best of intentions. Even in tense moments, we remind ourselves what this is all about - our children. And as we model this grace, our students reflect it in their interactions with each other. I am always hearing from Heads at schools where our students have moved on about how our students are engagers - they are kind and they are caring and their status amongst their classmates is defined by these core characteristics which Harding helped to instill. Frankly, kindness gets things done - there is no better currency.
We are all beneficiaries of these lessons. Mackenzie and I and our children have been shaped by this place and the above lessons more than we may ever realize. So I thank you, Harding Academy. We will be forever grateful for this learning community and look forward to watching it continue to impact families like ours for generations to come.