I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday full of joy, family fun, and wonder.  Rather than reflecting back on 2016 (which had lots to talk about, speculate on, and debate!), I am looking forward to 2017 as a year full of promise and hope. With the impact  of globalization, technological acceleration, major demographic shifts, environmental challenges, and changing attitudes towards and expectations of those in power who will lead us through these tumultuous times, it is important  for  all of us to become more informed, more caring, and more engaged in the world around us. Finding a common bond–linking our knowledge, skills, and experiences with our hopes for a more united, prosperous, and inclusive world–must become the impetus for change as we move forward. As stated by Marc Kielburger at the national WE Day youth conference last fall:

“We need keen minds and kind hearts working together.”

At SMS, we strive to create an environment that provides equality of opportunity and excellence by helping our girls ask difficult questions, making sure they hold themselves accountable for their actions, and instilling in them the desire to go beyond what is expected of them.  If we can give our girls the chance to dream while providing them with access to the resources to nurture their passions, we will help them find their own paths to success.  In a world that is always on, where there is no scarcity of information on the internet, we need to help our girls make connections, analyze data, and turn that information into knowledge – not just to solve yesterday’s problems, or even find solutions to today’s problems, but rather to seek out creative solutions to problems yet to be imagined.

To do so, will demand more of us – from the way we teach, what we ask our girls to demonstrate in their learning, ways they can use their talents in more creative and innovative ways to solve problems, and finally developing those skills around empathy and service. Ultimately our focus at SMS is to provide opportunities to learn, to grow, to excel, and to make a contribution.

One of the privileges that SMS has to offer its families is the presence of our international students and the opportunities provided for our domestic students to travel abroad – through our exchange trips to Japan and Chile; our service trips to Ecuador, Costa Rica, or the Dominican Republic; and travel during school breaks to other parts of the country and world.   These experiences – both on campus and abroad – stretch our perspective, pique our curiosity of other cultures, and teach us empathy and respect.  The ability to engage with others, who may appear to be different initially, requires us to “place ourselves in another person’s shoes,” and to experience the discomfort of being unfamiliar with the language or social norms, and to see beyond our own fears realizing that we have more in common than not. Our inclusive learning environment enables our girls to share and learn from each other, and helps them prepare for a world that will be more globally connected – where the power of the internet to share, influence, and inform (as well as misinform) has the ability to impact the way people think and act towards each other.

If we can build the foundation to dream, I believe our girls will figure out what they need to be successful in reaching their goals and making a difference in the world. So… as I look into what 2017 might offer, my promises and hopes for the upcoming year are:

  • To provide value creation to our families by ensuring our girls truly develop the confidence to become inspiring women.
  • To seek out new and innovative ways of doing things drawing from best practices and being open to new possibilities.
  • To explore potential challenges as opportunities to develop better understanding of the interconnectedness of our efforts.
  • To strive for shared ownership/accountability of our future success by welcoming everyone’s input as well as recognizing and celebrating all contributions.

One of the things that I love about SMS is that we are constantly reflecting upon who we are and how we can set ourselves apart from our competitors.  It is not because we are an all girls’ school that sets us apart; rather, it is what we get to do because we are an all girls’ school that makes us unique.  By focusing on relevance, flexibility, and adaptability, we can ensure that we are truly living our vision of Confident girls.  Inspiring Women.

“When we teach a child to make good decisions, we benefit from a lifetime of good decisions. When we teach a child to love to learn, the amount of learning will become limitless.  When we teach a child to deal with a changing world, she will never become obsolete. And when we are brave enough to teach a child to question authority, even ours, we insulate ourselves from those who would use their authority to work against each of us.”
Seth Godin