Welcome to Julia Morgan School for Girls’ website and thank you for your interest in JMSG.

Our Mission is to prepare the confident, capable, creative, and compassionate women of tomorrow. Our school was founded by a small group of passionate individuals concerned with studies indicating that girls in co-educational middle school environments lost confidence and skills.

Why is middle school such an important time to invest in your daughter’s education?

Our founders believed this particular time in a girl’s life truly impacts the rest of her life, and an all girl environment can be a game changer for future success and well being. As the National Coalition of Girls' Schools states, all girl environments provide students the opportunity and environment where they understand the tremendous potential and power in being a girl. This is indeed at the heart of what we do at Julia Morgan. Girls find not only equal opportunity, but also every opportunity. They fill every role; they are the scientists, speakers, thinkers, writers, artists, athletes, and leaders.

Our curriculum and pedagogy are based on brain research that indicates the majority of females learn in uniquely different ways from males. We also know that learning how to communicate, critically analyze, problem-solve, collaborate, create, and innovate are life skills necessary for success in this century. By learning these skills in an environment that encourages positive risk-taking, our students become comfortable advocating for their ideas and for themselves.

JMSG has a long history of respecting research and acting on it—our founders looked to the work of Carol Gilligan regarding the relational model and how critically important relationships are to girls. Within our schedule, we have created several opportunities for girls to assure that relationship building happens. A community time is built into each day when everyone stops to connect with one another, whether it is in Advising, Families, All-School Meetings, or Class Meetings. All girls participate in Social-Emotional Learning classes, which incorporate the over-arching themes of self-awareness, self management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

Beginning in 2013, after seeing the studies that have shown that sleep deprivation impairs learning, memory, and attention as much as it impairs health and overall emotional well-being, we shifted the school day to start at 9 AM and instituted Cornerstone—a period before classes where girls can participate in a variety of non-academic offerings. (Click on the following links to read studies on sleep and learning: NPRNBC News, The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Association of School Psychologists)

Another innovation we implemented that year is our STEAM program. Every girl in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade is challenged to engage in hands-on learning in STEAM: a class involving Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math that is project-based and cross-discipline. The 6th grade STEAM curriculum focuses on electrical engineering, environmental engineering, and green design/architecture; 7th grade focuses on computer science, bioengineering, crime scene investigation, and STEAM related career opportunities; and the 8th grade curriculum focuses on mechanical and structural engineering. We have tinkering stations in the front hall where students, encouraged to be curious and inventive, use tools to take apart and put together everything from laptops to toasters in their “down time.” Through both curriculum and environment, girls at JMSG have many opportunities over the course of these critical years to see themselves in roles not necessarily associated with girls. (Click to read the following STEM articles: Huffington Post, TES Magazine, World.Mic, NPR)

Our most recent data gathering shows that, of nearly 500 JMSG alumnae college age and older, the most attended university by far is Stanford, with over 6% of our alumnae attending. Indeed, our girls have matriculated to as many as 24 different high schools in one year, but whether the high schools are large public schools such as Berkeley High School or small private ones such as The College Preparatory School, faculty from every school have told us that they can pick out our girls in their classes—they are the ones who raise their hands, critically analyze what is before them, and advocate for themselves.

Thank you again for your interest in JMSG. We invite you to stay awhile and learn more about Julia Morgan School for Girls and our program.

Warmly,
Sandra Luna 
Head of School

Character Day and JMSG

Over 85,000 events in 121 countries were scheduled for the 3rd annual Character Day this year. It is a free annual day and global initiative where groups around the world screen films on the science of character development from different perspectives (including The Science of Character, The Adaptable Mind, and The Making of a Mensch), and some join an online global conversation around the importance of developing character strengths (resilience, grit, empathy, courage, kindness)–all rooted in evidence-based research.
 
Although Character Day is one day, JMSG will be highlighting one character strength each week at All School Meeting (ASM) throughout the school year. Eighth graders will have the opportunity to choose a video, poem, or quote about a character strength and share this with the student body.
 
We look forward to sharing that character strength with you each week and what our 8th graders have chosen to express what it means to them. In the meantime, please watch this 8 minute video if you would like to learn more and be inspired!
 

This Week's Character Strength

List of 20 items.

  • Enthusiasm, Resilience, Dr. Seuss, and the Class of 2017

    This Week's Character Strength - Esnthusiasm
    Enthusiasm

    You have brains in your head.
    You have feet in your shoes.
    You can steer yourself
    in any direction you choose.
    --Dr. Seuss

    Eighth grader Sofie shared the character strength of enthusiasm at this week’s All School Meeting through the above quote. This Dr. Seuss quote is taken from Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, often understandably given as a graduation gift. I think you will all agree that the beauty and wisdom of Theodor Geisel’s words are often poignant for all ages. Enthusiasm is not the only strength he writes about in this piece. When you read it in its entirety, you’ll recall he also writes about the resilience we need as we hit those bumps in the road, and about those times in life when choices are gray, not crystal clear, still all the while needing to face difficult choices as a part of life.

    It seems fitting to take the time to share the entire poem with you as the 8th graders are readying for graduation, coming full circle at JMSG and looking forward to this next stage in their lives as high schoolers. There is inspiration for all of us whatever our age, whatever the stage we find ourselves. Enjoy and be inspired.

    This will be the last of these character strength letters this school year. I look forward to the quotes and the character strengths the Class of 2018 will share next year.

    As always, wishing you the best,
    Sandra

    Oh, the Places You'll Go! By Dr. Seuss

    Congratulations!
    Today is your day.
    You're off to Great Places!
    You're off and away!

    You have brains in your head.
    You have feet in your shoes.
    You can steer yourself 
    any direction you choose.
    You're on your own. And you know what you know.
    And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.

    You'll look up and down streets. Look 'em over with care.
    About some you will say, "I don't choose to go there."
    With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, 
    you're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

    And you may not find any
    you'll want to go down.
    In that case, of course,
    you'll head straight out of town.

    It's opener there
    in the wide open air.

    Out there things can happen
    and frequently do
    to people as brainy
    and footsy as you.

    And then things start to happen,
    don't worry. Don't stew.
    Just go right along.
    You'll start happening too.

    OH!
    THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!

    You'll be on your way up!
    You'll be seeing great sights!
    You'll join the high fliers
    who soar to high heights.

    You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
    You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
    Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best.
    Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

    Except when you don't.
    Because, sometimes, you won't.

    I'm sorry to say so
    but, sadly, it's true
    that Bang-ups
    and Hang-ups
    can happen to you.

    You can get all hung up
    in a prickle-ly perch.
    And your gang will fly on.
    You'll be left in a Lurch.

    You'll come down from the Lurch
    with an unpleasant bump.
    And the chances are, then,
    that you'll be in a Slump.

    And when you're in a Slump,
    you're not in for much fun.
    Un-slumping yourself
    is not easily done.

    You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
    Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
    A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
    Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
    How much can you lose? How much can you win?

    And IF you go in, should you turn left or right...
    or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
    Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
    Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
    for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

    You can get so confused
    that you'll start in to race
    down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
    and grind on for miles cross weirdish wild space,
    headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
    The Waiting Place...

    ...for people just waiting.
    Waiting for a train to go
    or a bus to come, or a plane to go
    or the mail to come, or the rain to go
    or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
    or the waiting around for a Yes or No
    or waiting for their hair to grow.
    Everyone is just waiting.

    Waiting for the fish to bite
    or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
    or waiting around for Friday night
    or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
    or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
    or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
    or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
    Everyone is just waiting.

    NO!
    That's not for you!

    Somehow you'll escape
    all that waiting and staying
    You'll find the bright places
    where Boom Bands are playing.

    With banner flip-flapping,
    once more you'll ride high!
    Ready for anything under the sky.
    Ready because you're that kind of a guy!

    Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
    There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
    And the magical things you can do with that ball
    will make you the winning-est winner of all.
    Fame! You'll be as famous as famous can be,
    with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

    Except when they don't
    Because, sometimes they won't.

    I'm afraid that some times
    you'll play lonely games too.
    Games you can't win
    'cause you'll play against you.

    All Alone!
    Whether you like it or not,
    Alone will be something
    you'll be quite a lot.

    And when you're alone, there's a very good chance
    you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
    There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
    that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.

    But on you will go
    though the weather be foul.
    On you will go
    though your enemies prowl.
    On you will go
    though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
    Onward up many
    a frightening creek,
    though your arms may get sore
    and your sneakers may leak.

    On and on you will hike,
    And I know you'll hike far
    and face up to your problems
    whatever they are.

    You'll get mixed up, of course,
    as you already know.
    You'll get mixed up 
    with many strange birds as you go.
    So be sure when you step.
    Step with care and great tact
    and remember that Life's 
    a Great Balancing Act.
    Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
    And never mix up your right foot with your left.

    And will you succeed?
    Yes! You will, indeed!
    (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

    KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

    So...
    be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
    or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
    You're off to Great Places!
    Today is your day!
    Your mountain is waiting.
    So...get on your way!

    *** The above text was copyrighted in 1990. 

    Congratulations to the Class of 2017!
     
  • Social Responsibility and Gratitude

    This Week’s Character Strength ~ Social Responsibility
    Eighth grader Sofia shared the character strength of social responsibility at this week’s All School Meeting through the quote, Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
     
    I’m not sure if parents and friends who volunteer their time at Julia Morgan or those of you who share your treasure with us think that your giving of time and/or resources fits into the category of social responsibility, but I believe it does.
     
    The speech Dr. King gave from where this quote is taken is known as “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life.” He explained the breadth of life being that dimension when we are concerned for others.
     
    Every hour you have spent as a volunteer, every dollar you have given has gone to support not just your daughter, but every girl at JMSG to become and to be a strong and bold voice. Whether a girl is an introvert, or an extrovert, or somewhere in between, it has never been more important than in this moment to create an environment where she can learn how to advocate for herself, to stand up for herself, for others, and for what is right. Because of your support we are able to prepare girls to ask the hard questions. It might be when she believes a teacher or professor has given her the wrong grade, or perhaps later in life when she learns a male colleague doing the same work is earning more than she is. Whenever it is, at the core of our practices and our work with the girls, is the critical importance of assuring every girl is on the path to be the architect of her own life. 
     
    As we begin to look back on 2016/2017, please know how much we are grateful to you for supporting all the girls at Julia Morgan to be on their paths to become the confident, capable, creative, and compassionate women of tomorrow. 
     
    As always, wishing you the best,
    Sandra
  • Optimism and Taking Great Leaps

    This Week’s  and Last Week’s Character Strength ~ Optimism 
    Eighth graders Ella and Elianna shared the character strength of optimism at last week’s All School Meeting through the quote, Dreams come a size too big so you can grow into them. Author Unknown
     
    And 8th graders Dylan and Natalie shared optimism again this week with the quote, also by an unknown author, Stop worrying about what you have to lose and start focusing on
    what you have to gain.
     
    I am beginning to meet with each 8th grader, circling back to the letters they wrote during the summer before they started JMSG. Having the opportunity to read their letters, each one expresses how a girl would like to be remembered by the JMSG community after she graduates. Each one holds the hope and the optimism she had as an incoming 6th grader, looking forward to middle school and the unknown.
     
    Now that graduation will soon be upon us, many of the girls have shared they are leaving with bittersweet feelings, but they are eager for their next steps. They are looking forward to take the leap to high school, also with its unknown, but with its excitement of so many new and fresh possibilities for them. And they are ready.
     
    I return the letters to the girls during the dress rehearsal for graduation in lieu of diplomas, which, of course, we save for the real day. The letters are theirs to keep. I hope they do keep them and take them out once in a while to remember what their 11 or 12 year old self was thinking on the then huge transition to middle school and what their hopes were for themselves. As I have mentioned to some of the girls, it is a window into how far they have come.
     
    We will miss the Class of 2017, but they are ready for that next great leap.
     
    As always, wishing you the best,
    Sandra
  • The Importance of the Small Moments

    This Week’s Character Strength ~ Appreciation of Beauty
    Eighth grader Zoe shared the character strength of appreciation of beauty at this week’s All School Meeting through the quote: Remember the small moments because some day you might realize they were the big moments. (Variations of this quote are attributed to a number of people.)
     
    As we near the end of the school year, with several events before us, including graduation, I know that the girls do remember those moments in a significant way. The 8th grade graduation speeches and skits by the girls are usually full of them. These moments make up their experience during their time at JMSG: inside jokes with friends, something that happened at lunch that made everyone laugh, a conversation during carpool, a favorite spot somewhere on campus, such as relaxing on a bench in the upstairs hall or in a nook on the first floor, shooting off a rocket, or having a break-through moment in a class. They all add up.
     
    One of the most difficult things to do as an adult is to stop long enough to savor those moments. With our lives becoming more and more full of things to do and responsibilities to hold, it is challenging. I knew one family who made a point, whether it was in the car or around the dinner table, to invite each person to share one small moment that particular day or week that made her smile. During middle school, this can become a bit more challenging for some girls at certain periods of their development, but then it can be filed away as a practice until the time returns when she sees more light in her life. By focusing on one moment, no matter how “insignificant”, it becomes more possible at times to find a bit of brightness even when the day has not gone as hoped.
     
    Here is an article from the Huffington Post from 2014 I think you’ll enjoy. It certainly might inspire.
     
     
    As always, wishing you the best,
    Sandra
  • Optimism, Working Together, and Baseball

    This Week’s Character Strength ~ Optimism
    Eighth grader Clarisa shared the character strength of optimism at this week’s All School Meeting through the quote, Look towards the sun, and the shadows will fall behind you. Walt Whitman
     
    I have appreciated more than a few things about the 8th grade girls leading All School Meetings this year. Certainly, just as in the past several years, the girls lead us as a school community. I have also enjoyed the gift of inspiration from their chosen quotes. Along with both of these, though, I am intrigued by the quote they choose, as well as learning who is being quoted.
     
    As last week, optimism was chosen as the character strength. When I saw that the quote was from Walt Whitman, it brought back a flood of memories for me as I happen to be a huge and lifelong baseball fan. For those of you who have seen Ken Burns’ Baseball, or for those of you who love Walt Whitman, you might be familiar with the quote, In our sundown perambulations, through the outer parts of Brooklyn, we have observed several parties of youngsters playing ‘base’, a certain game of ball. Let us go forth a while and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms. A game of ball is glorious. 1846
     
    My father was a college baseball coach for several years, as well as coaching and sponsoring teams throughout the Bay Area. He worked with many young men and boys who had challenging lives, some of them had already been in state facilities. But he believed in the power of teaching through learning how to work together. When my father passed away, within a few days I received calls from a few of these once young men, one now a published poet and college professor, another a CEO of a business. Both told me the same thing: but for my father, they would have been incarcerated for their lives. Instead they lived productive professional lives and were enjoying their children and grandchildren.
     
    Learning together, and from each other, remains one of the critical ways we develop as human beings. This is why collaboration at JMSG, both as the faculty/staff level and in the classrooms is so important.
     
    As my father always believed in the possibility in each young man he worked with, so we believe and hold the optimism of a well-lived life for each of your daughters.
     
    And as a baseball fan and native San Franciscan, I remain forever optimistic that the Giants will win the World Series again, something I felt rather pessimistic about for most of my life as I could not imagine them winning it even once!
     
    As more spring weather comes our way, I do hope we all are able to leave our “close rooms” and enjoy “sundown perambulations” of our own.

    As always, wishing you the best,
    Sandra
  • The Power of Love and Optimism

    This Week’s Character Strength ~ Optimism and Love
    The last two week’s character strengths could not be more poignant during the present times.
     
    Eighth grader Sofía shared the character strength of love at last week’s All School Meeting through a quote by Jimi Hendrix that spoke to her: When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace. And 8th grader Claudia shared the character strength of optimism at this week’s All School Meeting through the quote, Don’t sell yourself short. You’re more capable than you think you are.
     
    Connecting these two, it becomes easy to see that anyone who might feel the “power of love” Jimi Hendrix wrote about would most probably be fairly optimistic.
     
    Looking at the headlines in the media these weeks has not been uplifting, but if I focus on the headlines here at JMSG, they always are: from the girls winning in the basketball Jamboree to knowing that the 8th grade girls who took the bold step to give their persuasive speeches in English on that first day to the girls leading their conferences with you last week. There is a sense of hope, of possibility we see in your daughters daily.
     
    The longitudinal study from March 2015 that I’ve shared with you before from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (“Skills for Social Progress: the Power of Social and Emotional Skills”) look to back up Jimi Hendrix. The skills of responsibility, working well with others, self-esteem, and developing empathy among others, have a direct connection to and lead to academic achievement not only now, but also to success in life well into the future. The report in particular, shows that improving social and emotional skills, also referred to as “soft skills” by some, are anything but soft since they drive the accumulation of cognitive skills and help secure the foundation we need to be successful in life. All you have to do is look to the title of the study to see the connection.
     
    Though we have a way to go before the headlines reflect the power of love, our partnership with you in helping your daughters develop those soft skills for lifetime success should give us hope and a renewed optimism that the possibilities for them and for the world are endless.
     
    As always, wishing you the best,
    Sandra
     
     
  • The Power of Curiosity

    This Week’s Character Strength ~ Curiosity
    Eighth grader Dylan shared the character strength of curiosity with all of us at this week’s All School Meeting through a quote that spoke to her: Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity. Alan Watts, Penelope Ward

    Alan Watts’ full quote is: By replacing fear of the unknown with curiosity we open ourselves up to an infinite stream of possibility. We can let fear rule our lives or we can become childlike with curiosity, pushing our boundaries, leaping out of our comfort zones, and accepting what life puts before us.

    One of the biggest challenges we face as adults who work with youth or as parents is to help students or our children remain curious through adolescence and young adulthood. So often within schools, questioning about the unknown or wondering why things are the way they are becomes sublimated to assuring students acquire the knowledge and skills they need to successfully matriculate to the next level of school. Unfortunately, in many schools, there is not enough time to entertain an “I wonder why” question from a student. Yet it is at these times when curiosity is fed, encouraged to grow, where students might begin to lose the fear of the unknown as it is deconstructed.
     
    We live in a world these days where fearing the other is the norm - fear of the other religion, fear of the other who doesn’t look like me, fear of the other in countries unlike our own, fear of the other political party. Let us partner as teachers and parents to do our best in assuring your daughters do not fear the other, that they continue to see the endless possibilities when differences abound and they learn to embrace their curious selves, having the courage to always ask the question not only to learn, but to also hold those around them to task by asking “why.”
     
    As author Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote, There is so much in the world for us all if we only have the eyes to see it, and the heart to love it, and the hand to gather it to ourselves.
     
    Let us work together now in order to empower your daughters to keep their eyes, hands, and hearts open to new possibilities as they journey to adulthood.
     
    As always, wishing you the best,
    Sandra
  • Confidence and Perseverance Personified - Two In-Person Inspirational Women!

    This Week’s and Last Week’s Character Strength ~ Confidence and Perseverance
    Eighth grader Lucy A. shared the character strength of confidence with all of us at last week’s All School Meeting through a quote that spoke to her: Confidence is the best outfit. Wear it and rock it. Anonymous
     
    And 8th grader Mia shared the character strength of perseverance at this week’s All School Meeting through a quote that spoke to her: Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you must keep moving. Albert Einstein
     
    We were blessed both of these weeks to have in-person Inspirational Women to speak to us at our All School Meetings. Both guests have embodied these character strengths.
     
    Last week JMSG alumna, Izzy Gravano, shared her story with the girls about forging ahead with something she was not encouraged to do. Izzy, who graduated from JMSG in 2014, is taking a speech and debate class at her high school. She wrote a speech about being a feminist and her teacher told her not to use this speech in an upcoming competition because the subject matter was too controversial. Izzy did take her teacher’s advice, knowing that if a subject is seen as controversial that the judges might not give as many points for that speech. But when a second competition was coming, Izzy decided anyway to go ahead and give her feminism speech even though her teacher did not feel it was a good choice. Izzy ultimately placed with this speech. And we were lucky to hear it when she visited. She was riveting with her words and deliverance. The girls and faculty were entranced and the applause was thunderous!
     
    Our in-person Inspirational Woman this week was Meghan Freebeck, whom I met at the United State of Women Summit hosted by the White House last June. Meghan is 28 and it is no wonder she has been recognized nationally for her work. She was honored by The San Francisco Business Times as a member of their 40 under 40 Class of 2016 for her perseverance, vision, passion, and imagination in her pursuits. Meghan is currently the Director of Operations and Development of San Francisco Suicide Prevention, but she is also the CEO and founder of Simply the Basics which provides tampons, pads, soap, toothpaste, cleaning products, hair products, lotions, sunscreen and much more to the homeless population in San Francisco. This organization has also developed a series of programs to achieve its mission, providing the most basic needs with dignity. Meghan’s organization is serving other metropolitan areas across the country and is now expanding to more cities.
     
    Meghan was also the co-founder of Givdo, a gaming app that allows users to play trivia and win donations for the charities of their choice.
     
    Although my talking about an Inspirational Woman each week is well-received by the girls, there is nothing that can compare to meeting and hearing from an extraordinary woman (no matter her age!) in-person. How remarkable to hear first hand from two courageous and inspirational women in the span of 7 days!
     
    As always, wishing you the best,
    Sandra
  • Courage and Remaining Forever Young

    This Week’s Character Strength ~ Courage
    Eighth grader Sadie shared the character strength of courage with us at this week’s All School Meeting through a quote that spoke to her:
     
    May you always be courageous
    Stand upright and be strong
    And may you stay
    Forever young.
    Bob Dylan
     
    Courage and bravery seem to be on many of the girls’ minds these days. For those of you who were able to attend last night’s Women of Courage Panel in Honor of Rosa Parks, it is probably on your minds today as well.
     
    As I wrote to a parent today, what struck me last night, and as I have seen so many times before, is how the girls are incredibly capable of accepting the trust we have in them and leaning into it beautifully and bravely. 
     
    When we work with your daughters, guiding, facilitating, helping them navigate, or teaching, our goal is at some point let them take hold of the opportunities we present, leaping forward without us. It reminds me of watching children learning to walk. The same is true, as we had to let go at some juncture so that they could take that first step and then another and another, each time gaining confidence that it would be OK. As the adults in their lives, we also know that we are there to catch or comfort, if need be. That doesn’t mean we don’t hold our breaths at times as we do let go.
     
    Whether your daughters are in the 6th grade play or Spring Concert or graduation or the Women of Courage Panel, at some point we, as the adults, let go and trust, knowing that we have done all that we could do and that, in the end, the girls will be the better for it.
     
    As parents of adolescent girls, you are asked to simultaneously let go and be present to “catch” her, not too close, but not too far either. As your daughters let go of some of their earlier childhood wants and needs, so are you asked to let go to allow her to do just that. It’s tricky being the parent of an adolescent!
     
    Last night the girls and panelists wowed the audience. As we listened to stories of courage from four incredible women and witnessed girls taking those brave leaps in front of us, Sadie could not have chosen a better quote for us to begin this week. There were at least three generations on stage, with even the older generations “forever young” due to their courage.
     
    Wishing you all a wonderful weekend,
    Sandra
  • Bravery, the Inauguration, Marches and More

    This Week’s Character Strength ~ Bravery
    Eighth grader Ella shared the character strength of bravery with all of us at this week’s All School Meeting through a quote that spoke to her: You can never cross the ocean
    until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. Christopher Columbus
     
    Being brave may take on different meanings for each of us in the coming years, but it always means taking a chance when we don’t necessarily know the outcome. We ask your daughters to do just this in various ways at JMSG almost every day in classes, on the field or basketball court, sometimes, even on a stage. We do it purposefully and thoughtfully, knowing how critical it is for your daughters’ growth. If we can move through our fears, we inevitably become the better for it.
     
    The quote seems timely as well as we ready for this weekend of the inauguration along with its attendant protests and marches.
     
    As I wrote last week, it is critical to remember that your daughters in the coming years will be aware of and even possibly be participants in a movement of ordinary people across the U.S. who stand for the respect and dignity of all people. They will not be immobilized by fear, but rather as Emily Pilloton from Garage Girls said last week at Family STEAM Night, see fear as an invitation to be brave.
     
    With our Women of Courage Panel in Honor of Rosa Parks in a few weeks, I am blessed to have the time to read more about her, and with every story, I become more and more in awe of the brave life she led. She embodied bravery. When she was a child, her grandfather would sit on their porch every night with a rifle on his lap, guarding his family against the threat of racial violence – every night. The normalcy of the need to actively defend, and to know, as a child of that need is something few of us have had to experience. She certainly did see it as an invitation to be brave. My question is always, but how? How do ordinary people act extraordinarily in the face of fear?
     
    Taking that chance when we don’t know the outcome, standing up for what we believe in, being aware that we are not only witnessing history, but also making it is a privilege we hold. As President Obama has said: We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. Your daughters and we have a remarkable opportunity ahead of us. I know that through your daughters’ experiences at JMSG where we expect and support them to take positive risks regularly, we are helping prepare them to take positive risks in high school and beyond, hopefully, throughout their lives. I have no doubt your daughters will be ready for the challenge.
     
    When we need inspiration to move forward, let us remember those who have shown bravery in small and bold ways, every day ways, and once in a lifetime ways. Let us remember that no matter the fear, it is up to us to help shape the future for our children and our children’s children. And let us remember together what Emily shared with us, that fear is an invitation to be brave.
     
    As always, wishing you the best,
    Sandra
  • Teamwork, Lessons from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks

    This Week’s Character Strength ~ Teamwork
    Eighth grader Abby shared the character strength of teamwork with all of us at this week’s All School Meeting through a quote that spoke to her: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
     
    This seems a perfect quote as we ready to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend. There has been much talk about the importance of each of us standing up for what we believe in during the current political environment. It seems we cannot underestimate what both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mrs. Rosa Parks taught us through their lives: that individuals can stand up to powerful forces to create social change and that the power of one can become the power of many.
     
    When I decided to name the Women of Courage Panel in Mrs. Parks’ honor, I realized how little I knew about her the more I read. She had been an activist her entire life and although she was an introvert, she had a beautiful feisty side to her. One of her friends from childhood said, “Nobody ever bossed Rosa around and got away with it.” Mrs. Parks told the story that when she was walking with her little brother, a young white man goaded and derided them, so she picked up a brick and dared the white man to hit her. He backed down. This was at a time when lynchings were commonplace.
     
    When years later she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man in 1955, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a relatively unknown young minister in Montgomery. As crowds gathered to talk about a possible boycott of the buses after her arrest, Martin Luther King, Jr., inspired by her courageous act, went on to inspire a movement alongside her.
     
    At a time such as the one we are living in, it is critical to remember that your daughters in the coming years will be aware of and even possibly be a participant in a movement of ordinary people across the U.S. who stand for the respect and dignity of all people, who will not be immobilized by fear, but rather as Emily Pilloton from Garage Girls said last night, see fear as an invitation to be brave.
     
    My hope for all of us this weekend and for your daughters is that we will be inspired once more by the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as by Mrs. Parks.
    Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
    It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963
    Let us partner together in hope for your daughters that they will know a nation (that) will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women) are created equal.Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963
     
    As always, wishing you the best,
    Sandra
     
     
  • Kindness, JMSG Philanthropy Pay it Forward Club

    This Week’s Character Strength ~ Kindness
    Eighth grader Sofía shared the character strength of kindness with all of us at this week’s All School Meeting through a quote that spoke to her: Never look down on anybody unless you are helping her up. (Original Quote by Jesse Jackson: Never look down on anybody unless you’re helping them up.)
     
    At our Philanthropy/Pay it Forward Club this week, we brainstormed projects the girls might want to undertake in the coming months. We talked about the concept of Paying it Forward and whether this kind of campaign would be successful at JMSG. As you know, Paying it Forward means instead of paying someone back for a favor or a kindness, you pay it forward to someone else, with the hope that it creates a chain of generosity. For a long time the Bay Area was known for the Pay it Forward events that happened regularly when paying bridge tolls, as one driver paid for herself as well as the car following her and on and on. I had forgotten about this, even though I remember someone paying for me a few times, but was reminded when I was searching for some of the larger Pay it Forward happenings to share with the girls.  
     
    I found the girls’ response interesting. They felt that those small kindnesses happen on a regular basis here, with girls helping other girls when they see that she needs help, whether picking up something that has been dropped or left behind in a class, carrying books for someone on crutches, etc. This discussion then led to talking about what they might do instead. What they have landed on is this: they have decided that one of their projects will be to find out a small detail in a teacher’s daily life that s/he would be glad not to have to do and the girls would then take on that detail as a surprise kindness.
     
    They have some other projects up their sleeves, but acts of kindness with an element of surprise topped their list.
     
    At a prospective parent tour yesterday, again parents told me how they would have loved to have attended JMSG, but for the moment were glad to just be here during the current political climate. Although I still struggle with hope as I read the headlines, I am reminded on a regular basis of the tremendous promise and hope in your daughters. Yesterday at the Philanthropy/Pay it Forward meeting, and at this past All School Meeting with Sofía’s chosen quote, I was reminded and energized once again.
     
    As always, wishing you the best,
    Sandra
     
     
  • Courage and Taking Risks, What Your Daughters have in Common with Muhammad Ali

    This Week’s Character Strength ~ Courage and Taking Risks
    Eighth grader Zoe shared the character strength of courage with all of us at this week’s All School Meeting through a quote that spoke to her: He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life. Muhammad Ali.
     
    We do a great deal of talking about positive risk taking at JMSG, challenging the girls to take those baby steps, leading to bigger ones along the way. With this week being Student-Parent Conferences, it is a perfect lead-in to the risks your daughters have taken this first trimester in raising their hands, “sharing the air”, performing at Friday Concert, or presenting at All School Meeting. It is also about the positive risks your daughters had to take to do well in their classes. An 8th grader told me today that in another school she never would have even thought on getting up on stage to perform, and yet, since the JMSG 6th grade play, she now knows not only can she do it, but she also knows she enjoys it!
     
    I remember years ago one of my advisees was not doing well in one of her classes and when I asked her why she thought this was the case, she told me she thought the class was “boring”. I told her that it was in fact a great opportunity for her – if she could learn how to attend to the subject matter even if she didn’t like it, it would bode well for her as she moved through life. Life generally is not filled with excitement one moment to the next, and it’s a useful life skill to learn how to navigate those less than thrilling moments, as well as culling something positive from the experience. But that takes a risk of caring enough to make the most of a situation. Not terribly easy to do during middle school and a skill many of us struggle with as adults.
     
    When Zoe shared Muhammad Ali’s quote, it struck me how courage played out this past week. And while the girls have not yet had the opportunities to show their courage to the extent that Ali did both in the ring and outside of it, the girls have expressed themselves so beautifully in standing up for what they believe in, having strength in their values and their family’s values and beliefs. They will need to be courageous as they hold fast to them.
     
    I know we will work together as partners in supporting your daughters to continue to take positive risks and to honor those moments of courage they will inevitably share with us.
     
    As always, wishing you the best,
    Sandra
     
     
  • Honesty, In a world where you can be anything, be yourself.

    This Week’s Character Strength ~ Honesty
    Eighth graders Nina and Sadie shared the character strength of honesty with all of us at this week’s All School Meeting through a quote that spoke to them: In a world where you can be anything, be yourself.
     
    We learn early on the niceties of getting along with one another, when and what to say that is socially appropriate. I think we can all remember talking to our children when they were 3 or 4 about being honest, but maybe not that honest, understanding that sometimes, being honest with another can hurt their feelings. What a tough concept! “You look old”, is something I heard a young child say to a stranger a few years ago. The stranger laughed at the statement, at the brutal honesty, but it reminded me how teaching this delicate balance to children is not an easy one. And it is not a consistent message, which makes it even harder. Be honest, but maybe not that…..
     
    But being honest with ourselves is oftentimes as difficult, if not more so. If our girls can learn to do this early on, it might be easier for them to accept that being imperfect is part the human condition. They can put their best foot forward, be persistent, try with good effort, but if they don’t reach their goal – whether it is to be kinder, or a better student, or keeping a promise to keep their rooms clean, or seeing both sides of a friendship conflict – they will know they can work on this without the stigma of failure. It will be one less pressure point and hopefully, help them to be more honest with themselves, assessing where their successes are and where they can improve.
     
    When I was growing up, my father told the hundreds of youth he worked with, along with my sister and me that we might be able to fool a lot of people in our lives, “But you can’t fool that person in the mirror!”. As an adult I still run into some of those youth, now many older than I, and we will often laugh about that quote. But, time and again, everyone says how often s/he still thinks of the quote as a reminder of the critical importance of honesty with oneself to a life well-lived.
     
    And isn’t that what we want for the girls?
     
    With thanks to Sadie and Nina not only for the quote, but for also helping me remember this part of my growing up,
    Sandra
     
     
  • Optimism, Sharing Studies on Optimism and a Fable

    This Week’s Character Strength ~ Optimism
    Eighth grader Clarisa shared the character strength of optimism with all of us at this week’s All School Meeting through a quote that spoke to her: Don’t call it a dream, call it a plan.
     
    Winston Churchill's famous quote that “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty" speaks to actualizing that plan in Clarisa’s quote.
     
    There has been a fair amount of research on the impact optimism can play in our lives. It’s been proven to better our immune systems as well as helping us cope with difficult situations. There is even one study that found “for every 10 point increase in a person’s score on their optimism scale, the risk of early death decreased by 19%”! Maruta, Colligan, Malinchoc, and Offord (2000)
     
    Martin Seligman, who we heard from on Character Day this year, defines optimism as reacting to problems with a sense of confidence and high personal ability. It is easy to see how we want our girls in middle school and well beyond to react to life in this way! With that confidence, the dream could be in its way. Dr. Seligman, among others, believes that optimism is a skill we can all learn and one that can be nurtured in children. For those of us who have difficulty not seeing the glass as anything but half empty, there is hope we can begin to see the glass as half full. It might be easier for your daughters at their ages, but it’s important as well that as the adults in their lives, we try to mirror optimism for them.
     
    I shared a favorite quote and story about optimism with the Faculty and Staff in August before your daughters arrived because I do believe reflecting optimism is critical.  The first is from Helen Keller: No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit. Of course, considering Helen Keller’s life, this quote speaks to her own indomitable spirit, and confidence, and her ability to see the possibilities. If our girls are going to be able to innovate or be on the forefront of a world we have yet to imagine, they will need optimism as one of their strengths.
     
    The following story is one I love and that inevitably, makes me laugh out loud every time.
     
    Once there were five-year-old twin girls,
    one a pessimist and the other an optimist.
    Wondering how two girls who seemed so alike could
    be so different, their parents took them to a psychiatrist.
    The psychiatrist took the pessimist to a room piled high
    with new toys, expecting the girl to be thrilled. But instead
    she burst into tears. Puzzled, the psychiatrist asked, 
    "don't you want to play with these toys?" 
    "Yes," the little girl bawled,
    "but if I did I'd only break them."
    Next the psychiatrist took the optimist to a room piled high
    with horse manure. The girl yelped with delight, clambered
    to the top of the pile, and joyfully dug out scoop after scoop,
    tossing the manure into the air with glee. 
    "What on earth are you doing?" the psychiatrist asked. 
    "Well,” said the girl, beaming
     “There’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!"
    Author unknown ~
    I, along with the Faculty and Staff, spend our days at JMSG with your daughters because we believe deeply in the power of education. By creating an environment at Julia Morgan where girls lead, learn, and are heard over the course of three years, we believe that they will have the confidence to act on their dreams and to seize the possibilities before them.
     
    And my wish for all of us is that we remember the ponies!
     
    Sandra
     
     
  • Perseverance, On the Importance of Being the Actors in Our Lives

    This Week’s Character Strength ~ Perseverance
    This Week’s Character Strength ~ Perseverance
     
    Eighth graders Lucy and Sofie shared the character strength of perseverance with all of us at this week’s All School Meeting through a quote that spoke to them: If nothing goes right, go left.
     
    We have all heard about making lemonade out of the lemons life gives us. What I love about the quote Lucy and Sofie shared is that we are not confined to sticking to the lemons! It is not so much that we are the recipient of life rather we are the actors in it.  We could choose something completely different, leaving the lemons behind.
     
    We each bring our own perceptions to every occurrence in our lives. It is our unique stories and our cultures that define our interpretation or assessment of any one thing. What one girl or adult finds insulting, another may not. What one girl or adult finds humorous or trying, another may not. As Anaïs Nin wrote, “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”
     
    What can often get in our way of persevering through a difficult situation or a challenging math problem or a friendship issue is our own lens of how we interpret the challenge or the problem or the issue itself.
     
    If we can prepare our children to understand that life’s bumps are a normal part of life, then persevering through those rocky times can be easier. One of the girls’ schools in San Francisco has a “No Rescue” policy so that if girls forget their homework or lunches, etc., at home, parents are asked not to bring the lunch or homework to school. They believe this helps their students understand the consequences, and gives girls the perspective that it is not the end of the world with even more impetus to remember the following day. Of course, I write this as a mother and a grandmother who is still pained when my grown children are pained, or my middle school granddaughter or my other grandchildren are. We feel it! And as a mother now of one child who is closer to 50 than 40, I wish I could tell you it gets easier, but it doesn’t. It’s different certainly, but those fierce parental ties to the hearts of our children never go away. And neither do life’s challenges!
     
    Malcolm Gladwell and Carol Dweck have sung the praises and brought the research to us on how critical effort is in a successful life. That effort of trying and trying again, of working through the challenges, of working through what appears daunting, persevering through them seems to be key to success later on.
     
    We can support the girls in our lives by helping them understand that the “bumps” in life are a part of it, and “holding” our children when they fail. We do this not by stepping in to make it better, but by helping them strategize through the challenge. Even if their perception is that nothing is going right, they will hopefully begin to see that going left is indeed a choice they can make.
     
    With thanks to Lucy and Sofie,
    Sandra
     
     
  • Perseverance, Girls Understanding the Importance of this Character Strength

    This Week’s Character Strength ~ Perseverance
    Eighth grader Natalie shared the character strength of perseverance with all of us at this week’s All School Meeting through a quote that spoke to her: I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. Jimmy Dean
     
    This is the second time that one of the 8th grade girls chose perseverance since September. Perhaps this speaks to the girls’ understanding of the importance of this character strength in meeting their own goals and in life.
     
    Whether it is a growth mindset, stories about the thousands of times Michael Jordan worked on bettering his free throws, or Marie Curie stating that it is only with confidence and perseverance that we can achieve what others call the unachievable, it does come down to focusing on specific goals, the effort we put into them, and having the patience to know it is a process. Developing resilience to withstand the ups and downs in that kind of process is no easy task. And it is one of the most difficult things a parent does, watching their daughter or son fail, wanting to make it all right, putting that bandaid on, but recognizing it’s in getting up again by herself that is important. If you haven’t read one of our Founding Head Ann Clarke’s favorites, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, by Wendy Mogel, Ph.D. or The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed by Jessica Lahey, they are worth the read.
     
    I knew a fairly successful actor years ago whose teacher told her that there were hundreds of talented actors, female and male, who had left the craft, tired of rejection, but it was those actors who had the confidence in their talent and craft and the perseverance to stay with it who were successful. Of course, we have all heard of those success stories deemed overnight ones, whether in acting or in business, but rarely is that the case. It is through persevering that most often we feel gratification. Sometimes the destination we thought we were headed towards actually leads us to another, but it is only through perseverance that we realize we never really wanted our first goal as much as we thought. That, in itself, is priceless.
     
    I used to have a photo of a man standing on a pier in what looked to be a hurricane, umbrella braced against the wind, his body at an angle bracing himself. I kept it for years as a reminder of weathering the storms we experience as a regular part of life and how critical perseverance, effort, and resilience are ultimately all part of making peace with ourselves as we learn life’s lessons.
     
    Although you cannot live your daughters’ lives, you can support them throughout, as they weather their own storms. You and we can give them the support they need, knowing that when the time comes, we have done our jobs as parents and as teachers, and recognizing that stepping back is key to the girls being on the road to womanhood, standing up for themselves and for others, realizing their own potential, possessing the ability to see the possibilities before them, and having the confidence to seize them.

    Wishing you all a good weekend,
    Sandra
     
     
  • Perspective, Shifting Our Views and Considering the Other Side

    This Week’s Character Strength ~ Perspective
    Eighth grader Nina shared the character strength of Perspective with all of us at this week’s All School Meeting through a quote that spoke to her: Your life is a reflection of your thoughts. If you change your thinking, you change your life.
     
    Philosophers, writers, and artists throughout history have espoused that belief and as soon as I saw it projected up on the screen for all the girls to see this past Monday, it struck me as such a great reminder.
     
    The 50/50 rule is an important tenet here at JMSG and perspective is at the heart of it. Parenting children through their adolescence is no small feat. There are bound to be bumps along the road, sometimes involving what takes place at school. As we partner during this time, I am continually struck by parents who hold fast to the 50/50 rule, and preface it before they express a concern, “I realize there may be another side to the story, but I have to admit when my daughter told me ….., it made me somewhat concerned. I just thought I should check in and get the School’s perspective”. And, of course, it goes the other way as well from our end!
     
    But beyond that tenet, during adolescence, it’s also important to remember that perspective is key. If your daughter is going through a rough or challenging patch, it’s important to reach out for support if needed, but to also put it into the perspective of adolescence, remembering that this is your daughter’s time to discover who she is, develop her own voice, and know that she may define, and then redefine herself in the process, pushing back against the adults in her life, if need be, to do just that – and all of this is normal! It also takes place during the fastest rate of growth since the period from birth through 5. There is so much going on in her life!
     
    Changing our own view of our life each day, reminding ourselves that we can work on shifting our own thoughts if they are leaning to the negative can impact our children and those we spend our days with in a very real way. In some ways, it’s realizing that this is not a dress rehearsal as author Rose Tremain has written, it is the one and the only life we have.  So why not try to shift our views of the challenges we face, soak up what we can of the good, and try to put it all into perspective?
     
    Recalling what Lord Rochester wrote in the 1600’s helps with some of keeping perspective, reminding us that though each generation faces new challenges, some things do remain the same: Before I was married, I had six theories about how to raise children, now I have six children and no theories.
     
    And though the theories on child raising may change over time, let’s partner through your daughter’s time here at Julia Morgan, each of us keeping perspective while supporting her to become a confident, capable, creative, and compassionate woman of tomorrow.
     
    Enjoy the weekend and that extra hour!
    Sandra
     
     
  • Social Responsibility, How Compassion Became the 4th "C"

    This Week’s Character Strength ~ Social Responsibility
    Eighth grader Sofía shared the character strength of social responsibility with all of us at this week’s All School Meeting through a quote that spoke to her: Remember if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms. As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, and the other for helping others. Audrey Hepburn
     
    It reminded me of the story on how the current Mission Statement was written as told by Founding Head Ann Clarke in a piece she wrote some years ago. I don’t think Sofía knew that other girls had the same idea many years before and that thanks to them, compassion is now the 4th “C”.
     
    Here is the story in Ann’s words:
     
    The founders began meeting in late 1996 and spent much time during the first organizing year discussing and hammering out the educational philosophy, goals, and mission. In numerous meetings they debated various aspects of the school’s philosophy: What kind of a school would it be? Did the group want a math-science academy, or a school with a focus on the arts? Did the board believe in educating through competition or through cooperation? Did parents want a school that focused solely on academic skills or one that promoted the “whole child”?  Everyone wanted “academic excellence,” but what exactly did that mean? During a period of about eighteen months they developed the mission statement.
     
    By the time the school was ready to print the first brochure announcing the opening of the school, the founding group had decided on a mission statement that was four paragraphs (159 words) long.  It was certainly descriptive and gave prospective parents a sense of the goals, but everyone had a hard time remembering it. At a retreat with a facilitator, it was pointed out that a good mission statement should be short enough for everyone in the community to know and remember.
     
    After more discussions to articulate the real essence of their new school, the founders settled on the final line of that original four-paragraph statement – preparing the “confident, capable and creative women of tomorrow.” Those “three C’s” really got to the root of the founders’ desire to give young women the skills to be independent and successful (capable), to combat the tendency for young women to lose self-esteem in early adolescence (confident), and to create a school that really fostered girls’ individuality and voice (creative).
     
    So that was the mission statement that was in place when the school opened in 1999.  And that was how it stayed for about a year. Then one day a group of students met with me with a suggestion. They wanted to change the mission statement! I explained to them how important a mission statement was, and that it was not something to change lightly. The girls told me that they wanted to add a fourth “C” – compassionate. Moved by their arguments, I took their suggestion to the board. It seemed completely appropriate – in fact, an oversight that the founders hadn’t included the fourth C. What was the point of turning out capable and confident women if they had no sense of connection or caring for the world around them?
     
    So the mission statement ended up with “four C’s” – educating the confident, capable, creative and compassionate women of tomorrow. This statement was reviewed and affirmed again during the strategic planning process. And the rest is history.
     
    Enjoy the weekend,
    Sandra
     
     
  • JMSG’s Version of Character Day, the Science of Character, and What Bravery Means at Julia Morgan

    This Week’s Character Strength ~ Bravery
    Over 85,000 events in 121 countries were scheduled for the 3rd annual Character Day yesterday. It is a free annual day and global initiative where groups around the world screen films on the science of character development from different perspectives (including The Science of Character, The Adaptable Mind, and The Making of a Mensch), and some join an online global conversation around the importance of developing character strengths (resilience, grit, empathy, courage, kindness)–all rooted in evidence-based research.

    As noted in the first Friday Letter, the international celebration of Character Day is one day, although JMSG will be highlighting one character strength each week at All School Meeting (ASM) throughout the school year. Eighth graders have the opportunity to choose a video, poem, or quote about character strength and share this with the student body.

    In Families this past Wednesday, we played games focused on character strengths and watched this 8 minute video (http://www.letitripple.org/films/science-of-character/), followed by an art project. On Thursday the 6th and 7th graders, while the 8th graders were on their rafting overnight, gathered to participate in the live stream with Martin Seligman who is the Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology and Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a best-selling author of several books, including Flourish. In 1996, Seligman was elected President of the American Psychological Association. His current mission is the attempt to transform social science to work on the best things in life – strengths, positive emotion, good relationships, meaning, and human flourishing.

    At ASM this week, Claudia, who is in 8th grade, shared the character trait of bravery with this following quote: It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies but just as much to stand up to our friends. --JK Rowling

    I shared my own thoughts on being brave and having courage in my opening talk with the girls the first day of school. Here are excerpts:

    Here is what all of your teachers and all of the staff, every one of us, want for you this year, and we will be here to support you so that you can make it happen:

    Be a leader by not minding that the girl next to you received a better score on a project or test. It takes courage to be happy for someone who does better than you, whether on a test, in class, or on the field.

    If raising your hand in class is hard for you because you are shy or because you are afraid you won’t get the right answer, take that risk and raise your hand. Even if it is only once a week or so, that is the sign of a leader, that is courage.

    If you always want to share your answers or opinions and you just LOVE to talk, take the positive risk of letting other girls speak. That is a sign of leadership, that is courage.

    If you haven’t finished your homework and your friend tells you it’s OK to copy hers, instead talk with your teacher and ask for a bit more time. Take whatever consequence there is for not turning it in when it was due. That is courage and that is leadership, too. It takes courage to be honest. 

    If you have an argument with a friend and you get home and want to text her something mean or text something that you know will hurt her feelings, or you want to post something even more hurtful, even if you feel hurt, take the positive risk to stop, to respect yourself. If you would not want me to read the post or text, don’t send it. If you don’t want me to hear what you have said to or about another girl, don’t say it. And know that I have seen copies of texts, instagrams, tweets and all the rest when girls have forgotten to be their best selves. Be courageous, try to be that leader in a world where we need more girls and more women to lead.

    If you have a close group of friends, take the positive risk of asking someone you never talk to or never eat lunch with, and have lunch with her or invite her to join your group for lunch or have a conversation with her. That is a sign of leadership, that is courage.

    And if you hear another girl who has forgotten at any moment to be her best self and she is spreading rumors or gossip or saying something unkind, if saying something to her to ask her to stop is too hard to do, then just quietly walk away. Don’t be a part of the ugliness. Walking away or saying something is true leadership and each of us knows what courage it takes to do that.

    You each will have many opportunities this school year to define who you are and who you want to be. And all of us, every single one of us is here to help you do that.

    Eighth graders, you hold the heart of the school in your hands. You have the choice to take the responsibility to lead this community to become one where being kind is the norm, where gossip is rare, where caring for girls and standing up for those who are not necessarily friends with you is something we can all choose to do: where you lead the way with your bravery to do the thing that you know is right.

    How do you define bravery? Whether we ask our partners, colleagues, friends, adult family members or our children, this certainly should lead to interesting and inspiring conversations. Why not give it try?

    We are here to support girls as they learn to make positive choices during a time in their lives when girls define and redefine themselves. As we adults know, our choices do reflect who we are and how we reflect our own light to the community around us. Let us partner in helping our girls on their own journeys to choose wisely and as Marcia often says, “to be their best selves.”

    Wishing all a wonderful weekend, Sandra

Julia Morgan School for Girls

•  5000 MacArthur Boulevard, PMB 9966  •  Oakland, CA 94613
510.632.6000