Opening Day Parents’ Coffee, Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I. Musical Inspiration: “My Own Two Hands” (Jack Johnson/Ben Harper)

I can change the world

With my own two hands

Make it a better place

With my own two hands

Make it a kinder place

With my own two hands

With my own

With my own two hands

I can make peace on earth

With my own two hands

I can clean up the earth

With my own two hands

I can reach out to you

With my own two hands

With my own

With my own two hands

I'm going to make it a brighter place

With my own two hands

I'm going to make it a safer place

With my own two hands

I'm going to help the human race

With my own two hands

With my own

With my own two hands

I can hold you

With my own two hands

Good morning, everyone, and happy new school year!

The faculty and staff and I have been preparing for this very moment, and we could not be more excited as we welcome our 403 vivacious girls and their families back to school.  We are particularly enthusiastic because Hamlin is celebrating a big birthday this year.  All around the school and all around the city of San Francisco, you are going to see signs celebrating our 150 years of educating girls to meet the challenges of their time.  What a timeless and enduring educational mission!

I began our gathering singing “With My Own Two Hands,” the Jack Johnson song also made popular by singer and guitarist Ben Harper, because the theme of the year is:

“The Tools Are In Our Hands”

You are all invited to join me at 9:30 in the gymnasium to hear President of Student Council Caroline Haigood announce the theme to the students and to explain what it means to her.  To me, it means that we, the vibrant and inclusive Hamlin community, have the power in our hands to make the school exactly what it needs to be.  Remember that the name of our strategic plan is “BE EXTRAORDINARY,” and that is our clear aspiration.  Our girls deserve nothing less than our very best efforts, and we have the capacity to ensure that they have the integrity, the intellect, and the independence that will help them thrive and lead in the 21st century.  Indeed, we are working diligently to equip the girls with the tools they need to succeed.  “The Tools Are In Our Hands” is also a reference to our new social-emotional learning program, called The Toolbox Project, and you have already received information about that—but there is more information and conversation coming soon so that the educators at Hamlin and the parents link arms in order to support each girl in becoming more self-aware, more empathic, more confident, and more capable of resolving conflicts and dilemmas.  Stay tuned for more about the 12 tools, or just look closely at a teacher’s neck.  You might see an interesting necklace with 12 colorful pendants—each oval is one of the tools we’ll be teaching the girls.

I want to give a special welcome to all of the new Hamlin parents.  If this is your first coffee, you are about to find out that I always share summer
stories about my two sons, David and Jonathan.  As I’m sure you’d agree, we are often students in our homes—we learn so much about ourselves (positive and otherwise) as we raise our beautiful children.  Last year, I told many of you the story of my temporary, existential melt-down when my son Jonathan (now 5 ½ and entering Kindergarten next week) told me that he wanted two mommies.  I am not repeating the story.  Let’s just say that it’s not a flattering image of your head of school.  Of course, due to the blessings of technology, you can probably read the entire speech on Hamlin’s website.  

II.  Summer Storytelling:  What Our Children Need From Us
(Author’s Note: Please note that my stories are never written on paper.  I write down main thoughts and the “punch lines,” and the rest comes straight from my heart.)

1. They Need Us to Show them the Whole World and Provide Perspective

Jonathan: “So, when are we going to your house?”
Jonathan: “Where is the rest of your house?”
WMHG: “Jonathan, what you see is the whole house.”
Jonathan: “No, actually, if you ask to go to the bathroom, you can usually see more of the house.”

2. They Need Us to Unscramble Confusion and Remind Them That They Are Safe: (Trayvon Martin trial, Oscar Grant movie….)

David: Mommy, am I safe in the world?”

3. They Need Us to Believe in The Power of Dreams, Not Data:
(Red Sox Game on August 1st; Red Sox win 8-7 in the bottom of the 9th inning after trailing 1-7 for most of the game.  I wanted to go home, but my sons believed that the Red Sox would be victorious.  They were right.)

David: “Mommy, you need to stick with the kids—because we dream about the impossible.”

III:  Poetic Inspiration: “The Hundred Languages”  
(This poem is dedicated to all Hamlin parents as a reminder that we must support our children—because they believe in the impossible.)

No way. The hundred is there.
The child

is made of one hundred.

The child has

a hundred languages

a hundred hands

a hundred thoughts

a hundred ways of thinking

of playing, of speaking.
A hundred always a hundred

ways of listening

of marveling, of loving

a hundred joys

for singing and understanding

a hundred worlds

to discover

a hundred worlds

to inven
a hundred worlds

to dream.
The child has

a hundred languages

(and a hundred hundred hundred more)

but they steal ninety-nine.

The school and the culture

separate the head from the body.

They tell the child:

to think without hands

to do without head

to listen and not to speak

to understand without joy…

They tell the child:

to discover the world already there

and of the hundred

they steal ninety-nine.
They tell the child:

that work and play

reality and fantasy

science and imagination

sky and earth

reason and dream

are things

that do not belong together.
And thus they tell the child

that the hundred is not there.

The child says:

No way. The hundred is there.

Speaking of dreamers, Today, August 28th is the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington (1963).  50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared his dream of what America could be—a country where freedom would ring-- a place where people from all walks of life could join hands and celebrate our differences and common ground.  Let us not forget that the very fact that an African-American head of school can walk into an integrated school with joy and courage is no accident.  My presence as the head of The Hamlin School is the direct result of the work of civil rights leaders, men and women, young and old, of all religions and races, working together using their tools and stepping up, like Dr. King, as moral leaders.

We have exciting work ahead, and I’m ready.  The leadership team is ready!  The faculty is ready!  The staff is ready!  Are you ready?  Great.  Let’s be extraordinary, and have a great school year!

Thank you.
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Wanda M. Holland Greene

Wanda M. Holland Greene is currently in her ninth year as Head of School. She is a proud New Yorker and a graduate of Columbia College, receiving her B.A. in English and Psychology. She earned her M.A. in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University. Wanda complements her work as an educator by serving independent schools and as trustee for Columbia University. She is a vocal performer (jazz, gospel, and soul), an avid reader, poet, and writer.

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The Hamlin School educates girls to meet the challenges of their time and inspires them to become extraordinary thinkers and innovators, courageous leaders, and  women of integrity.

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