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Read the latest thoughts and musings from our Head of School, Janet Durgin. Each week, she takes a picture of life on campus, and shares insights into the current state of affairs. Occasionally, Assistant Head of School Ellie Dwight or Dean of Student Life Jason Gregory weigh in with thoughts and perspectives.

This Week's View From Here

List of 1 news stories.

  • The View From Convocation

    This year, we're going to approach this column a little differently. If there's one thing we value at Sonoma Academy, it's being open to others' points of view. With that in mind, we've decided to include "views" from many members of our school community in our bi-weekly blog. You'll hear from teachers, students, staff members (and, yes, occasionally from me!) about what is going on at school: projects, traditions, seasonal events, educuational issues. These many perspectives will give us all a whole new "view" this year. 

    Each summer, as I wonder what I will say to you as we kick off the school year, I am fully aware that no one will remember much of anything I say past lunch….I know I can't compete with the excitement of the day, and yet I persist. I persist in saying a few words with the almost superstitious hope that they have the the tiniest “butterfly effect” on you and on the course of this school year. The “butterfly effect” is the notion that the fluttering of one butterfly’s wings can put a force into motion that has the potential to become something far greater, though we may never know exactly what or where.

    Each year, over the summer, in my readings and travels, I look for inspiration, for the slight flutter of wings that will set me into motion as I prepare to launch a new school year. One of the books I was most inspired by this summer was Educated by Tara Westover, her memoir of growing up the youngest of seven children in a survivalist family in rural Idaho. The family eschews formal education and though Tara’s mother teaches her to read using the Bible and the Book of Mormon, any further instruction is deemed unnecessary and even suspect. Tara decides to teach herself math and science well enough to attempt the ACT which she passes after a few tries. She manages, with no support if any kind, to matriculate at Brigham Young University and eventually will earn a doctoral degree at Cambridge University in England. What Tara must overcome and sacrifice along this journey, as well as the quality of her prose, takes your breath away.

    Here’s a quote that resonated with me:

    “Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me… and to use those truths to construct my own mind. I had come to believe that the ability to evaluate many ideas, many histories, many points of view, was at the heart of what it means to self-create.

    This self-creation is exactly what I wish for you this year and it speaks to the heart of our philosophy. We believe that education is about much more than imparting facts and skills; education is the process of finding your own truth, learning to articulate that truth, and learning to respectfully engage with the varied truths and experiences of others. Our goal for each of you is that by the time you leave here you will have the tools to construct your own mind and to create a life of truth. Your teachers will offer you clues and you will know when you see it in others, during community meeting and in classes, through senior speeches, discussions, and performances. But ultimately, it is up to you to find your truth. So watch for it. Catch it. Shape it and treasure it.

    Speaking of a single butterfly, did you know that a swarm of them is also known as a kaleidoscope? We are that kaleidoscope, Sonoma Academy. So many facets! So many beautiful combinations! As the year twists and turns and the colored bits shift and slide and fall, you will put into motion powerful forces that will shape your destiny and ultimately, I believe, that of the world. None of us can know at this moment, of all the things we will do this year both great and small, which will put into motion a force that transforms our life or that of someone else.

    There’s another quote from Westover’s book that springs to mind: “First, find out what you are capable of, then decide who you are.” The idea for a club you want to start? The new person you will dare to sit with at lunch. The exploratory you try. The books you might read. Any of these actions could change your life. There are endless possibilities and we don’t know which ones will turn out to have the most momentous effects.

    You’ve already taken the first step, the first twist of the kaleidoscope, the first flap of those little butterfly wings. You chose Sonoma Academy. You chose this community. You have disturbed the air and put a force into motion, and whatever that force may be, I can guarantee you that by the end of this year you will be different.
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Recent Posts

Read some of the most recent posts, or view the Blog Archive to peruse posts from months past.

List of 2 news stories.

  • The View From Here: Decisions, Decisions

    by Janet Durgin, Head of School
    December is traditionally a time for looking back—reflecting on choices made, opportunities taken, and goals achieved over the past year. For those seniors who applied "early decision," it’s also a time to look ahead, as they begin to hear admissions decisions from their top-choice colleges. Gone are the days of waiting at the mailbox for the telltale fat and thin envelopes; now, our students hunch over their phone screens, waiting tensely to see whether their email begins with “Congratulations!” or “We regret to inform you….”
     
    For some, these results feel like a dream come true. The future seems to fall into place before their eyes in a montage worthy of a Hollywood movie: the right school, the right career, the right path to adulthood and success. They can even picture what they might be wearing on the first day of class! For others, there is the sense that a dream has died. What now? they wonder gloomily, looking into a future that has suddenly become enshrouded in a fog of uncertainty... to say nothing of needing to complete new applications when they'd hoped to be finished with all that.
     
    Those of us who have been down these paths a time or two know the truth: neither the “congratulations” nor the “we regret” determines destiny. There is no one ideal school for any student, and there is no single path to fulfillment. Some of the places that looked like a perfect fit will turn out to be rather itchy when tried on; some places that looked not at all right on the hanger turn out to be the most comfortable in the end.
     
    In our college counseling program, we strive to help our seniors find a variety of colleges that will be good matches for them as students and as people. And beyond that, throughout their years at SA, we try to teach every student that the path to success isn’t determined by where you come from or the brand of your clothing or the cachet of the name on your diploma. Success is not a single destination; it is relentless curiosity, dogged dedication, honor, compassion, and responsibility. In short, it is a life well lived. That is possible for all of our students to achieve, no matter where they end up matriculating.
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  • The View From Here: Re-accreditation Self-Study Done!

    by Janet Durgin, Head of School
    This week we completed our yearlong self-study process required by the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and the Western Association of Schools & Colleges (WASC). Today's View from Here pic is Lily and Ellie, who led the process, high-fiving right after Lily hit submit!
     
    In order to maintain our accreditation status, every 6-7 years we must undergo a deep process of self-reflection in the form of the self-study. The self-study is a set of about 135 questions ranging from our approach to teaching and learning to our safety procedures, from our governance structure to our financial management processes, from our admissions policies and practices to our use of data, and everything in between. 
     
    For the past year, we—and by we, I mean the entire admin team, our whole faculty, our Board of Trustees, and various program directors (like our Director of Information Science, Director of Academic Services, Director of Student Support, and Director of Connections)—have been meeting in big and small groups to review the questions, brainstorm our responses, and draft and revise the narrative. In addition to creating a 135-page document, we also compiled seven years worth of data that spanned everything from website metrics to fundraising dollars to admissions stats, as well as dozens of supporting documents.
     
    While this process was a lot of work, it offered us a meaningful opportunity to reflect on the past seven years, as well as to articulate our ideas and plans for the future. We were reaffirmed in our strengths as a connected, collaborative community devoted to creative and innovative teaching and programs. Though much of what we identified in the self-study was not unknown to us, it is always valuable to articulate clearly areas of strength and improvement.
     
    The next step in our accreditation process is to host a visiting committee organized by CAIS. A group of four to seven independent school professionals will spend four days on campus in late February. They will be thoroughly reviewing our self-study, as well as meeting with and interviewing various constituents of the school, probably including a group of parents. Their visit will culminate in a report that they will read at Community Meeting.
     
    Our accreditation process is one of the ways that we open ourselves up to the evaluation and assessment of an outside organization—ensuring that we continually engage in reflection, as well as the process to always be delivering our best to you and our students.
     
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2500 Farmers Lane
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
707.545.1770
info@sonomaacademy.org

Sonoma Academy is...

The only independent, college preparatory high school in Sonoma County. On its beautiful 34-acre campus nestled at the base of picturesque Taylor Mountain in South Santa Rosa, Sonoma Academy students are able to explore their interests and passions in a challenging environment that prepares them for college and life beyond.