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News from the Principal's Desk - October 2017

Dear St. Mary’s Community:

As a young girl, I recall countless afternoons when my siblings and I indulged my grandfather as he played his LP of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People for us. I don’t remember whether it was out of sheer boredom or whether he had forced us to sit and listen, but my memories of how to give a proper handshake, how to be an entertaining and engaging conversationalist, and how to encourage others to talk about themselves have stuck with me to this day. This album was different from the other personal improvement albums Granddad purchased at yard sales and played for us because Dale Carnegie knew how to tell a story. It was his storytelling, coupled with Grandma’s lemonade, that helped cement in us Carnegie’s advice and helped us pass many an afternoon. So when I read the book jacket of Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People, the book recently published by St. Mary’s Food For Thought speaker, Vanessa Van Edwards, I thought to myself 80 years later and we’re still talking about how to communicate effectively, how to read people, and how to be interesting at parties.

Much like my childhood interest in Dale Carnegie’s lessons, I devoured Vanessa Van Edwards’ book, appreciating her humor, her research, and her modern references. I had the good fortune of attending a meet and greet with her on Wednesday, October 18th, and she proved to be just as “captivating” as her book promised. One hour later on that same Wednesday, I returned to school to attend the first in our annual series of parent education evenings, this one focusing on raising children in the age of technology. Oddly, the dynamic presenter, Dr. Doreen Dodgen-Magee, addressed many of the same topics as our Food for Thought speaker; however, her version of how to teach young people to engage was far less nuanced—and not by accident. During this two-hour, high energy presentation, Dr. Dodgen-Magee encouraged and challenged us to set basic boundaries with technology, to give our children opportunities to interact as a family, and to practice those rudimentary social skills that only come from interacting with another human being. In fact, among her recommendations was to “structure life so that technology does not become your child’s best/only friend.”

In the past decade, we have made a Faustian deal with our technology, and we now must find our way back. Dr. Dodgen-Magee spoke about how the digital domain has profoundly changed our relationships and she gave concrete, specific advice on how to coexist with these valuable tools—tools that have the ability to enhance how we learn, how we work, and how we relax. Her messages urged the audience to value boredom, practice doing one thing at a time, and simply to interact with others verbally. If you missed her presentation, she generously offers her handouts here http://doreendm.com/page-handouts/ and I encourage you to take a look. You will come away with some new challenges and a healthy dose of optimism.

I hope to see you at our Food for Thought luncheon, and stay tuned for more parent education evenings. In the meantime, feel free to engage in “neurological interventions” or, in other words, let us all be bored for a while, drink lemonade, and hang out with Granddad. I think Dale Carnegie, Vanessa Van Edwards, and Doreen Dodgen-Magee would applaud our efforts.

SMA Principal Nicole Foran and grandfather

(Principal Nicole Foran and her grandfather at a family wedding, 1990.)