And a Little Child Will Lead Them: Lessons and Carols Reflections 2018

One of my family’s favorite traditions is to watch Christmas movies, especially “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Even though Eliza and Jane are grown women, the four of us still snuggle up on the sofa and watch this show every year. You gotta love Pigpen as the Innkeeper with his “dust” falling everywhere; or Snoopy’s imitation of the manger animals; Charlie Brown’s sad little Christmas tree that blossoms into a giant, sparkling fir at the end; Lucy who casts herself as the “Christmas Queen;” and my favorite — Linus, using his trademark blanket as a headdress and playing the role of shepherd. It is his character who reads the Christmas story and it is Linus who reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas. It’s the Peanuts version of the Christmas Pageant.

Foxcroft students present the annual Christmas Pageant in the Athletic/Student Center on the Foxcroft School campus on Sunday, December 2, 2018.

Foxcroft just had our own Pageant, and we, too, have our cast of characters and animals that bring the story of Christmas to life and which bring so much joy to members of the Middleburg community. I sat next to a woman who had been coming to the Pageant since she was a little girl, and she brought her niece this year to be part of the holiday spirit.

Whether you see the Pageant as part of your faith tradition or as a work of literature, I’d like us to pause and consider who these characters are who gather at the manger, and what theme we can take from this story to enlighten our lives this season and throughout the year to come.

First, there are Mary and Joseph. Sometimes I think we forget how scared Mary must have been. She’s a teenage mom who is engaged when she gets pregnant. What would her parents and her neighbors say? How alone must she feel? Then, there is Joseph, really a stepdad-to-be, with a woman who is pregnant with a baby that is not his. Mary is far along “with child,” and they are travelers, refugees compelled by powerful forces to journey from far away, and their method of transportation is a donkey, a humble and sometimes stubborn beast. They are from a good family “. . . the stump of Jessie,” but not wealthy enough to get a room in the inn.

Then, there are the Shepherds, among the lowest rung of society. They are common laborers, uneducated, poor, marginalized in their society. They stand side by side with the Magi, wise men, who are wealthy and educated and powerful.

And then there are the “Heavenly Hosts,” angels or spirits, heralds of “good news of great joy,” from those who have gone before us connecting the physical and the mystical.

All these figures come together in the tableaux at the manger. Why? To see a baby: for some a great leader who will change history, for others, a savior who will redeem the world. And he appears, not in a glittering court, decked in gold and silver, or as a fierce warrior ready for battle, but as a newborn in a humble manger. What is at the center of the pageant scene is a leader who comes in the most innocent and powerless, and vulnerable form, but also in the purest form of an infant, not corrupted by the world around him, a symbol of the essence of goodness. As the prophet says, “And a little child will lead them,” forever changing the definition of leadership and power. If you study Jesus’s leadership, it becomes about service and outreach, about healing and uniting, and about humility. “Power over” others becomes “power to” others.

Above the manger is the Star, a promise of light and of a new way where peace and love reign and where divisions among people cease: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid.” Surely the divisions of age, family background, circumstance, education, wealth, nationality, ethnicity, and power are all represented at the manger. I think there could be no better metaphor for us today in our own lives if we remember that everyone is included at the manger; everyone, no matter where they come from, is united around what is good and pure and peaceful.

Could we solve some of our most pressing problems — violence, abuse, harassment, hunger, poverty, the environment — and could we find healing in this broken world and in our own lives, no matter where we are on our own personal journeys, if we welcomed EVERYONE into our hearts?

As Linus says at the end of his scene, “And that’s what Christmas is all about.” And then the entire cast of the Peanuts pageant takes the little scrappy, needle-less Charlie Brown Christmas tree out into the cold night under the stars, and it blossoms into a full and shining evergreen, nourished by the love all around it.

My wish for us this holiday and throughout the year is that we may be nourished by the love that is within us and all around us, and watch it grow.


Another part of our tradition is for the Head of School and the freshmen, sophomores, and juniors to serenade the seniors at our Holiday Banquet. Here’s what I sang to them! 

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Discovering Your True North: Convocation 2018

At this year’s Convocation, I asked the students to identify the women in a photo taken of Serena Williams accepting the 2014 WTA Finals cup from Billie Jean King. Quite a few hands went up, and a student correctly identified one of the women as Serena Williams.

I went on to share what I learned about Williams: that she holds the most Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles combined among active players. She has also won four Olympic gold medals, one in women’s singles and three in women’s doubles—an all-time record shared with her sister, Venus. The Williams sisters have been credited with leading a new era of power and athleticism on the women’s professional tennis tour. Earning almost $29 million in prize money and endorsements, Williams was the highest paid female athlete in 2016 and 2017. Further, since her return after having a baby, Williams has been an advocate for working mothers.

Then, I asked if anyone knew who the other woman was? Very few hands went up, but one brave sophomore correctly identified the other woman as Billie Jean King. What follows is the rest of my Convocation talk:

….By her own right, Billie Jean King is considered one of the best tennis players of all times, and she is known for defeating Bobby Riggs (a top player in the 1930s and 1940s and Wimbledon champion) in 1973 in an exhibition match, winning $100,000. Riggs had claimed that the women’s game was so inferior to the men’s game that he, a middle-aged man, could beat the current top female players. Indeed, he did beat Margaret Court. King took on the challenge, as well as the media frenzy that pitched the match as the “battle of the sexes.” Riggs said many demeaning things, not only about King but also about women in general.

Billie Jean King defeated Riggs in straight sets: 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. I remember my parents and I gathered around the television to watch this historic event. I recall jumping up and down with excitement at her victory, feeling a barrier had been broken for her and for all women.

This summer, several Foxcroft faculty and I had the privilege of hearing Billie Jean King speak at the National Coalition of Girls Schools Global Forum. King was one of several featured presenters, all of them professional leaders and activists, and in many cases pioneers. The lineup included Azar Nafisi, Author of Reading Lolita In Tehran, an autobiography which tells of her courage to teach literature to seven women in her home after the Leading Party in Iran closed the universities, banned western books, and placed strict restrictions on women’s activity; Halla Tomasdottir, a business leader and 2016 Presidential Candidate of Iceland, who defied conventional wisdom about how to appeal to voters, not by acting like a man but by being true to herself and her values; and Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of the Girl Scouts of America, among others; and the highlight, Billie Jean King!

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Photo provided courtesy of the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools.

King is, indeed, a pioneer in women’s sports. She had lots of firsts in her professional tennis career. Her “battle of the sexes” victory over Bobby Riggs garnered greater respect and recognition for women’s tennis overall. But her motivations were not merely related to winning tennis tournaments. King challenged the elitism and exclusion that prevailed in tennis and worked to professionalize the sport. She embraced the cause of equal pay for women. After she won the US Open in 1972, she was paid less than the men’s champion. She declared she would not play the next year if the prize money was not equal. Because of her advocacy, the US Open became the first grand slam tournament to offer equal prize money for men and women.

And lest you think this issue is history, note that the US Women’s Soccer Team is suing for pay equal to the men’s team.

The list of King’s accomplishments is too great to include here. In hearing King speak, I was struck by how her life’s work has been about values-based leadership. While her early career was focused on individual successes through fierce training and competition, she took her hard-earned success and made a tremendous difference for the overall sport of tennis, for other women, and for diversity, equity, and inclusion in our society at large.

Business leader Bill George, professor of management practice at The Harvard Business School and former CEO of Medtronic, would certainly call King an authentic leader. According to his definition, authentic leaders

  • Pursue purpose with a passion; authentic leaders are motivated intrinsically more than extrinsically to achieve their purpose. Extrinsic motivation is about winning, power, title, public recognition and social status. Conversely, intrinsic motivations come from a desire for personal growth, from satisfaction of doing a good job, from finding meaning from efforts and from making a difference in the world.
  • Practice their values, especially integrity. At their core, they are honest, trustworthy, and humble. You do not know what your true values are until they are tested under pressure.
  • Lead with the heart, having compassion and empathy for the people they work with and courage to make difficult decisions.
  • Demonstrate self-discipline, working hard, learning from failure, and accepting responsibility for outcomes
  • Establish enduring relationships with people who support them in their endeavors, but also motivate others to be their best selves (George, Bill. True North. San Francisco: Wiley & Sons, 2007).

Billie Jean King is just one of many authentic women leaders. This summer, our community read about four pioneers -Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, Alice Waters and Jane Jacobs, whose purpose, principles, compassion, courage, and perseverance changed the way we see our relationship to our environment, to animals, to food, and to our neighborhoods. Their impact is evident in current events and discussions our society continues to have today. (Visionary Women by Andrea Barnet, 2018)

Last week, the world paid tribute to the life of Aretha Franklin, the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, whose cover song “Respect,” transformed the song and music history and became a rallying call for the Civil Rights movement, the feminist movement and now the #METoo movement. Throughout the year, we will continue to discuss women trailblazers in classes, in morning meetings and advisory, and through speakers and field trips. It’s going to be an enlightening year in “herstory”!

To our new girls and their parents, today, you are joining a special community dedicated to girls’ education and women’s empowerment. Foxcroft’s mission is to help each student explore her unique passions and purpose; to develop skills through hard work in order to be successful in college and in life; to go forward with inner confidence and external courage, guided by our shared values of respect, integrity, kindness and service; and to lead and serve her community and make a difference in our world.

Students, your time at Foxcroft is part of your journey towards your “True North,” a time to expand upon what your life and leadership are all about. You bring with you the foundation your family has lovingly laid, and you will embark on your own path. This can seem a scary time for you and for your parents, but you have many tools and resources.

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This compass is a wonderful metaphor for your successful journey, one guided by your values and the values of the Foxcroft community, by your intrinsic motivations, and by the alignment between your public or school life and your personal or inner life.

As George writes, “Just as a compass points toward a magnetic pole, your True North pulls you toward [your] purpose…..When you follow your internal compass, your leadership will be authentic…and though others may guide or influence you, your truth is derived from your life story, and only you can determine what it should be” (George, Bill. True North. San Francisco: Wiley & Sons, 2007).

Your teachers and I are here to help you on your journey: we are your support team in the classroom, on dorm, on the field or stage, and in the ring. But so are your friends part of your support team. Living and learning with girls from all over the world will provide you with some of the deepest and most loyal friendships of your lifetime, and I encourage you to take every opportunity to nurture relationships that encourage one another to be your best selves. A good friend wants you to be successful and to build you up.

Also, as you enter the Foxcroft community, you become a member of a network of 3,000 alumnae strong, graduates of Foxcroft who support the school today and care about your success now and in the future. Today, you join their ranks by supporting Foxcroft’s mission through your words and actions; today you become part of something bigger than yourself.

At Foxcroft, you will be surrounded by faculty who work to advance girls’ education here and around the world. The optimism, faith and promise we hold for you, the young women who will be our future leaders, is palpable. As Megan Murphy, Executive Director of the National Coalition of Girls Schools, said, our goal is to help our students become “the women our world needs now.”

You are those women, and it is my honor and privilege to lead and support you on your journeys.

 

A Time for Reflection on our shared Values

A day after the one-year anniversary of the tragic events in Charlottesville and a rally in our nation’s capital, it seems appropriate to pause and reflect on Foxcroft’s shared values — values that unite our entire community. In 2016, the Board of Trustees adopted the following statement on Diversity and Inclusion as central to our educational mission:  

Foxcroft is a community of “understanding hearts,” where each girl is known and valued as an individual. Our core values of respect, integrity, kindness, and service to others guide us as we learn and live together within a community comprised of students and faculty of different backgrounds from all over the nation and the world.

Central to the boarding school’s educational mission, we prepare students for success in college and beyond. Our students will live and work in a global community, where cultural competencies, collaboration, empathy, and inclusion are essential skills. In our curriculum, our co-curriculum and our residential community, we encourage all members to pursue knowledge, recognize their personal biases, view a topic from multiple perspectives, and demonstrate respect for diverse viewpoints. We believe that respect requires a willingness in students and faculty to get to know one another — to inquire, to challenge, and to consider thoughtfully new perspectives without judgment.

Our community welcomes and celebrates the diverse histories, experiences, and identities of each of its members, and we believe that shared experiences — formal and informal — within a diverse community foster authentic human relationships and growth. Further, Foxcroft girls are inspired to recognize, reflect upon, and compassionately respond to the diverse needs of others outside of the school community through service learning opportunities.

We support teachers and students in their journey towards greater human understanding and personal development through a variety of courses and topics studied throughout the curriculum and through programming, student organizations, leadership development, and professional development opportunities.

As we prepare to welcome our newest Foxcroft students to campus, it is my promise to keep our goal of greater human understanding at the forefront of our interactions within our own community and with the world outside our campus.

 

Why Summer Reading?

“There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away.”
— Emily Dickinson

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed,
and some few to be chewed and digested.”
— Francis Bacon

Why read this summer? The answer seems so obvious, and yet it has never been so important. In fact, I have been writing about the topic of literacy for most of my career with growing alarm. According to a 2016 study by the National Endowment for the Arts, the percentage of the U.S. population reading literature has dropped since 1982 by almost 14% from 56.9% to 43.1% (www.arts.gov/artistic-fields/research-analysis/arts-data-profiles/arts-data-profile-10). Even more distressing is that literary reading among young adults has fallen 17% in the 18-24 age group over the past decade.

I won’t go into depth about the reasons offered by the experts; most explanations, predictably, are related to the new technologies that vie for our time, that give us instant information in easily digestible bits, and that have changed our ways of processing information away from text and toward graphics. While my parents used to have to tell me to turn off the television, parents today must monitor how much time kids spend on social media, on downloading videos, and on binge watching entire seasons of a favorite show on a laptop.

Other reading experts discuss the growing difficulty both adults and children have with the act of reading because “the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts ‘efficiency’ and ‘immediacy’ above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace,” says Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. “When we read online…we tend to become ‘mere decoders of information.’ Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.” (quoted in https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/).

Foxcroft assigns summer reading in the spirit of keeping books in students’ hands. Summer reading is important to us on three broad levels:

Reading is a skill:
As such, reading is like any other skill: it improves with practice. Reading helps us be better readers, thinkers, and writers. Reading familiarizes us with rhetorical strategies: How does one idea relate to another idea? What are the basic patterns of language? What do these words mean? Reading teaches us to have patience, to anticipate, to deliberate, and to evaluate. Also, the correlation between avid readers and higher scores on standardized tests is measurable.

Reading is at the core of the academic experience:
Summer reading introduces students to themes, time periods, and styles that will be covered in the curriculum and gets students off to a running start at the beginning of the year. (Click here to read more about our All-School Summer Reading on trailblazing women).

Reading creates empathy:
Reading keeps us company; it transports us to other places in time and space; it engages the imagination, introduces us to great beauty and great pain, enlarges our sympathies, and helps us to be fully human. It stirs the soul.

Of note, many of our students do love reading. Foxcroft’s Next Chapter Book Club draws a diverse group of young women from different grades and experiences. What they have in common is the desire to read for pleasure and to share what they read with others.

We’d love nothing more than to expand our community of readers at Foxcroft. Everyone has a role to play in modeling reading as a life-long endeavor. We hope you’ll join us in our efforts!


 

My Summer Reading List

 

A Flash of Blue; a Slice of Joy

This past week, I’ve seen multiple blue birds around campus. Catching that flash of brilliant blue as they soar past me on my morning walk or as I’m driving down Foxcroft Road thrills me. How does the song go? “Blue skies, smilin’ at me/ Nothin’ but blue skies do I see./ Bluebirds singin’ a song/ Nothing’ but bluebirds all day long.”

Then, this weekend on a Mother’s Day hike, I was greeted by the blue of wild violets peeking out from under the dead leaves, a promise of warmer days and summer.

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I guess you could say these are my “slices of joy.” On Monday Terry Meyer, Foxcroft’s Assistant Director for Stewardship, introduced the community to a mindfulness technique called “Slices of Joy.” Chade-Meng Tan, employee number 107 and engineer at Google, developed several approaches to mindfulness as a means to help people “notice and savor the simple moments of joy that occur in their lives.” Stopping to notice these moments helps cultivate a habit of happiness. Now, Chade holds the title of “Jolly Good Fellow” for helping share “slices of joy” with his colleagues.

Thanks, Terry, Foxcroft’s own Jolly Good Fellow, for sharing this information and for helping us take note of and appreciate the simple pleasures of our day-to-day lives. Especially as we head into the hectic days of exams and graduation festivities, it’s important for us to stop and savor the present and find gratitude for the beauty and happiness all around us, if we’ll just notice.

The Search for Happiness All Year Long

 

I don’t know if I can say for sure the best Christmas memory I have. I think the favorite toy I got was probably a pair of roller skates, the kind that go over your shoes and have four wheels, which I promptly put on and went skating down our hallway wearing. What was my mother thinking? I remember the year Read and I stayed up past 2 a.m. assembling all the tiny pieces of a Playmobil dollhouse for Eliza, who woke up at 6 a.m. and jumped on our bed, excited to see what Santa had brought her. And I will never forget the wonderful expression of pure joy on my grandmother’s face when she opened a card one Christmas morning, announcing the birth of her great grandson, my nephew, that Christmas Eve.

Peace, Love, Joy….These are most often the sentiments associated with the holidays on cards and in carols. We sing “Joy to the World!” And wish one another a “Merry” Christmas, or a “Happy” Hanukkah.

The holidays bring a sense of happiness that is special for most. Perhaps it is being with extended family, neighbors, and people we love, attending your place of worship, eating traditional foods, a home decorated with greenery or light, exchanging gifts, and other special traditions…all of these experiences warm us inside.

But I do  have a disclaimer. I think it is important for us to be mindful in the midst of our festivities that the holidays can be a hard time for many people who have experienced a loss, and that several students in our community will not be with their families during the most important celebration in their traditions, which occurs in January and February.

The question is, how could we create this feeling of joy associated with all of the holidays all year long and not only on special days?

Well, it turns out there is interesting research on happiness. In the November issue of National Geographic, author Dan Buettner, a NY Times bestselling author summarized what he’s learned after spending the last 15 years exploring what makes us healthy and happy, by traveling around the world and surveying people. What a cool job!

The article focuses on three of the happiest places in the world to live, according to their research. It turns out Costa Rica, Denmark, and Singapore are among the happiest countries on our globe. Each place looks a bit different. Buettner used three ordinary people in each country to show what happiness looks like in the happiest places:

In Costa Rica, Alejandra Zuniga gets enough sleep and eats well. He socializes with friends and he walks to work to a job he loves. He volunteers and attends church. He makes daily choices that favor happiness because they include health, purpose and community. He lives with positive affect measured by how many times a day one smiles, laughs and feels joy.

In Denmark, Sidse Clemmensen, a mother of three, shares chores, childcare and meals with her neighbors in a commune-like setting. A sociologist, she has a job that challenges her and engages her every day, and she keeps fit biking to work and she’s a member of a social club. Her basic needs are met, and she’s pursuing her passions at work and in her leisure time. The type of happiness here is based on a purpose-driven life: in Aristotle’s terms, true happiness comes from a life of meaning.

Douglas Foo is an entrepreneur who put himself through school, worked four jobs, and always gives to the community through philanthropy. He has earned the respect of his employees and community through his example and his generosity. Foo’s life in Singapore reflects Asian values of harmony, respect and hard work. Foo’s life satisfaction comes from living one’s values with a pride in what you’ve accomplished.

So while different cultures have different ideas about what it means to be happy, each country illustrates elements the three different strands of happiness: “pleasure, purpose and pride.” What these places have in common is that people feel secure and have a sense of general well being; they enjoy lives that minimize stress and maximize joy; they have a sense of purpose; the work they do is meaningful to them and provides a sense of accomplishment.

The United States is not among the top 10 happiest places on earth; however, within the U.S. the happiest city is Boulder Colorado. In Boulder, people live with joy in their lives, pursue their purpose more rewardingly and find greater satisfaction in achieving goals. One of the greatest factor shaping Boulder’s well-being is its geographic location in the Rockies and its community’s emphasis on health, exercise and conservation. Through policy decisions and community activism, Boulder has shaped its community to support collective happiness.

This survey of the happiest places on earth got me to thinking: Foxcroft has a lot of these ingredients in place right now that seem to support happy living: Our physical location with its beautiful views of fields and mountains, the daily exercise we get, the clean air we breathe, the good food we eat (even if you don’t like every menu served), and the animals that brighten our moods. Our community ethos is one of shared responsibilities of living together and taking care of our residential and learning spaces, and respect for others and their property. This creates a sense of safety to allow each one of us to be our best selves. And Foxcroft’s educational mission is to help each one of you find purpose by exploring your individual interests, by introducing you to different subjects and to hands-on learning, whether through a course, community service or an internship. You are guided by teachers who genuinely care for you and your success, now and in the future. I also like to think we have fun together, hopefully on a daily basis. If our last faculty meeting is any indication, Mrs. Sanchez had us crying we were laughing so hard at one of her stories. I know the prefects in Reynolds create laughter and fun when they hide under a bed on the sleeping porch to catch unsuspecting late night socializers.

If place has such an impact on happiness, we’ve got a great start, but how could we make sure Foxcroft is one of the most joyful places to go to school? I think the answer lies not only in the policies and practices we put into place to create a sense of wellbeing, to provide opportunity for meaningful work, and for balance (okay, we’re still working on that one). The answer also lies in what each one of us brings to the collective experience every day. If you were to fill out Dan Buettner’s survey, what would your answer be to the questions, “Do you have a sense of purpose in your work?” “Do you take pride in your actions?” and “How many times a day do you smile, laugh and feel joy?”  

My experiences have taught me that my happiness and success aren’t out there waiting for me; happiness and success are what I have inside of me, and I take them with me wherever I go, and I share them with whomever you meet. Now, one’s place can affect one’s well being, but if external ingredients are mostly in place, we can nurture that joy within ourselves by loving and caring for ourselves and doing those things which bring us a sense of purpose and meaning, no matter where we are.

And I also believe with all my heart that genuine happiness isn’t in service of self, of material gains or of status alone; my faith holds that the greatest joy comes from serving others. We heard last weekend from several of our ninth graders what the saying, “It is better to give than to receive,” means to them. By being generous, not only with your money, but with your time and your good will, you lighten not only someone else’s load, you lighten your own.

The joy that comes from the Christmas tradition is rooted in the purpose of Christ’s birth according to New Testament scripture: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son….” Whether you read this message as faith or as metaphor, it suggests that the path to genuine happiness is loving the world (the part of world you live in everyday and the part of the world you have never seen), loving all its people -even our enemies- and having a generous spirit so that life is indeed filled with purpose and pride and joy for all.  

 

 

What to Give Your Daughter this Holiday — Go Analog

27fa2200b19761a2564d48fbbc2ef40aOver Thanksgiving Break, an old friend tagged me and several other of our middle school friends in a post she wrote about the 1975 release of Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run. It was a tribute to her dad Tom, who was pretty hip for a dad, much less for a minister, and who actually bought the album himself and introduced us to its haunting lyrics. Of course, Heather’s post sent us down memory lane, recalling what now seems a simpler time when our group of friends gathered around her father’s stereo console in her living room and listened to the album, over and over again. (Yes, we had to flip to side two to hear all the songs.) We would belt out the lyrics to “Jungleland” and “She’s the One,” my favorite.

Coincidentally, when I read Heather’s post, I had just read David Sax’s November 18th opinion piece in the NY Times, “Our Love Affair with Digital is Over” (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/18/opinion/sunday/internet-digital-technology-return-to-analog.html). Sax argues that ten years after the iPhone debuted, there is growing mistrust of computers among millennials in their personal lives and in our society at large. Indeed, from growing backlash to Facebook and Twitter to the latest study showing a correlation between the introduction of the Smartphone and the rise in teenage anxiety and depression, many are concerned with “digital technology’s pernicious effects on our lives,” on our children, and even on democracy.

Sax does not suggest that we delete our social media accounts or toss our iPads, but he does argue we need to restore some sense of balance, and he proposes the way to do that is to go…well, analog.

I had only a hint that analog was making a comeback. My teenage nephews are into albums, and now my husband is wishing he hadn’t gotten rid of his extensive record collection. Sax confirms that the analog world is thriving. Vinyl is indeed hot. Book sales also are up, and independent bookstores are growing. Instant film cameras, paper notebooks, board games, and Broadway tickets are all enjoying a renaissance, according to Sax.

Sax believes consumers are drawn to analog because it “provides a richness of experience that is unparalleled with anything delivered through a screen.” I appreciate what he means, especially when it comes to reading. I still like to hold a book in my hands, touch the pages, and smell the ink on the paper. I even wonder if the richness of sensory experience is part of what drives students’ interest in maker spaces, where arts and crafts meet high tech, all in an open community space.

Most of all, Sax says, “Analog excels particularly well at encouraging human interaction, which is crucial to our physical and mental wellbeing.” Conversely, it is the lack of in-person connection that occurs when teens are interacting on social media that may be leading to their increased unhappiness.

In her article “Have Smart Phones Destroyed a Generation?” Jean Twenge writes, “Social-networking sites like Facebook promise to connect us to friends. But the portrait of iGen teens emerging from the data is one of a lonely, dislocated generation. Teens who visit social-networking sites every day but see their friends in person less frequently are the most likely to agree with the statements ‘A lot of times I feel lonely,’ ‘I often feel left out of things,’ and ‘I often wish I had more good friends.’”

When I think back to my middle school years gathered with my friends around the stereo, I realize we felt angst like all teens do, but we felt it together as we sang, “Together we could break this trap, We’ll run till we drop, baby we’ll never go back….”

For me, it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition when it comes to technology — my Smartphone makes my work easier in many ways — but it is about achieving a balance. It’s about healthy relationships with ourselves, with one another, and then with our devices.

backgammonSo, parents, when you’re making your holiday gift list for your daughter, consider throwing in something analog: a record, a backgammon board (or my favorite, cribbage), or tickets to a play or to a movie in a theatre. Of course make sure you give her a book. (I am always the English teacher!) And don’t forget to turn off your own devices and enjoy being fully in the present together over the holidays.