Dear Friends of Berthold Academy,
Starting a school has been a lifelong dream...one based in my deep commitment to educating children in the gentle, structured yet powerful philosophy and methods developed many years ago by Maria Montessori. The past year, perhaps more than any other in my life, was filled with a combination of exciting and challenging experiences. I am amazed when I contemplate what we have accomplished: a trip to Rome, Philadelphia, Camp Horizons...
During the course of the summer, as the staff and I worked hard to refine our program and introduce new ideas into our daily workflow, I found that I kept returning again and again to what I'd call the quiet revolution that is mindfulness. I say "quiet revolution" because it is subtle and nuanced in its practice, yet the results are more powerful than any technology can provide. As I evaluated all that needed to be done within the school and made strategic decisions on our priorities, I saw that this practice was fully aligned with our existing Yoga program and had the potential to be transformative for each and every student, teacher and family in our community.
I will tell you that, for myself, I have experienced changes in my personal responses to external stimuli since I began practicing mindfulness techniques. Let me give you an example: commuter traffic in Northern Virginia can be highly stressful and can sometimes bring out elements of our character that are less than ideal. Since beginning mindfulness practice, I have noticed that I no longer feel the same level of stress, anger, or impatience that I have felt for years when in traffic jams or major commuter delays. Upon reflection, I have resolutely concluded this change occurred as a result of my mindfulness practices.
And so, I'm overjoyed to announce that our new Personal Development program is deeply grounded in the research-based foundational curriculum created by Mindful Schools. All staff members have completed or are in the process of taking their personal practice course, Mindfulness Fundamentals. I completed Mindfulness Fundamentals in early summer, and continued study via the Mindfulness Educator Essentials course. Meanwhile, I have diligently structured a daily mindfulness program specific to Berthold Academy.
This year, your children will receive regular mindfulness instruction weekly and those teachings will be integrated into the whole environment of the school. In addition to exploring these practices, we will be discussing how they affect our lives and relationships, and weaving "short moments of awareness" many times throughout the day, especially during transitions and times when we are seeking a sense of quiet serenity and groundedness in our immediate environment. This practice will serve as the basis from which we can organize our bodies and minds for optimal learning, and I am confident that you will observe the manifestation of our key personal development goals in all students (as well as staff).
Our school is committed to embodying these principles. I am committed to embodying these principles. Furthermore, that commitment to mindfulness, to our children, to preparing them to go out into the world as whole, balanced and self-aware human beings, has driven every decision I have made. Thank you for placing your trust in my decisions and in me.
We've created a space on the website specifically for sharing what we're doing throughout the year in regard to both mindfulness and, more generally, our Personal Development program as a whole. Please visit the page to learn more about the details of our programming and the trimester goals we've outlined. I also encourage you to watch some of the videos attached at the bottom of the page under "Resources." In addition, you'll see that we've developed a robust Culinary and Food Studies program for the upcoming year, which is detailed on the site. I'll talk a bit more about in my next email.
Through our school newsletter, and on the site, we'll be publishing practices, resources, descriptions of student involvement, and our reflections on what we learn as we progress through the year. We look forward to sharing mindfulness with you!
Rodney D. Berthold
Founder/Head of School