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Letter Project - Head of School to Students

Letter 1 - March 30, 2020

Students:

I cannot believe that you guys are not here today. I must admit -- I am still a bit shocked with everything going on. Since today would have been our first day back, I have decided to participate in the letter project by writing to all of you. I always love walking around in the days following a return. Seeing you guys liven the classrooms and athletic fields keeps me young. I get to watch the campus seamlessly transform back into a community – and it often reminds me of how much I appreciate my job. Unfortunately, that walk felt a lot different today. There is a unique energy that students carry back from break – alongside everyone’s news, stories, and excitement to see each other. I hope the letter project can fill these gaps and bring a similar sense of togetherness to you, your families, and your homes. Ultimately, you will even be able to provide the same clarity for someone else.

Completing the school year remotely will require a lot of adjustment and uncertainty. I am optimistic that we can adapt and finish the year by closing in on the goals we set out for in the fall. I will continue to write to you each day in order to provide examples and ideas for this project -- so you can figure out how to best move forward with it. While I am missing out on the joy your presence at St. Thomas More brings me, I am just as pleased knowing that you may be able to share your energy and hope beyond just our community.   

As my “extra item,” I have attached the all-school picture from the beginning of the year. I hope this allows you to reflect on your accomplishments and revisit the growth you went through with the people you care about. Find joy in the letter project and the idea that you are still growing together in the best way you can. I would love to find a more meaningful title than “The Letter Project”, so please, let me know if you have any alternatives in mind. Your courage and inspiration during this project can be just what your audience needs. 

 

Prompts for your first letter:

Why you chose the person or group you chose?

What you have been doing for the last two weeks?

The health of your family and friends

The health of the person or group you chose and their family or friends

What is the most frustrating thing about this situation?

What has been the most positive thing about this situation?

What would have been doing today if you were not social distancing or quarantined?

 All School Photo

Sincerely,

Matthew Quinn

Head of School

St. Thomas More School

 

 

Letter 2 - March 31, 2020

Students,

As always, I hope everyone is safe and healthy. I’m sure I can speak for the entire faculty when I say that your well-being is constantly on our minds. We actually had a chance to get together over Zoom in order to discuss The Letter Project. While it was nice to see faces and hear voices, it was even more pleasing to chat about the awesome ideas that you guys have had so far.  The call was refreshing and reassuring; it gave me confidence that we will figure this out as a community and finish the year with strength. I’d say it was actually a pretty smooth first meeting considering none of you guys were around to help us with our computers.

As we progress through this project, do not hesitate to address responses from your audience. Not only will it keep you fresh with ideas and content, it will help you explore your understanding of the things happening around us. Staying aware of our situation and connected to the ones we care about are simple ways to preserve the unity we are all looking for right now.

I’ve also noticed a bit of irony in our project schedule. You are being asked to submit your work to your advisors by 11:59pm; however, your Wi-Fi access ends at 11:30pm on a normal school night. I’m sure you’re all enjoying 24-hour Internet on a Tuesday – just probably not quite as much as Brady. While it’s nice to have a little less structure, I do hope you guys are using some of your free time to venture towards new things. This can be a cool opportunity to tackle some of the stuff you didn’t always have time for. Or, I guess you could use it to make up for all of the nights you didn’t have Wi-Fi. At least you would be practicing for the next time we need help on a Zoom call. 

Nonetheless, I’m sure you would all trade your Internet for a return to normalcy – I know I would. I can’t help but imagine what today would be like if you were all on campus enjoying the outdoors. The air is empty without the crack of a baseball jumping off the bat – without the squeaks of quick shoes pivoting on the tennis court. There is a lot of uncertainty in the way you are being asked to live right now, and the hardest part of it is knowing that you guys are missing out on being kids. This has definitely reminded me to appreciate the memories we’ve built together -- and it’s given me excitement knowing that you still have plenty new ones ahead of you.

For my extra item, I have included a link below. The link has ten prompts for writing letters - I hope this helps.

https://penandpillar.com/blogs/pen-and-pillar-blog/10-letter-writing-prompts

Sincerely,

Matthew Quinn

Head of School

St. Thomas More School

 

 

 

Letter 3 - April 1, 2020

Students,

I have some interesting news: next year we will have girls on campus – in addition to 24-hour Wi-Fi. We may also try to have pizza and other snacks in the dining hall after study hall each night. I won’t be around to see it, though. I’ve decided to move on as Head of School at St. Thomas More in order to pursue the position of Head of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks. My first move will be drafting our entire prep team -- because even they were better than the Knicks this year.

Mr. Anderson is taking a job as a cell phone model.

Mrs. Autencio will be available for extra help 24 hours a day once we begin remote learning.  I will email you her cell phone number.

Ms. Classen is going to be the Yearbook Editor at Stanford.

Mr. Crowley is leaving to become a professional body builder.

Mr. Fenn is on his way to solving Global Warming.

Mr. Gerkin is working on his first novel – that he’s writing in Russian.

Mrs. Glover is moving to New York with her husband to become the new, best wing-makers in Buffalo.

Mr. Handler is walking his dog -- even as I write this.

Coach Hetu would have definitely coached our baseball team to its first win today.

Mrs. Howard is going to work for the Federal Reserve, so she can help with the recession.

Mr. Johnson will host each of the 2020 presidential debates.

Mr. Ladd is still trying to find admissions – he got lost on his way to work this morning.

Mr. Lemay is on his sailboat… trying to find Mr. Ladd.

Mr. Luciano has been napping in the gym since the students left.

Mr. Manson’s moving to Florida to continue his playing career. He recently signed as Tom Brady’s backup.

Mr. McGillicuddy will be Coach Manson’s offensive coordinator with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Mr. Micieli has been hired by Mr. Crowley as his strength and conditioning coach.

Mr. Mulvey is trying to grow a little bit taller.

Mr. Jere Quinn has been sprinting laps on the track the last two weeks.

Mr. Schlageter is pulling his hair out over math problems.

Mr. Suter will be the next Bachelor on ABC.

Mr. Tar is madly practicing his table tennis.

Mr. Zilka shaved his beard and then grew it back in 24 hours.

 

This is 100% a joke.

HAPPY APRIL FOOLS' DAY!

I hope you got a little chuckle.

 

My Extra Item: https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/april-fools-day

 

Sincerely,

Matthew Quinn

Head of School

St. Thomas More School

 

 

Letter 4 - April 2, 2020

Students,

“Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company.” – Lord Byron

Again, great job so far! Your advisors have been sharing some thoughtful, heartfelt letters with me. I am constantly proud of your efforts; your letters have embodied the objectives of the assignment in just the way we had hoped. It’s really pleasing to see the good that you are doing for others – and I can only imagine the way that your letters are helping people through this. Reading your work and getting to understand your thoughts has helped keep you guys close in a time where things can feel so distant.

Because of this, we are going to try to introduce an online platform where you can share your letters with your peers, if you desire. You can share one, none, or all. However, we do encourage you to put your work out for beyond just your current audience. If you could induce help or hope – or even just brighten someone’s day in some small capacity, it is well worth it. I can only emphasize how much reading your letters has helped me through this stage of isolation -- and your advisors have shared similar feelings. A platform for exchanging thoughts on a bigger scale could provide some entertainment and light in an attempt to keep us together.

Additionally, stay consistent in your efforts to proofread and expand on your original work. Showing growth of your own throughout this assignment is just as important as any other part of it. Improving your editing and writing skills can be an awesome biproduct of what we’re doing. I’ve included another rough draft of this letter to show you the drastic transformation it went through in my writing process. Make sure to do the same.

Finally, for my extra item today, here’s a link for what I think is the best song with the title, “The Letter.”  This is a song I consider an oldie. However, you guys probably think of the music I grew up with as old, so I don’t know what you would consider this. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIWY8UyW9bw

A couple of potential prompts for your next letters:

 Describe how your community has bonded using social media -- how has your community changed?  What do look forward to most once your community is back to normal?  Do you think anything will significantly change in your community from the coronavirus outbreak?  

Keep the excellent letters coming; I enjoy your good company!

Sincerely,

Matthew Quinn

Head of School

St. Thomas More School

 

 

Letter 5 - April 6, 2020

Students,

Today is the start to the second half of our project. We all should have four complete letters by this point; hopefully, you used the weekend to relax and think about your next group of four. If you missed one, stay on track through this week – you will have Friday to use as a make-up day if needed. If you are ahead on your letters, even better.  Like I have mentioned in my other letters, I’ve really enjoyed reading your work and staying close to you guys through these weeks. I’m optimistic that we will have another stretch of strong writing and emotional connection.

Again, I hope everyone is remaining healthy. It’s hard to wish for anything other than everyone’s wellbeing and safety in moments like these. My wife shared an awesome Instagram post with me from the weekend, so as my extra item -- I wanted to take the chance to share it with you guys.

 “Picture this:  It’s late 2020.  Our houses are clean and organized.  We’re more connected in our relationships than ever before because all we’ve been able to do is communicate.  We’ve been forced to focus on self-care and so, we’re thriving.  We come out of our houses, the world re-opens and we are kinder, more loving, more grateful, more understanding, and more appreciative of the beauty of life and human connection than ever before, and together we rebuild the world intentionally and sustainably.”

You are all a part of the interconnectedness we, as a society, have been attempting to regenerate. Maybe, this post can inspire you in the way it inspired me. We’ve already begun communicating and existing with each other in ways that we never had to before. Your letters are the start to creating unexplored depth in your personal relationships – demonstrating strength, kindness, gratitude, understanding, and love. I’m inspired knowing that one day, we will come back together and use these very pillars to help restructure our community.  

Finishing the letter project this week means that we start our remote learning next Monday on Google Classroom. You should be getting emails from your teachers to register for their classes – make sure you stay ahead of this!

Sincerely,

Matthew Quinn

Head of School

St. Thomas More School

 

 

Letter 6 - April 7, 2020

Students,

It’s sixty degrees and sunny right now, so today’s letter is a bit shorter. This would definitely be a day on campus that we’d all spend outside – enjoying the weather and the opportunity to grow closer together as a community. Instead, I’m going to spend some outdoor time with my wife and kids – growing closer within our own little family. I hope you get a chance to do the same with someone in your house today. 

I’m working on teaching my son, Bodhi, how to ride a bike. As the head of an all-boys school, you’d think I would be capable of motivating young men to achieve their goals. And maybe I am – but apparently, not with a four-year-old. I look and feel like a complete rookie. At least none of you are around to see it.

Every time he messes up – whether he falls, can’t get up a hill, or has trouble staying on-path, he blames the “stupid bike”. He also usually tells me that I’m wrong when I try to give him advice – even though he obviously knows I can already ride a bicycle. I know this sounds ridiculous, but it’s nothing I haven’t seen before. Trust me – we all have plenty “stupid bike” moments of our own. I’ve recently learned that it feels easier to demonstrate patience with high school students than my four-year-old son. I’ve quickly grown tired of hearing him scream that his bike “sucks”. I know that he’s four, and yes – he uses that word. I guess that’s what happens when you have 135 older brothers walking around campus all day. It’s led to him having a pretty extensive vocabulary.

I won’t be long-winded, so please, wish me luck as I keep working on this milestone with Bodhi. I hope that you can also stay patient while you continue working towards goals of your own – no matter how big or small they feel.

Sincerely,

Matthew Quinn

Head of School

St. Thomas More School

 

P.S. My extra item is a picture of the "STUPID BIKE!"

 Bike Photo

  

Letter 7 - April 8, 2020

Students,

Remote learning begins this coming Monday. You should be receiving Google Classroom invitations from your teachers; make sure that you register for their courses. I’ll send a formal email detailing the whole thing in the next few days.

Through this project, I’ve really had no issue coming up with ideas to write about. Today, I’m definitely struggling. It’s a weird one – day seven. The second-to-last day. I don’t envision any issues writing my final letter to you guys – there is so much to say in order to properly wrap this project up.

So today, I’m going to introduce a little idea for you during this time of quarantine and isolation. I challenge you to try/learn something completely new to you – no matter how big or small – as long as you find it interesting.

My personal challenge has been to really understand Celsius. I’ve had some fun with this tiny thing in the last handful of days. Fortunately for me, the iPhone setting allows me to switch back and forth with Fahrenheit, so I don’t ever have to fully commit to Celsius – just in case I ever get stuck. Of course, I know and have known what Celsius is – a unit of measure that everyone uses besides the United States. I just had no clue how to interpret it. If someone had told me it was twelve degrees Celsius outside – it would mean absolutely nothing to me; they might as well have not told me at all.

So, I’ve been constantly checking my phone to try to understand Celsius a bit more. It’s been a small task to keep myself engaged and take my mind somewhere other than the coronavirus – even if its just for a little. I’ve even tried to teach my family. As my wife works tirelessly to keep our kids’ spirits high, I’ve often informed her of the temperature in Celsius. She has normally rolled her eyes, but sometimes it’s been met laughter and a smile.

It’s not much, but it’s something. Find something of your own – and challenge yourself to learn it. You may never have the time to do it again.

Sincerely,

Matthew Quinn

Head of School

St. Thomas More School

 

P.S. Maybe next week I will teach myself how to take a selfie!!

 

Bad Selfie

 

 

Letter 8 - April 9, 2020

Students,

Congratulations, we’ve successfully completed the letter project! Remember, you should have eight total letters by the end of it. Most of you finished yesterday, some the day before, and some are finishing up today or this weekend, regardless – I am certainly proud of all of your efforts. Your advisors will be emailing you and your parents to formally notify you that you’ve finished the entire project.

I’m hopeful that you got as much joy from writing to others as I got by writing to you. I’m certain that you radiated optimism, comfort, togetherness, and empathy – and can only hope I did a bit of the same. Your efforts to unify your communities during this time are admirable and I would like to think you’ll carry that same courage with you as we move forward. For my extra item, I’ve included a link to 7 Scientific Benefits of Helping Others.  

I do have to thank my editor throughout this process. Milo Luciano was a big help in working with me to write and rewrite my letters. He’s a huge fan of using dashes in his writing; he even got me to start utilizing them during this project – which is something I rarely do – even though they are quite fun. So students, please continue to understand the importance of reviewing and editing your work. As many of you transition to college this coming fall, keep the benefits of peer tutors and writing centers in mind. They are accessible, simple tools to guide you through the millions of papers you’ll work on.

I’d also like to take a moment to thank you all for being my audience and reading my letters. If you haven’t read them – that’s okay. You can take a look whenever, if you so choose. And if I’ve inundated your inbox and driven you crazy – for that, I am sorry.

Good luck with remote learning. I’m excited to tackle this next portion of our year and can’t wait to hear of your continued efforts. Again, make sure to check your email and log in to Google Classroom. Remember, it’s mandatory to drop by your teachers’ Zoom conferences next week.  

I will continue to stay in contact with you through email – but I will try to limit it to one email a week starting Monday; although, I make no promises!

Sincerely,

Matthew Quinn

Head of School

St. Thomas More School