Bird's Eye View News

Three Good Things: Our Division Heads Express Their Gratitude


Our Division Heads share their most memorable moments from the fall semester.

Back in August, Dr. Dacher Keltner of UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center spoke to our professional community and urged us all to establish (or maintain!) a mindfulness and gratitude practice. He shared strategies for welcoming gratitude and awe into the classroom, and throughout the semester, through academic growing pains and the ongoing pandemic, we’ve returned to this grounding practice. 

In the spirit of feeling grateful––especially as we prepare to sit down with our families for Thanksgiving––we asked our Division Heads Ricky Lapidus, Danny Scuderi, and Lea Van Ness to list “three good things” from this semester. 

“Three good things” is a simple, effective gratitude exercise you can try at home with the whole family. Each person considers and lists three things that make them feel grateful. You might name a small moment you’re grateful for––like a delicious carrot cupcake (purchased from the Upper School bake sale!)––or a milestone, such as an exciting promotion or your child passing the driver’s test. Some people like to journal before bed, others prefer to share their “three good things” over dinner or on a walk.

Looking back at the best parts of your week or semester is a fine way to remind yourself of all we have to celebrate and cherish. Here's what our Division Heads had to share: 

Ricky Lapidus, Head of Upper School  

  • I’ve been thinking about the kids sitting in their classroom laughing at Mr. Scott ham it up as they talk about Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. They quickly transitioned from goofiness to an intellectual exploration of what fetters encompass all of us. It was a nice reminder that serious academic pursuits do not need to stay separate from joy. Learning is fun.

  • The birthday party on senior day was awesome, too. These seniors have spent the majority of high school in a state of constant adjusting--first to distance learning, then to masks, and vaccines. I’m grateful they could simply be together (and maybe even more grateful that they cleaned up after themselves and didn’t leave it for the adults to deal with…!)

  • One bright spot has been watching kids from the Community Engagement Board, our CCE leadership team, as they figure out ways to make a difference in Oakland, not just at Head-Royce. I get to witness the joy that getting outside of one’s own head space and one’s own concerns can bring. In their volunteer projects, students are cleaning beaches, distributing fresh produce, and helping to fix the global water crisis. They’re smart, motivated, caring––and already making a difference in the wider world. 


Danny Scuderi, Head of Middle School   

  • In Advising, 7th graders started the year with a trophy challenge. Each Advising group worked together to create a trophy out of recycled materials. The challenge culminated in a contest that I helped judge but that, more importantly, was filled with the benign fervor that only a fun, community-building activity can create. It was so great to see students work together, make connections with each other as an Advising group, and come together as a whole class for the final contest. I may or may not have accepted a cupcake along the way, but only after eating it did I let the students know that I don’t take bribes. I do take cupcakes, though! The winning trophy (from Ms. Pagel’s group, or as they call themselves, Pagel’s Bagels) has been circulating throughout Advising groups.

  • Studio Art students recently completed self-portraits in pencil, and the day they went up in the hallway, every middle school student paused to admire their peers’ work. Since then, that admiration has continued, and it has been purely wonderful to see students silently and vocally praise their peers’ sometimes hidden artistic talents. And, some of those drawings I swear are photographs!

  • In Mr. Curtin’s math class, 8th graders studied quadratic and kinematic equations for projectiles in motion, and then built their own mini catapults from popsicle sticks. In addition to learning the math on paper, they were able to work together to build something concrete, and most importantly, they got to launch mini-marshmallows to test the viability of their designs. It was a series of math classes that also incorporated much more, including laughter, challenge, and real-world applications of concepts. 


Lea Van Ness, Head of Lower School 

  • Our 2nd graders headed back to Sausal Creek for actual field trips! I used to take field trips for granted––but now, after watching those excited 2nd graders talk about everything they saw out on the creek is a reminder of how important it is to connect students with Oakland, and the natural world.

  • Our Lower School Counselor, Dr. Rosemary Durousseau had the fabulous idea to challenge our students to a “Boast Rattle,” ie. boasting about your friend, instead of roasting them (“Roast Battle”). The compliment battle made us all smile! Why is it so hard to take a compliment..? It’s certainly a little easier in the Lower School these days.   

  • Speaking of smiles, the 5th grade drama classes gave me a lot of joy this semester. Andie Patterson showed her students the masters like Charlie Chaplin to teach what it means to exaggerate and use movement to describe actions and emotions without words. In small groups, students created and rehearsed silent scenes and performed them for the rest of the Lower School. Hilarity ensued! You don't want to miss this: watch the 5th grade clowning performance here