Head of School’s Notebook

October 27, 2023

I had the pleasure of meeting a former Cate parent this week who said something to me that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind: “Dream big, start small, go deep.” This resonated as I feel that this is exactly what I’ve been trying to do as I move through this first year at Cate. I’ve felt caught between wanting to do it all – attend every class, every performance, every game – while also wanting to connect deeply with the person right in front of me.

Thanks to a generous donor, we’ve been able to fully reimagine the landscaping at Mesa House. The dream for the garden is big, and yet the plants are starting small or are simply seeds. The same is true for each of our students here at Cate who come in with big dreams, and through millions of small moments of connection and learning with the wonderful people of the Mesa, the bonds run deep and last a lifetime. Senior Mei G. ’24. said in her Servons speech this week, “…there’s this patience to the way time works here,” which speaks to this very idea of moving at the pace of connection that allows for depth.

I’ve been inspired by Alison Gopnik, Psychology Professor at UC Berkeley, whose most recent book The Gardener and the Carpenter outlines different parenting approaches described in this NPR article as:

The “carpenter” thinks that his or her child can be molded. “The idea is that if you just do the right things, get the right skills, read the right books, you’re going to be able to shape your child into a particular kind of adult,” she says.

The “gardener,” on the other hand, is less concerned about controlling who the child will become and instead provides a protected space to explore. The style is all about “creating a rich, nurturant but also variable, diverse, dynamic ecosystem.”

Just like the plants in our new garden, our students have been planted in this “rich, nurturant but also variable, diverse, and dynamic ecosystem” that is Cate. I can’t think of a better place to start small, grow, and connect deeply.