Category: Head of School

Why Do We Go to School on MLK Day?

“Why do we go to school on Martin Luther King Day?”  I heard that once or twice on Monday (and saw it a bit on Twitter, too).

When President Barack Obama proclaimed January 18th a Federal Holiday, he did so while urging: “I encourage all Americans to observe this day with appropriate civic, community, and service projects in honor of Dr. King and to visit www.MLKDay.govto find Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service projects across our country.”

This year, we invited Dr. Michael Thurston, Professor of English Language and Literature at Smith College to campus. His presentation tied MLK’s legacy to contemporary works by writer Ta-Nehesi Coates (author of 2015 National Book Award for nonfiction winner BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME), poet Robin Coste Lewis (author of the 2015 National Book Award for poetry winner THE VOYAGE OF THE SABLE VENUS), and hip hop recording artist Kendrick Lamar ( his 2015 work, TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY, received a number of critical accolades).

Dr. King’s work represents Community, Integrity, Respect, and Leadership. As components of our CIRLCE values, these ideals provide a lens through which we can understand and continue a dialogue about his ideas. We’ll do even better job of educating our school population about Dr. King’s legacy and engaging in service in the future.  I have challenged our School Administration to come up with an appropriate civic, community, and service project for The MacDuffie School to undertake in 2017.

End of Year Thoughts 2015

The end of the year is often a time to reflect upon the past and to ponder the future. This has been another year of momentous change at The MacDuffie School, marked by growth of the student body and a change of ownership. With the change has come progress in the form of exciting projects. We have made strong commitments:

— to our entire student body (student lounge furniture and…a snack!)
— to accessibility (the LULA elevator project)
— to our Boarders (new common room furniture)
— to making Granby our permanent home (a new entrance with a MacDuffie seal and new signage)
— to the environment (a recycling program; new water fountains)

The future holds even more promise of enhanced programs and enhanced facilities–it’s an exciting time to be a member of the MacDuffie community. However, with all of this talk of programs and facilities, we must remember to thank parents for making a commitment to MacDuffie. It truly is all about providing a superlative experience to a great group of young men and women and helping to achieve our mission for each one of them.

I wish you a peaceful December break; I hope that many of you are able to reconnect with family and friends, and I look forward to our start of classes on Tuesday, January 5th.

With warmest regards,

Steve Griffin

Greetings from the Head of School

At our year-end faculty meetings, we spent some time talking about our Mission, and whether or not it still reflects what we’re trying to do with our students. What started to bubble up in the discussion was how important creativity is in our every-day lives at MacDuffie. Creativity is embedded in the pillars of “Intellectual Habits of Mind” (creative thinking is an important habit to be learned and practiced) , “High Ethical Standards” (we teach values, and one of our six CIRCLE values is Creativity), and “Respect for Diversity” (what is creativity if not diversity of approach and thought?). However, the question has been raised as to whether creativity should be elevated to the status of a pillar unto itself.

Describing creativity often leads to a riddle wrapped in a conundrum.  This juxtaposition of what creativity looks like is captured well by Scott Barry Kaufmann in his article on creative people (  However, creativity is viewed as perhaps one of the main elements of an American Education.  Dr. Marvin Bartel argues ( that creative thinking is a habit that can be taught and practiced, which echoes the thinking on intellectual habits of mind that I have shared previously.

Our role as a school is to do our best to foster creative thinking in our students.  It’s why we have a rigorous Arts requirement for our graduates, and it’s why creativity is one of our CIRCLE values.  It’s also why our teachers, across all disciplines, challenge students to come up with creative solutions, and to think critically.

Our energies are focused on building an Arts Complex for MacDuffie, which I have recently been referring to as our “Creativity Center” (Why do the Arts get to have all the fun?)  In the near future we will be doing something to explore what the intersection of creativity and leadership look like, with the purpose of creating a space for this endeavor in our new building.  Is it entrepreneurship?  Is it something else?  We don’t know yet, but we’d love to hear some creative responses!

Best Regards,


Steven Griffin

Greetings from the Head of School

I thought I would share the words of one of our students, Darien ‘15, related to the Spring Carnival on April 8th:

“I’d like to thank the community for your enthusiasm and participation in today’s events! None of this would’ve happened if it weren’t for the student council/prefects who helped run and set up the fun activities everyone partook in. It’s days like these and Diversity Day that should remind you what MacDuffie is all about!  Once again, thank you for being a great community and I hoped you enjoyed the day!”

Darien took the moment to revel in our strong community.  As we gear up for this weekend’s 125th Anniversary celebrations, I’m reminded of what a motivated group of student leaders we have here at MacDuffie.

Last week, I served as an Assistant Chair on a New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) Accreditation team.  A colleague on that team reminded me that you can tell a lot about a school by what’s on the schedule.  The fact that our schedule is full of Arts and Athletic events over the next seven weeks speaks volumes about how we value experiences for our students in- and outside the classroom.  These events include the Dance Concert, Art Show, Sports Awards and Arts Awards evenings, and numerous theatre presentations and athletic contests.

In the short term, I hope that all of our community members will be able to take part in some of the Gala weekend festivities:

  • April 24th 7:00 PM Acting Ensemble Showcase
  • April 24th 8:00 PM Alumni Reception at The Yard House, South Hadley
  • April 25th 10:00 AM Run for Hope (registration starts at 9AM)
  • April 25th 12:00 PM International Festival
  • April 25th 2:00 PM Girls’ Varsity Tennis – home match vs. Marianapolis
  • April 25th 6:00 PM 125 Anniversary Gala (including cocktail hour, silent and live auctions, dinner and dancing)

I hope to see you there!


Steve Griffin

Greetings from the Head of School

Over the December break, I received a signed copy of Martin Short’s Autobiography, “I must say”.  As a huge fan of the cult classic late-night TV show, SCTV, I was thrilled to be able to read some amusing anecdotes about his time on Saturday Night Live, and his work with Steve Martin in a number of movies.

What struck me, however, was a brief section that Short wrote about how he dealt with the ups and downs of being an actor.  He organized his life into Nine Categories, and kept a journal with weekly grades about how he was doing in each of the categories:  Self, Immediate Family, Original Family (parents and siblings), Friends, Money, Career, Creativity, Discipline, and Lifestyle.

Short captured what I often feel about my own life, and how I’m sure many others feel, too.   We are busy people, and it seems like we are always “spinning plates” – each one needing individual attention so that everything doesn’t come crashing down.

(Not a bad metaphor for life!) (Photo credit:
(Not a bad metaphor for life!) (Photo credit:


Short’s system is designed to allow him to pause and reflect.  It allows him to realize that even when things aren’t going that well in one area, that they are doing fine in another. Alternatively, it directs him to the area of his life that needs the most attention.

Short’s system is also relevant to the life of our school.  At The MacDuffie School, we strive for excellence in all areas – the classic “all things to all people at all times” educational experience!  Invariably, we will lag behind in one area and excel in another.  Rather than fret about this eventuality, we must focus on the process that allows us to reflect.  What are our “9 categories”, and what is the way in which we open ourselves to reflection?

Our school evaluates our “Nine Categories” based on our mission:

To foster in all students the intellectual habits of mind, high ethical standards and respect for diversity required for becoming effective individuals in their personal and work lives and moral and responsible participants in the world beyond.

We have systems in place to reflect (open office doors, an atmosphere that invites feedback, regular surveys, NEASC Accreditation).  It’s the best way to keep those plates spinning, although Martin Short shows that a good sense of humor doesn’t hurt, either!

Best Regards,


Steven Griffin