President Emmanuel Macron invited me to a reception at the French Embassy in Washington D.C. this week. (I cannot even begin to describe to you how proud my mother was – she immediately set about drafting a list of grievances for me to pass on to him!)  It’s not every day that a head of state invites you to hang out, so I took a look at my agenda to see if I could squeeze in a flying visit to DC while the rest of the team at The École continued to slog away. And well, it turns out I had far more important things to do this week than partying with the president.

First up on the schedule was a packed day of professional development on Monday. Although I’ve since received feedback that scheduling a day off school for students thinking it would help families to return stress-free after the Thanksgiving Break wasn’t to everyone’s liking, it was nonetheless a fruitful day during which the entire team, via various committees, worked on highly topical issues, such as STEAM, ecology, reimagining classroom spaces, and the transition between the different phases of school life.

Continuing with the theme of transitions, I had the pleasure of meeting plenty of current and potential parents this week during the Introduction to Elementary and Middle School meetings on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and the Open House on Wednesday night. We know that transitions are crucial moments for our families and students – changing buildings, changing working methods, it’s like diving into an unknown universe, even when it just means climbing one more flight of stairs in the same building. These transitions come with expectations and fixed ideas – parents hope routines will be the same, they recall their own memories of Middle School (often with a cringe), they try to imagine what it will be like and it’s not always easy. We do our best to accompany and support everyone every step of the way.

These meetings – particularly yesterday’s for 5th Grade parents with whom I had the pleasure of chatting for two hours – reminded me of how vital it is to spend time together. COVID – the usual stooge for all shortcomings – deprived me of such opportunities when I first arrived in New York and other routines took their place, particularly (spending too much time) working alone in my office. Therefore, from January onward I plan on holding a monthly meet-up: “Les p’tits déj avec JeanYves” (Breakfast with JeanYves), which will allow parents who can / wish to come and join me to talk, share, and exchange ideas about our school and how we can make it a nicer, better, more highly performing place that is worthy of our students and meets their expectations. You will find details about the times and dates in future Memos.

For today, I will keep on working alone in my office checking the Middle School report cards that will be available, along with the Elementary ones, for parents to read on Focus by the time you read this letter (I’m not usually the kind of person who leaves things to the last minute, I promise!) It was a busy week spent with important people that warranted turning down the French president. I just hope my mother will forgive me!