Head of School Welcome & Blog
I'm glad you're taking time to get to know our wonderful school. Helios truly is a special place for gifted students. Offering engaging and challenging academics is only part of what we do. With a strong emphasis on the internal life of each child, we weave social and emotional learning throughout each day. We teach children the skills and language of emotions, how to become good friends, and be positive and active members in their community. Not only are Helios students intensely curious and intellectually open, they are exceptional young people.
Helios teachers and staff are passionate about what they do. Supporting children to learn and grow, we get to know each child, learning about their strengths and interests, and what motivates them in the learning process. In addition, Helios is a lovely family-focused community that provides fun activities to help parents connect with one another. Living in Silicon Valley can be challenging due to the fast-paced nature of our lives, especially now, as we also face an isolating global pandemic. Helios fosters connections between families, school and home. We offer community members social and parent-ed opportunities throughout the year, to help parents learn more about giftedness and how to navigate parenting gifted students.
We hope you will spend time exploring our website to learn more about Helios. Why don't you schedule a meeting with our Advancement Director Noa Mendelevitch? In order to fully understand our school, I recommend a tour (virtual or in-person) so you can get a feel of the place. Helios is a special, special school. Come and see for yourself!
Head of School
Veteran’s Day, November 11th, is a day when government offices close down and many business and schools take a day off from work in order to remember and say thank you to the men and women who have served in our military forces to preserve our democracy and its concomitant commitment to freedom. When I was a child, it was called Armistice Day, and we were taught that it celebrated the day the First World War ended – November 11, 1918. President` Eisenhower, a veteran of the Second World War, changed the day’s name to honor all veterans – and he fervently hoped that we had seen our last war. Although considered a hero in WWII, Eisenhower opinion of war was pretty clear:
“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”
My own father, born during the First World War, served in the Second World war, and when I was born, he was far away in the Pacific Theater – a lovely name for an awful time and place. Although he never spoke about his service in the U.S. Navy, he was very clear that our democracy and freedom was worth fighting for. Twenty-five years later, my husband also served in our Navy; he went to Officer Candidate School right after graduating college partly because his father had served in WWII, but also because he would soon be drafted and likely sent to Vietnam. A philosophy major in college, he credited the Navy with acquainting him with the real world and requiring him to get his head “out of the clouds” – referring to the world of abstract thought which he so loved.
As we reflect on the jobs our service men and women do, let’s be clear that their work is real and important and, while we (ironically) celebrate them by taking a day off, service men know no days off. We thank all our veterans on this day and we should remember them every day.
At Helios, as all around the country, we are bombarded with political opinion, party enthusiasm and personal competitiveness. Every news report, every human-interest story and almost every radio report is about the election -- not only who will win, but also whether the results be on time? Believable? Contested? There’s a lot of nasty speculation going around as well as accusations and general nastiness, often blared on national TV and radio.
At Helios we will do better than the news watching public and the campaign oppo researchers. I do not believe that our school has to sink to the levels of vitriol and distrust that is marking the less-than-civil discourse this fall. At Helios we teach students to be curious about the ideas of others — to judge less and ask questions more. Recognizing that emotions run high, we may occasionally miss the mark. When we do, there must be consequences. Some feelings get hurt, unkind remarks pass some lips; however, our strength in learning is to recognize mistakes, apologize sincerely, and work hard not to fall again.
As adults, it is not our job to push an agenda or ideology, but to help students grow into independent thinkers and thoughtful citizens. Our young people will one day shape our country’s conversations and discourse for years to come, and we hope they will rely on what Helios asks them to value: respect, responsibility and kindness. These are not just pretty words; these are required outcomes of a Helios education. From Hummingbirds to Herons, I ask you to pay careful attention to your own emotions, reactions and actions.
The first Presidential debates of 2020 were not, in my opinion, very “presidential.’ I found myself wondering what has happened to civil discourse in our society – writ large or even right at home. When I was a child, we had a sing-song about name calling: “sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me.” Of course, being called a bad name did hurt, and the song was Mom’s way of telling me to shake it off.
Authentic civil discourse refers to the way we speak with others. Civil discourse excludes name-calling, bad-mouthing, yelling, interrupting, even patronizing – these are uncivil. Civil discourse does not, however, mean that we can’t disagree vehemently, or even be critical or negative; it does mean that we feel and say our contrary opinions with respect for the freedom we have to say them. We don’t discount the other’s moral worth, or question their best judgment. We do appreciate the experience and opinions of our opponents. We avoid hostility and aim for modesty.
A friend taught me to measure my discourse by remembering the acronym ACE.
A = Acceptance of the rights and humanity of others
C = Compassion is understanding the suffering of others
E = Empathy is sharing and understanding the feelings of others
I admire Meryl Streep, marvelous actor, who said, “Grace, respect, reserve, and empathetic listening are qualities sorely missing from the public discourse now.” I hope it is not missing from our discourse at Helios.
Adults: remember back, if you will to 09/11/01
We had spent the day looking at those awful images of the planes hitting the towers – over and over again. I gave this talk to my school at 8:30 am the next morning; we had invited parents as well.
The Mourning After
Good Morning. I am comforted to be back at school, and I hope that for you students that an evening with your parents was a good thing. Welcome and many thanks to parents for joining us today for this assembly—if ever there was a day to pull together for the benefit of the children we share, this is it. I know most of you spent the evening (as I did) watching TV news and talking to family and friends. I want to reassure all students that homework is never as important as talking with your families. We would never penalize those students who spent their time trying to understand these awful tragedies -- a task imposed upon us by a force we can’t yet identify.
Like many of you, I didn’t want to believe what was happening yesterday—perhaps like you, those hijacked planes began to look like toys driven into the sides of our tall buildings, and perhaps like you, I am jolted by the sight of those New York towers which today look more like tall fences than tall buildings, and perhaps like you, the terror of yesterday will harden into anger…an anger that one day must yield to knowledge and understanding – we’ll get there some day.
Now begins the grisly task of sorting through the rubble of all of yesterday’s tragedies in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania… of accounting for those who have died and trying to save those who have survived…of cleaning up and trying to figure out just what and why those hijackings and crashes took place.
We will continue to pray for those in grief, for those in fear, and for those on the scene who are working to rescue survivors, to put out fires, to find bodies, and eventually, to clean up. I urge you to resist rage and to eschew hate; nothing good ever came from rage, and hate never leads to peace.
It is the beacon of justice, not the fire of hate, that illuminates the way to peace.
I know we feel helpless, but we can do some things—we can give blood and money, and we can try to learn from this awful event – to learn why these tragedies happened, and to learn about our own reactions to things we cannot control or even understand. Please stay calm and read and talk. Look for hope and pray for all who suffer. Please avoid hate, avoid speculation, and avoid jumping to seemingly easy conclusions. There will be no easy conclusion to these events.
One of my heroes is Mohandas Ghandi—I was reading him last night and want to read you one of his beliefs:
“Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.”
I don’t think any of us (let alone Ghandi) could have predicted an airplane full of innocent travelers used as a weapon of destruction, but I’ll take comfort in knowing that Ghandi would have stood firm — non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind.
Please work and pray for peace. Good Morning.