I have the privilege each year of getting to say a few words to the senior class whether they want me to or not - and whether I want to or not! This year, I'm very pleased to be able to address this particular class. There are many reasons for this, seniors, but I can tell you - and this will surprise you - that to me the most stand-out characteristic about your group is that you are the only class in my long career to have written itself a mission statement. I had been invited to work with you during your junior year bonding day, and we talked about class goals. When I mentioned that goals often emerge from a sense of mission, you were all over that and worked collaboratively for about 10 minutes before you nailed who you are collectively. Here's what you came up with:
Good morning, everyone, and welcome officially to the 2017-2018 academic year. I loved hearing about each one of you students last night and would like to take a moment to thank, especially, the senior class for getting us off to such a happy start! You, seniors, have set the tone for a spectacular year. Thank you.
Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome back to Stoneleigh-Burnham! I saw some of you last night at the Reception and thank the Alumnae Board for hosting such a good time. I also enjoyed dinner with the mighty class of 1967 last night. For those of you who are just arriving, we have a lot in store for you and look forward to catching up.
I have the privilege each year of offering some reflections about the graduating class, and I usually try to focus on the nature of the class and its contributions to the school. Seniors: Though you are a relatively small group, you are powerful; more than half of you have been here 4, 5, or 6 years so we know you quite well and have delighted in watching you grow. If I had to qualify you as a group, I would say you are our philosophical class. There is almost nothing you have accepted at face value, and because of that you have challenged us in good ways (and, in your earlier years, in more typically adolescent ways :). Those of us who have worked with you know that the best challenges come from the heart, in other words from people who care enough to question - and I believe that especially in your work of this year, you have embodied that kind of challenge for us. You want us to be “our best selves,” and I appreciate that in you.
As we near the end of February - months since my last entry (I note with chagrin...) - we are waiting impatiently to receive our official authorization to open as an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School next fall. This is without doubt the biggest initiative in my three years of headship, and we have worked hard to establish this status. What will it mean to Stoneleigh-Burnham when all is said and done? A lot, including:
As is now widely known, Governor Deval Patrick signed the Act Relative to Bullying in Schools in May 2010. This new law prohibits bullying and retaliation in all public and private schools in Massachusetts. Each school has been required to develop its own Bullying Prevention and Intervention Policy by December 31, 2010. The law mandates reporting of any incidence of bullying, cyber-bullying or retaliation witnessed or heard of by adult members of the school community; it encourages students and parents to report suspected cases as well. Further, schools are now required to hold students accountable for bullying situations that occur on OR OFF campus, thereby monitoring more closely the dangerous effects of cyber-bullying that affect a student's educational experience.
When I was a student at SPH and then SBS, Mr. and Mrs. Emerson (the "E's) ran the school together. They were wonderful, and many of us stayed in touch with them until they died some years ago. When I was a senior Stoneleigh Prospect Hill, we merged with another girls' school in Northampton, The Mary A. Burnham School, thus becoming Stoneleigh-Burnham. Mr. E's sister Miriam Peters ran Burnham, following in the footsteps of her mother, Mabel Hood Emerson (ironically, I received the award in her name when I graduated). When the schools merged, Mr. E was the head and Mrs. Peters worked somewhat in the backdrop, orchestrating a fantastic trip to Paris for 5 weeks. I went on that trip, the ultimate inspiration for my becoming a French major in college, and ultimately a French teacher.
Last weekend we ended an intense week of Admissions Open House, Board of Trustees meetings and Family Weekend. It was all wonderful, but the pace of the week was fast and furious. I went to sleep very early on Saturday night when the campus fell quiet again! That said, I do have some impressions of the week that are probably worth sharing:
We're at the end of our third full week of classes, and it feels - in good ways - as if we've been here for months. I thought I'd fill this entry with quick snapshots of some the moments we've experienced.
It's hard to believe that we just opened the year and that I am embarking on my second year as head of school. Of course, I know so much more this year! And that includes people -- it feels good to welcome parents and students back to school and be able to call them by name. I've had multiple returning students talk to me about their commitment to making the year a positive experience for all. It is equally wonderful to see all the new families who come with great enthusiasm and expectation of a super year. I don't think we'll disappoint.
Filed Under: Thoughts from the Head of School