(note: Stephanie’s original speech has been edited for space considerations.)
Every day, when I walk into my classroom, I’m thinking “Who are these kids, what do they need in general, and what does it look like they need today?” To my thinking, good pedagogy is quite simply that which enables me to know the answers to those questions and fulfill those needs.
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.
“Are you going to write about this?” Sometimes, students ask me this question. They know I often write for the school’s blog, and they know I’m constantly on the watch for inspiration. But, so help me, I had never been asked the question while hiking up a mountain and worrying about whether I was letting the kids literally lead us down the wrong path.
by Andrea Tehan Carnes
While most of our students were off enjoying a hot leisurely summer all across the globe, nine ambitious students decided to try something new and sign up to train for and run a 15-mile trail race in the nearby town of Northfield, Mass. I got the idea in my head to do this race with our girls a little over a year ago while volunteering at the same race at the registration table, when a rival cross-country team checked in their students to do the race. I thought to myself, "If THEY can do it, so can we!" A little recruiting -- and, surprisingly, not a lot of persuading -- later, we had nine girls ready to go. We only needed eight to fill a team, but as this wasn't the first time I had captained a relay team, I knew there would inevitably be a few people dropping out for unforeseen reasons. It was good to have a backup plan.
“No. We’re not going to restart.” Much as I value resilience, and much as I value student voice, I couldn’t imagine what they were thinking. A group of 14 middle schoolers, on their annual bonding overnight trip to Camp Becket, were trying to get across a 20-foot “lava river” using only six rubber dots about 10” in diameter. They were only allowed to step on the dots. If any of the dots were left untouched, even for a moment, they melted away (meaning Edie, the Camp Becket staff person supervising the group, took it back). They had gotten maybe nine people over but had just lost their fourth dot, meaning they were down to only two. How could they ever get five middle schoolers across a 20-foot lava river with only two safety dots?!?!
Inspired by our Convocation ceremony on Monday, Sept. 5, 2016
“Where do our individual templates and belief systems come from?” Shayna Appel ‘78 asked, pausing a moment during her invocation. In telling a personal anecdote of when she needed to grow further into her own best self, and did, she was inviting us both implicitly and explicitly to consider the question. As Head of School Sally Mixsell ‘69 would later say, all you know is what you see when you first meet a person - what is most important is unseen and undiscovered. And we have, as Shayna pointed out, the freedom to choose different judgments and opinions, to bring a more critical awareness of ourselves and our certainties. Student Council President Molly Li ‘17, in her discussion of what the Honor Code means to her, told us that when she first came here as an eighth grader, she had feared she would be judged here by her looks and by her English. However, she said, everyone was always kind and respectful to her. And Miles DeClue ‘18, in her own take on the ritual reading (and eventual signing) of the Honor Code, noted that it comes down to personal responsibility.