Making A Difference in the 2015-2016 School Year

It is clear from the bustle around campus and the change of weather, that fall is officially here. As I begin my second year at The Bush School, I look back on the whirlwind that was the 2014-15 school year fondly. My work with the Board of Trustees this summer and fall has been focused on maintaining and enhancing the school’s remarkable programs and reputation as a leader in progressive education, analyzing the comments and recommendations from the parent and student survey about ways in which we can improve as a school, and communicating a clear and compelling vision for the school’s future.

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Halloween Spirit

Halloween SpiritI have always approached Halloween with a hint of skepticism and apathy. As a child, I was very clear about the reason—I DON’T LIKE BEING SCARED. Sure, like most kids, I enjoyed gorging myself on Pixy Stix, Big League Chew, Nerds, Sugar Babies, Dum Dums, Sweeties, and Zagnut bars after my parents inspected them.

As I grew older, and candy became less of an attraction, my friends turned to silly pranks and ghoulish stunts meant to frighten our peers and wreak havoc on our neighborhood.  Again, this seemed to me to be destructive and SCARY, albeit for different reasons. Now, Halloween seems to give some adults license to publicly engage in silly or even debauched behavior. This can be a whole different kind of frightening.

The Halloween practice of trick or treating derives from the medieval tradition of “souling,” in which children would sing and say prayers for the dead in return for cakes. It is interesting how customs and practices morph (especially in culturally heterogeneous societies like ours) and take on new rituals and interpretations.

We are often uncomfortable with acknowledging death; it brings up memories of painful losses and reminds us of our own mortality. For many cultures, including the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertos, remembering loved ones publicly and being confronted with the inevitability of death also offers the opportunity to be grateful.

Like you, I read about the tragic deaths of two Marysville high school students at the hands of a fourteen year-old boy with feelings of dismay, anger, and helplessness. Each time I hear about a school shooting, I am reminded how precious and fleeting life is. Perhaps this Halloween we can spend a few minutes with our own version of “souling,” giving our heartfelt thoughts (if not prayers and song) for those who lost their lives last Friday.

Although I have never been much of a fan of Halloween, this year as I roam the streets amidst the costumed children I will be reminded of those innocent victims and generous souls who are no longer among us, and I will hug my children in gratitude before they head off to collect their treats.


Reasons You Love The Bush School

SAP_6180_webI had a lovely meeting on Tuesday morning with a senior who stopped by my office to talk about this year’s fall festival. Anna, a Bush lifer, spoke with enthusiasm about reviving the all-school tradition she remembers fondly from her years as a Lower School student. She asked, with some trepidation, my thoughts on continuing the tradition. I told her that I had heard about fall festival and was looking forward to being part of this Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade celebration.

As the only Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade independent school in Seattle, we have the unique opportunity to create memorable, shared experiences across three divisions and 13 grades. Anna shared her recollection as a Third Grade student looking up to high school students during fall festival and feeling excited to take on a leadership position someday. That day is now.

Anna is not alone in wanting to build a stronger Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade identity at Bush. In my conversations with parents, alumnae/i, teachers, and alumnae/i parents over the past months, many have expressed a desire to find ways to connect students with their peers across divisions. Whether it is a Fourth Grade student considering which E-lective offerings she will take, or a Seventh Grade student attending an Upper School play and dreaming about performing in front of his peers in a few years, or a graduating Senior reading to Kindergarten students and starting the cycle of aspirational hopes all over again, these occasions should be cherished and celebrated. It is one of the reasons I love working in a Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade school.

At our opening meeting on Monday, I asked our faculty and staff to reflect on what they loved most about working at The Bush School. Their responses were thoughtful and varied, and demonstrated a deep understanding and appreciation for our school’s culture and values. Some consistent themes emerged from the groups’ presentations. All of the groups shared how much they love working with your children. They also value learning from colleagues across divisions, the sense of community, the expectation for continued growth and ongoing learning, the dynamic and collaborative nature of our school community, and the comfort that comes from working at a school where they are trusted. This last quality is a meaningful symbolic thread to Helen Taylor Bush, who founded the school with the belief that trust is essential to developing students’ self-confidence and for sparking a passion for learning and accomplishment.

Over the course of the year, I am going to spend time exploring more deeply the themes that came out of our opening meetings, and I invite you to share with me the reasons you love The Bush School and what type of community you and your children aspire to help build. I am grateful to Anna for stopping by to chat with me this week. She was able to articulate what makes Bush special—student leadership and voice, trusting children, our “K-12” identity, collaboration, and community. That, and the certainty that no matter how old you are, cotton candy will always make you smile.

I hope to see you all at Convocation on September 3 at 8:30 a.m. in the Inner Courtyard.