Anticipating the Start of the School Year

I’ve been spending the past few days trying to figure out how to accept that summer is entering its descent toward the start of the school year. It seems as though time is flying by at a rapid pace, and we are doing what we can to savor the moments. I saw some seniors on campus yesterday for the College Essay Writing Workshop and remembered vividly when they were entering as Ninth Grade students. I paused to reflect on how fast time has gone by, but also on how we have all grown in different ways. The summer months are a great time to explore our passions with greater frequency, or try new endeavors that could eventually become hobbies. But ultimately, the summer is a good time for self-improvement. I have spent a great deal of time this summer reflecting on my areas of strength, my areas for growth, and new areas that I want to explore. In addition, I have given a great deal of thought to our upcoming school year and my hopes for each of us.

Last year’s presidential election, coupled with a myriad of other happenings—both positive and negative—created a year filled with intensity, sadness, joy, challenge, and triumph. As an Upper School community, we were stretched emotionally, but did not break. I was moved by the resiliency of our students, faculty, staff and parents. Just as with any family, we embraced the difficult moments, knowing that brighter days were possible. It is the prospect of joy and happiness that binds us together. My hope for us is a daily school experience that brings immense joy and purpose to our lives, without the weight of physical or emotional tension. We spent a great deal of time last year on the emotional climate in the Upper School by providing workshops focusing on mental health, physical wellness, and the dangers of drug and alcohol use. We will continue to keep these areas front and center this year, because being healthy emotionally and physically is paramount to feeling joy and purpose in our daily school experiences.
The faculty and I read two books this summer: UnSelfie by Michele Borba, Ed.D, and Waking Up White by Debbie Irving. Both of these books aim to spark discussion that centers around issues of empathy, intercultural fluency, self-reflection, and recognizing the possibilities that lie within each of us. I feel it is very important for the faculty and staff to work together to create and sustain a learning community that is grounded in empathy, compassion, and validation of student skills and intellectual promise. These two texts, when examined closely, will move us closer to our goal of nurturing a thoughtful and purposeful upper school community.
In the same way, it will be equally important for each student to work collaboratively in the classroom, on the playing field, on the stage, in the music room, and in all other facets of school life. Only by working together will each student maximize their true potential. Working together can take the form of a group project, acknowledging a good deed from a peer, saying thank you at the end of class, or frankly, just being nice to one another. High school students are full of emotion, and understand the difference between being fair/unfair, helpful/hindering, a conduit/barrier, and many other behaviors that can potentially foster/erode community. I hope that each student will embrace the opportunity to be their best selves at all times. It is imperative that everyone feels a sense of ownership of this upper school experience, and works together to make it as positive as possible.
As I mentioned earlier, my self-reflection has resulted in me reading more about the importance of taking time to sit quietly, or to step off the daily treadmill for ten to fifteen minutes or more each day. Already, this practice has enabled me to see the big picture more clearly and to think critically about ways in which each student can find their voice in moments that require their input. In addition, my self-reflection has yielded the conclusion that I need to focus more time on being physically active on a daily basis. I have committed myself to exercising, and eating as healthily as possible. I look forward to paying more attention to my mind, body, and spirit as the year progresses.
I am looking forward to seeing everyone in a few weeks for orientation. This time together marks the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. As we get closer to the start of the new year, please give thought to what you want the year to be for you (students, faculty, and families). We have intellectually curious students, excellent faculty, and committed parents who have the capacity to work together to generate a dynamic school experience.
Take care and enjoy the rest of your summer.

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