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.

90 Years of Progressive Education

BETA.Bush School_90thAnnLogo_4.0Each day that I spend around The Bush School, I gain a better sense of our school’s distinctive culture and character.  Through conversations with colleagues, parents, alumni, and board members a common theme continues to emerge.  The Bush School is a place of inquiry, imagination, innovation, and infinite possibilities.  In addition to my meetings, I have spent time reading about and studying the school’s rich history and traditions.   I am struck by how groundbreaking Helen Bush’s educational philosophy was in 1924. Mrs. Bush’s belief in the John Dewey principle of ‘learning by doing’ was indeed progressive at a time when pedagogy favored rote learning and a standardize approach to teaching.

In 2014, this precept is ubiquitous in educational settings as many schools espouse experiential education as a core tenet of their mission. We know that students learn and develop best in authentic learning environments, whether through outdoor pursuits, civic participation, artistic creation and expression, athletic challenge, or inquiry-based activities. These practices have been fostered and promoted at The Bush School for nine decades. As a result, our students have come to develop a love for learning that is meaningful and enduring.

In The Bush School: The First 75 Years, a historical account of the school’s founding and a tribute to the individuals who helped to build our school and ensure its success, Sis Pease ’41 captures the essence of my conversations and observations over the past few weeks. She writes, “a prevailing spirit of optimism, hope, and bold plans for tomorrow guides the expectation that The Bush School will be very much part of a new progressive period.”

I share Sis’ enthusiasm about our future, and I am eager to be a part of re-envisioning our progressive learning community.