Dear High School Families,
Last week I spoke about one of the favorite traditions in the high school – Spirit Week. I will be sharing links to the videos from the Lip Sync Competition soon! Traditions, rituals, practice, and program - there are so many things that make a school community. It’s important to ask ourselves critical questions about what we do and why we do it. As part of the New York Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) accreditation process, which is happening in a few weeks, we do just that. It’s also a vital part of our progressive mission. As our students and the larger world change, so must our institution. Elisabeth Irwin said, “The school will not always be the way it is now.” There have certainly been a lot of changes in the high school in the last few years. New spaces, a larger student population, a new schedule, new programs and trips – we are constantly looking to serve our students as best we can.
Over the past few weeks I have been having
lunch with the ninth grade advisory groups. I will have met with all of them by next week. At this point in the year, a little past half way, I was looking for a way to reflect, connect, and deepen my relationship with our newest students. These meetings have been so fruitful and meaningful for me, that I plan on expanding this to all the grades and I hope to make this a new tradition.
In our conversations, I asked the ninth graders to share a meaningful or memorable academic experience. The range of their responses reflects the dynamics of their grade, and like each grade, is unique to that group of students. They spoke about labs and white-boarding in Chemistry class (9th grade Chemistry is a new course and the first stage of our redesigned high school science program - an example of the faculty taking on the challenge of thinking critically about their program), growth in studio art and drama, projects and papers in English, their class discussions and the trimester one final assessment in History, minimester, x-block, affinity groups, being immersed in a language class, the challenge of not just being able to solve a problem in math but being able to explain why, and most often about the relationships they have developed with their teachers across all the subjects.
I also asked them what they thought we could do better as a school. They spoke about how we could support their learning and what might challenge them more. It yielded a number of excellent questions and ideas that I plan to pursue with the faculty. In each lunch meeting I shared in moments of kindness and empathy, respectful disagreement and questioning, and joy and unity. While the ninth grade has just begun their journey in high school, it’s clear that we have a lot we can learn from them. They were reflective, thoughtful, and introspective about their learning and their experience and I am thankful that I spent that time with them.
As I write this, the cast and crew is finishing up the opening performance of the high school musical – URINETOWN! Our mainstage productions continue in a tradition of excellence, and I invite you to see this show!! The remaining show times are tomorrow (Friday 2/24) at 7:00pm, and Saturday 2/25 at 2:00pm and 7:00pm. See you there!