I've heard a few stories at school recently that I think are worth sharing here.
The first one is from skiing yesterday. As you know at this time of year, the whole school skis together each Monday. Teachers, volunteers, and kids alike are all at different levels of skill and confidence. We have the experts, the daredevils, the cautious but talented, the totally terrified, the messy speed-demons, and so on. Interestingly, several Center School teachers on skis didn't learn how until they began working at the Center School. One of those teachers has now been here for a number of years and has built up her confidence and ski abilities. Yesterday, her colleagues were encouraging her to try a more challenging run, and she was reluctant. Sitting at the same table was a student who is an excellent Uppers skier, but was in a withdrawn mood for some teenage reason, and so didn't even have skis on, but was instead reading a book and keeping the check-in teacher "company." When this Upper heard that the reluctant teacher might go if an experienced student would take her, they leapt to their feet and said, "I'll go get my skis and I'll take you." A little while later off the two went and when the teacher came back she was radiant with pride, and the student was too.
The next story is about Uppers Information night where a handful of alumni recently came back to talk with parents of soon-to-be middle schoolers about the Center School's 6,7, 8th grade program and what it did for them. One of the students, who is currently at Northampton High and then will be off to Brandeis University in the fall, was addressing a parent's question about what math is like in Uppers and if it prepares you for high school. The alum replied, "Well, math was my favorite subject at the Center School. I felt challenged and could for the most part go at my own pace, also do interesting projects, and be in general nerdy about all things math. I felt supported by my teachers. And now I am in AP Advanced Physics and Advanced Calculus and doing pretty darn well." She went then on to update us on her brother, also an alum, who is studying Astrophysics at UC San Diego and crushing it. It was such a wonderful moment for a school that works hard to math math and art and literature and science, so on all matter and all inspire. That balance is so essential and so difficult to truly attain.
Finally, at AP night the last week, 8th grader after 8th grader got up in front of a roomful of their peers and elders and spoke about their projects and why they did them and what they got out of it. So many of them were able to take away that being ambitious is hard, that work is not always fun, and that you can persevere through it and feel proud. Also, so many kids could talk about what caused them anxiety, or insecurity, or inertia and explore that from a place of extremely mature self reflection. It was awe inspiring. But also, it was amazing to see them realize that a set of steps and/or trial and error can get you to a place of improvement, joy, and pride.
A few kids in the 8th grade focused on cooking for their AP's and their projects reminded me of a piece Gabrielle Hamilton, James Beard Award winning chef, wrote in the Times recently that really knocked my socks off. I would love to talk to you about it in the parking lot sometime. I think it offers us many lessons that connect beautifully to our school's mission. Real People Eat Quiche
I hope these stories offer a taste of what this place fills me with each and every day. I am replete with the good nourishment that is the Center School.
Head of School