Grateful in Retrospect

Brendan Largay, Head of School
Post Date: November 30th, 2018

With the early Thanksgiving holiday this year (November 22 is the earliest date on which it can fall), my Scoop writing calendar has been thrown a bit. Typically, I would share what follows as a send-off to the holiday rather than a retrospective, but here we are.  

In keeping with my sentiments at the Thanksgiving assembly, I am hopeful that my message will spread the feelings of gratitude and appreciation for all that we have, and inspire you to share with others as the holiday season arrives. Here, in no particular order, are some of the many things for which I am and have been grateful for in 2018.

An inspiring faculty. Whether they are new to Belmont Day or thirty-plus year veterans, the faculty remain our lifeblood. They are tireless in their dedication to the students and their craft, and they are the true markers of excellence for our school.

RAISE[D] VOICES. The successfully completed capital campaign offers a reminder of the power of excellent volunteer leadership guided by a creative development team and a community pulling in the same direction for our students.

Classes in the Cottage. For those who may not know, my career in education began twenty years ago as a teaching intern. Programs like the Associate Teacher Program make a profound difference not only for our school but for the local and national educational landscape.

A new wrestling mat. The new mat is a testament to the innovation and willingness of our athletics and PE departments to meet the students where they are as athletes and encourage them to continue to stretch themselves as student-athletes. It also provides a new winter sports option for middle school students.

Catherine David. Recently described to me as the “Mary Poppins of Head’s Assistants,” there is a true magic to the work that Catherine does. I shudder to think what life at school would look like without her.

The Labyrinth. The journey from third to fifth grade is not for the faint of heart, but as the teachers in the Labyrinth will happily tell you, it is worth every transformative step. Enter the Labyrinth as a wide-eyed third grade student, exit ready for middle school. No minotaurs, we promise.

The view from the second floor of the Barn. Whether one is looking back towards Big Blue, out towards the Far and Archery fields or directly into the beautiful woods of Lone Tree Hill, the views from the Barn are spectacular. Come to think of it, even the view of the new basketball courts is something beautiful to behold. Of course, it will be the instruction in the art, innovation, and woodworking studios, in science classes, in the mezzanine, and in the conference rooms where the real magic will happen.

After school dismissal. There is a warmth on display that signals the depth of the thoughtfully fostered relationships among our after school teachers and leaders and students. Whenever I can, I get a quick fix of the caring and joy that emanates from the gallery at 5:40 p.m. every day.

The 2018 Boston Red Sox. Excellence is, after all, a Belmont Day core value.

My Capstone mentee. I never expected to learn so much about gender discrimination in the music industry. There is no overestimating the transformative power of the Capstone Program for students and mentors alike.

The Book Fair. Of course, there’s the love of literature to it, but just as critically, there is an extraordinary commitment of parent support behind the scenes. Without our parent volunteers and the clear-eyed leadership of the PA, events like the Book Fair and so many others simply wouldn’t have the impact that they do.

Embracing discomfort. From time to time, a meeting will take place in the Erskine Library, or I will find myself visiting students doing work, and invariably, I sit in a chair designed for our youngest library visitors. I’ll take the brief discomfort as an essential reminder our teachers always have the students and their experience right where it should be: first and foremost.

The Health and Wellness Roadshow. After being featured by AISNE in the most recent edition of Boston Magazine, our health and wellness team has continued its leadership role in local and national programming. The group of five have been named as presenters at the National Association of Independent School’s Annual Conference to be held in California in March. For all the press, what is most impressive is the work being done in each grade by a phenomenal set of instructors.

Our conference call phone number. A strange thing for which to be thankful, perhaps, but it is a statement of commitment from trustees who are consistently and thoughtfully engaged in their stewardship of the school. Whether they are in the building or on the line, they have Belmont Day’s best interests at heart.

The sixth grade cubbies. Sixth grade is now the school’s second largest entry point along with pre-kindergarten—the new cubby space was intentionally designed to promote community within the class and make a clear statement of place. It serves, both literally and figuratively, as the entryway into Belmont Day's robust middle school program.

Blue Handprint Studios. We continue to seek creative ways to bring school messages to you. The weekly audio version of the Message from the Head, coupled with “Face to Face,” an original instrumental composition that accompanies it is one of the most fun ways we’ve discovered.   

Putting our best foot forward. Our modestly-sized admissions team has an exponential impact on our school. With extraordinary skill they welcome prospective families and introduce them to our community of bold, inspiring, and remarkable learners and leaders.

Taking the next steps. Our high school placement team nurtures and prepares eighth graders to take the next step in their education with confidence and anticipation.

A bright yellow Shawmut Construction jacket and a scratch-free hard hat. The building of the Barn has been a testament to our commitment to safety as we have worked to ensure that students and workers were safe during construction. A huge thank you and congratulations to Glen Ryan, Joe Lombardi, and the entire Shawmut team for their work this past year.

Buildings and grounds team. I wonder… does this need any explanation for all of the changes taking place on campus? I can’t imagine where we’d be without them.

Early indicators of self-advocacy. Sharing assemblies and grade level performances are a fundamental part of the community magic at BDS. The work of the teachers in the performing arts and the support of the classroom teachers in those efforts build critical skills that are applicable well beyond the PAC stage. But often, that’s where it all begins.

Summer Days. If you haven’t been on campus in the summertime when camp is in full swing, you have missed a true manifestation of joy and excellence. Our summer program leaders and staff are something to behold.

“Brava!” It is a simple expression, but there is so much behind it, keeping us all encouraged every day.

Butternut squash soup. The kitchen staff is incredible on any day, but on days when homemade soups are on the menu, close your eyes, and Coolidge Hall sure feels like home.

Guiding Lights. The programmatic leadership team has their eyes precisely focused on student learning, faculty growth, professional development, and best practices in education for our students.

The Winter Concert. This year, the celebration of our phenomenal music and ensemble programs will take place in the Barn, an exciting moment in its own right. The magic of the concert emerges from the intersection of the beauty of the season, joyful connections, and the extraordinary talent of faculty and performers.

The birch tree signage for the courtyard. Among the things I love about what happens in the spaces along the hallway from pre-k to the walkway and first grade is the way that teachers and students creatively and intentionally bring play into the experience of learning. A simple walk through that hall in the morning brings joy to the forefront. That the signage for the courtyard comes from the trees in the courtyard itself only adds to the magic.

Bonjour. Buenos Días. Salve. Whether presenting at local or national conferences like the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) or the Massachusetts Foreign Language Association (MaFLA), our teachers and their commitment to world languages and global study enriches our students’ lives from pre-k to eighth grade. Exciting to add Latin to our language offerings this year as well!

A new Glowforge laser cutter. Behind the equipment, it is the folks on our tech and innovation team who are ensuring that students have the best learning opportunities. Whether through the tools used, the partnership developed with Tufts CEEO, or their willingness to problem-solve and seek solutions for students and faculty alike they have delivered with laser precision.

A clean audit and healthy budget. The commitment of our business office team to ensure the health of the school's finances is not particularly visible, nor would they tell you that it is particularly glamorous. What it is, however,  is essential and we are so grateful to them all.

The quote of the week in the Kiva. Every day, our seventh and eighth graders are greeted by a note of inspiration, guidance, insight, or provocation. It is projected for students and teachers alike to read, consider, and carry with them through the day. BDS is a sincerely reflective place, and one trip to the Kiva in the morning is another reminder of that.

BDS Stories. So far, I have recorded over twenty alumni interviews. If you are an alum, and you are reading this, my door is open, and I would happily add you to the list. It has been a joy getting to know the unique and compelling stories of our alumni.

Our various social media handles and the folks who fill them with content. You will find us on Twitter @belmontday1927and @BelmontDayHOS, Instagram @belmontdayschool, LinkedIn, and Facebook @belmontdayschool.

The students. First, foremost, and always. I am grateful for them every day.

Happy December, everyone.


Click the B to listen to this message at Blue Handprint Studios!

 

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