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Minna Ham, Lower School Head

A Glimpse Into the Future

As the new year enters its third month, independent schools start building their future. This is the height of the admissions season. Each school has a slightly different admissions process, and I have the privilege of working at a school that values the thoughts and insights of its community members when it comes to welcoming new students. I am grateful to play an integral role in creating the classes that will form the division I lead. Admitting new students at various grades and forming a new pre-kindergarten class is key to building a thriving learning community that sustains our mission. Who will be the future of BDS–the next generation of critical thinkers, innovators, and changemakers? Who are the budding scientists, lawmakers, builders, doctors, writers, artists that will shape the future of the world based on the foundation they formed here at BDS?

This year I had the pleasure of reading through the admissions files of our pre-kindergarten and kindergarten applicants. For the past two years, due to the pandemic, parents have been submitting videos of their children doing scripted tasks. Pre-pandemic, we invited young students to spend a Saturday morning on campus engaging in play-based activities and skills assessments with teachers and the admissions team. We could see how children interacted with one another, separated from their parents, and engaged with a new environment with unfamiliar adults. It is hard to look at a video and determine what a child will be like in a school setting. At home, some children are happy to smile at the camera and show off their skills (usually in their pajamas), while others are a little shy and reluctant to perform a task that may hold little meaning for them.

I watch these videos and try to envision the graduating classes of 2031 and 2032. Those years sound so far away, almost unimaginable at this moment. Who will flourish at BDS? Who will grow to become confident eighth graders, ready to lead by example for the generation after them.

In these videos, the young students awkwardly hold pencils and sing their ABC songs mumbling through ‘l-m-n-o-p.’ They are full of limitless potential, and it reminds me of the great power that teachers and schools have. We create the first learning environments and communities some of these children will step foot in. Growing up during a pandemic, some of these children have never been in a school setting. They have never heard the cacophony of a roomful of laughing four-and-five-year-old peers or walked in lines down a school hallway. They may not have had the chance to sit in a room and be the only one with their skin color or met someone else who looked completely different from themselves.

These children will learn our core values and understand what it means to belong to a place that is not their home and with people that are not their family. They will learn that beyond their family and home, they will spend the majority of their waking hours at school with teachers and classmates that will fill their days with joy, wonder, curiosity, frustration, negotiation, resilience and knowledge. They will learn to take risks and ask for help, and they will make mistakes, learn from them and try again.

Our great responsibility is to create the safe, engaging, caring second home that will set the example. The safe space that will instill the love of learning in these small bodies and big minds. The lessons they first learn in their pre-k and kindergarten classrooms will show them that diversity is beautiful and essential, but it can also be complicated. Practicing inclusion can be harder than it sounds and might require compromise and sacrifice. They will learn these lessons under the great guidance of our early childhood educators. Each year our pre-k and kindergarten teachers welcome those that are new and have the incredible responsibility to shepherd impressionable minds and help them realize that they are capable of wonderful things that they have yet to imagine. We will all be so lucky to witness the journey.

Welcome to the classes of 2031 and 2032!

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