blog header 9 7 2018
Brendan Largay, Head of School

Back to School

Happy Friday, everyone! Blue Handprint Studios is enjoying a successful opening week as many folks decided to listen to our audio offering. You can find this week’s audio here.

Back to School Nights are critical points of contact between home and school—the chance to open the school to parents for an intimate look at our program, our curriculum, and our teaching. This year’s events will have an especially important connotation for me as I have the opportunity to share the work I will be doing as I step back into the classroom as a teacher after a brief hiatus to settle in as head of school.

Middle School Back to School night will feature a look at the texts my colleagues and I will be teaching, our new mods design for seventh grade social studies and English, and my students’ work will be on display. My curriculum will begin with a novel I have taught before, Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, that feels like an old friend with whom I have lost touch. Familiar memories, old jokes, shared sadnesses and all the rest. Teaching it again is a return to comfort. However, at Belmont Day, my comfort with the text only tells part of the story. My students, and their comfort with the text—their understanding, their curiosities, their wonder, their challenges — that’s where the magic of the work lives, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

I am excited for all the reasons you might expect: teaching students is how I got into this business in the first place. The idea that I have the privilege of introducing them to authors like Salman Rushdie or William Shakespeare is a heady one — an honor, really, and one that is sincerely thrilling to me. My true excitement, however, has less to do with the texts I teach than it does with the students to whom I am teaching them.

Adam Grant, an organizational psychology professor at Wharton, the University of Pennsylvania’s business school, is one of the leading minds in education today. He spoke last year at the NAIS Annual Conference and his book, Originals governed my reading list this summer. Among his seemingly countless insights into great teaching, Grant offers a distinction between good and great teachers—those that teach content are good and those that teach students are great. What a vulnerable sentiment for excellent teachers. Another attribute of great teachers is their ability to reinvent themselves annually. Great teachers figure out what each learner in their newest collection of students needs to excel and then deliver on that. A daunting proposition that inspires me and is precisely why I love teaching so much.  And it is what inspires me when I watch the work of the whole faculty at Belmont Day.

The teachers at Belmont Day pride themselves on their ability to understand their students. It is why, year after year, parents turn to the individualized experience for their children as one of the top reasons they appreciate Belmont Day for their children. It is also why, year after year, the conversation around the curriculum begins with the students first, always. Because great teaching demands something intimate of us as educators, and the standard for great teaching at Belmont Day is a high one.

On the heels of last night’s wonderful Lower School Back to School Night, I cannot wait to welcome you this coming Thursday night for the Middle School version. I will be there wearing each of my three distinct hats: as head of school, as a proud middle school parent, and, at long last, as a seventh grade English teacher.

See you then, and have a great weekend.

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