Thank you to all who attended last evening’s lower school curriculum night. The remarks below were shared by Betty Chu Pryor, lower school head, to welcome families and kick off the event.
Good evening, and thank you for taking the time to join us tonight. Those who know me well know I am a natural planner. While some people thrive under pressure, procrastination makes me nervous. Yes, I am that person who packs for a trip weeks ahead of time, completes their winter holiday shopping by October, and files their taxes as soon as they receive their W-2 form. Believe it or not, I have been formulating tonight’s remarks since the end of the previous school year.
If you are new, you may not know this—a special event known as Moving Up Assembly occurs at the conclusion of the school year and marks each student’s transition to the next grade. I recall sitting in the audience in June and being in awe of the pride and confidence displayed by each student moving across the gym from one grade to the next. This confidence was as true for our eighth graders, who would graduate the following day, as for our youngest learners in pre-k, who vacated their spots for the next class of four-year-olds. The self-assuredness came across even in those students who had begun the school year clinging to their parents or who took a while to warm up to their classmates and teachers.
As I observed each student with their head held high, advancing to the next grade, I could not help but wonder what we do during a school year that helps each learner arrive at this place. How do we build a community of inspiring, bold, remarkable learners and leaders? How do we explicitly and implicitly fulfill Belmont Day School’s mission to inspire and challenge our students?
First and foremost, it is about our talented faculty who aptly meet each student right where they are at any given moment. I call it the “Goldilocks gift.” Our faculty continually nudges each student to stretch beyond their comfort zone while providing the right amount of support they need if they falter. This support looks different across various dimensions. Our teachers excel at getting to know our learners individually while considering the group’s needs. In the lower school, teachers introduce the “power of yet” at the beginning of the year and reinforce this notion continuously. Our young learners quickly understand that while a goal or a skill may be out of their reach, they can work toward it at their own pace.
As they do, they recognize that their caregivers at home and their teachers at school are on their team, cheering them on and offering them guidance and encouragement. Tonight, I am delighted that you will have a chance to see these teachers in action and learn more about their educational approach and philosophy. Your attendance and participation signal the start of that valuable home-school partnership, which will be critical to your child’s success.
Additionally, the lower school experience presents students with ample opportunities to be inspired and take risks because there are so many firsts they encounter within the seven years spanning our division. Whether it is their debut in their inaugural play, using a saw for the first time in the woodworking studio, eating lunch in Coolidge Hall, receiving a BDS email account, announcing at a Sharing Assembly, or embarking on their first overnight trip, your children will be introduced to so many exciting new adventures this year or in future years during their time in the lower school. While some of these premiere moments can be intimidating, awkward, or cause trepidation, they offer the chance to face one’s fears, apply critical thinking, advocate for oneself, learn from peers, and demonstrate a growth mindset and perseverance.
Several colleagues and I recently enjoyed attending a “Meet the Mentors” event where the eighth grade students met potential Capstone mentors. For those unfamiliar with Capstone, our oldest students spend most of their final year at BDS studying a topic of their choice. It culminates in a 20-minute presentation in front of an audience of peers, faculty, parents, and other guests in the spring of their eighth grade year. During “Meet the Mentors,” each student and faculty member introduced themselves, and then the students briefly explained their topics. Connie Yepez [director of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging] and I ended up seated in the same circle; we were both in awe when one brave student kicked off the introductions independently without any prompting and before the adults could even introduce themselves.
In another group, a student unexpectedly asked us, “What has been your most memorable learning moment as a Capstone mentor?” Yet another student asked us, “What topic would you have chosen to be your Capstone topic in eighth grade?” Connie and I marveled at those spontaneous moments exemplifying student leadership. While I would love to give full credit to our colleagues in the middle school, I know without a doubt that this confidence, courage, and intellectual curiosity was fostered and instilled in the primary grades by the faculty seated behind me on the stage.
This year, my daughter is beginning her journey into middle school, and it has been a huge adjustment for her and, admittedly, for me as well. While I know she will settle in eventually, I also know there is truth when she expresses how much she misses the time spent in her formative elementary school years. I don’t blame her. These are the years when our children can relish in the comfort and safety of predictable routines, develop their identity and form close-knit relationships within the intimate nature of smaller class sizes, discover who they are as a learner, and experience how to get back up after they fall. Thus, I urge you to cherish and hold onto these years for as long as you can because I can tell you from experience that they go by quickly.
If I may give you further advice, please enjoy the glimpse into your child’s classroom tonight and learn about the curricular themes the teachers will explain. Feel free to ask questions and delight in conversations with parents who share a common experience. If there is an interactive activity, embrace it even if it entails challenging yourself to step out of your comfort zone. Finally, while it may be difficult, I invite you to try to put yourself in your child’s smaller shoes and appreciate what you experience in their spaces through their lens—with the wonder, joy, and delight that our students often do. Thank you for sharing your children with us every day and for being present with us tonight.