Leaving a Mark
Space matters. Consider the lengths to which teachers will go regarding their classroom set-up: do we have enough room on the rug to sit in a circle? How can we use the Kiva in a meaningful way to equally inspire learning and provide a comfortable space for our eldest students? How flexible can the furniture in my classroom be so that I can teach lecture style one day and Harkness-style the next? Can the children reach the top shelf of that bookcase? No matter the age of the child, what your space looks like can be as critical as how you ultimately use it.
One thing folks are certain to learn about me as the Head of School at Belmont Day: I know my strengths and, accordingly, understand my weaknesses. As it relates to space, everyone can comfortably place that into the the latter category for me. So, as I arrived to the head’s office this summer and considered the ways in which I could update it, I knew better than to trust my own spatial instinct and called on resident experts for help. Enter Deborah Brissenden. One simple call for help, and soon my office was being transformed before my eyesa new conference table, a couch, some comfortable chairs, each from a color palette that I would never have considered on my own.
With each new box arriving in August, my enthusiasm for this newly imagined space grew. One thing was absent, though, and so I sent a question to Anne Armstrong as she was busy biking across the country with her colleagues: “Annie,” I asked, “I have a blank wall in my office and was wondering, do we have any student artwork in the building that I might be able to put up there? Something to remind anyone in my office that we are here for kids, first and foremost?” I expected an answer like: Sure, go into my classroom and on this shelf you’ll find But, the actual answer I received was this: “Great idea. Love it. But I think I can come up with something even better. How adventurous are you willing to get?” (Context is important here: this question was coming from a woman biking across the country. That’s one heck of a baseline for ‘adventurous.’)
“I’m in,” I wrote back. “What do you have in mind?”
Over the first eight days of your children’s experience at Belmont Day this year, each child has spent time in the head of school’s office executing Mrs. Armstrong’s vision. With a simple blue handprint on the wall, each child, and faculty and staff member has played their part in creating an extraordinary collage. A statement. A way to say, “I am here. I am invested. I am a part of a community that is something bigger than myself and what I contribute here matters.”
We are soon to embark on the next great spatial renovation for our school: the Barn. An opportunity to make an important statement about what we value in education and in our community. Now, each day when I arrive to my office, I am provided an incredibly valuable and beautiful reminder of just how important a message space sends. It can be a statement about respect, engagement, innovation, design, community, and children all at once. And if you don’t believe me, I invite you into my office for a gallery walk any time.