Betty Chu Pryor, Interim Lower School Head

BettyChu Pryor, Lower School Head

Starting the New School Year With Excellence in Focus (Part 2)

Thank you to all who attended the Middle and Lower School Curriculum Nights during these past two weeks of school. Each night was kicked off with remarks from the respective school heads looking at the year ahead. We share those remarks in two parts. This is part two:

Lower School Curriculum Night, Wednesday, September 21
Remarks by Betty Chu Pryor, interim lower school head

“Why do you choose to work in a pre-k to grade 8 school?” This was one of the questions that Brendan [Largay, head of school] posed to us at an administrators’ retreat this summer. When I revealed that elementary school encompassed some of my favorite years in school, Brendan was surprised. “Really? I never knew that” he responded. Full disclosure, I was a true nerd. I actually loved school at EVERY stage from preschool to graduate school, but there is something undeniably magical to me about the formative years of education.

In fact, I have always known I wanted to be a grade school teacher since I was a student in kindergarten. Although part of it was because I was a five-year-old child excited about the prospect of writing on a chalkboard every day in my profession, I later realized it was also because I was in awe of the teachers who introduced me to letters and numbers at a young age. I marveled at those patient and supportive teachers who helped me to discover a love of learning, who gave me a gentle nudge when I was not confident enough to share an answer in class, and those who helped me navigate the awkwardness of making friends.

On the first day of school this year, I made my way around the school to check on the students and faculty after drop-off. A second grade student waved at me enthusiastically in the hallway. Then I saw him quickly scan the new title on my name tag and he cheerfully exclaimed, “Congratulations, Mrs. Pryor! I heard you got a promotion. Now, you have the second most important job at BDS!” For those of you who are new, you may not know that I have occupied several roles here, but the one that I have held onto the longest and the most recent was that of a kindergarten teacher. While I was flattered by this student’s appraisal of my worth and thanked him for his compliment, I replied, “Well, you do know that there are many important jobs at BDS and mine is only one of them. Everybody here makes a difference and plays a part in our wonderful community, even you.” In fact, I have never worked at a school where the phrase, “It takes a village” is used and exemplified as often as it is here.

As a teacher, I have sat in the seats behind me for the last 14 years, nervously awaiting the moment the head of school dismissed us to our classrooms to begin curriculum night with parents. Tonight, I feel so privileged to be at the helm of this division and to have a different vantage point—to have the unique opportunity to visit each classroom from pre-k to grade 5 to see and hear what intriguing topics, units, and activities my colleagues have in store for you and your children this year.

There are so many talented adults that make up our lower school. While they are all skilled at their craft and each embodies the notion of a continual learner, I hope you will also get to know the multi-faceted person at the heart of each of these classroom teachers, specialist teachers, learning specialists, world language teachers, associate teachers, and support staff. They are truly as unique as your children are. Besides what they do within the walls of their classrooms or spaces, they are also artisans, musicians, dancers, athletes, tutors, parents of children, parents of fur babies, travelers, avid readers, authors, scientists, chefs, photographers, poets, and much more. This is a community like no other in more ways than one and we are honored to have you join us, whether you are new to our school or a familiar face. Truth be told, I think that those occupying the seats behind me and all of YOU have some of the most important jobs at BDS!

This night is not only special because of who you get to spend it with, but this is our first in-person curriculum night in a long time. Over the last few years, you had to rely largely on experiencing the excellence that this faculty brings from a distance–through the Brady Bunch-like boxes on Zoom or by peering into windows and doors for glimpses. Tonight, I am so delighted that you get to see this excellence up close and personal.

Excellence is one of BDS’ six core values and arguably one of the most difficult to define and articulate. In middle school, the Capstone process is often touted as the pinnacle of excellence, but some of you may be wondering how excellence shows up in the lower school. In pre-k, excellence might look like teachers digging up potatoes with their students in our school garden one day and then exploring them further by inviting students to devise ways to sort the harvested potatoes, to make predictions about what the inside of the potatoes might look like, and to work together with our chefs to cook the potatoes for sampling. Excellence is the fourth grade team partnering with our librarian and the author of their summer reading book to create an interactive visit yesterday in which students applied techniques from the author’s process in their own writing. The lower school also offers examples of excellence in the implicit, or hidden, curriculum. Excellence could mean a teacher offering flexible seating to accommodate various needs or teachers fostering a growth mindset by reinforcing the power of “yet.” Excellence in community is walking into any classroom at BDS and not being able to discern which students are new and which students have been here before.

You will see so many more examples of excellence in action tonight at every grade level and in every space. Take full advantage of being in person again. Please ask questions, admire your child’s work on display, peek into your child’s cubby or desk, meet new people, and re-engage with old acquaintances. Welcome back and I hope you enjoy your evening!

BettyChu Pryor, Lower School Head

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