Thankful

Evidence that I have been here for a significant amount of time…I can now start writing things that lead with “second annual.” It feels good. To that end, allow me to present my second annual offering of thanks. At this time of year, things seem to both ramp up—a trimester ends, reports are written, new arts classes are offered, tryouts for winter sports teams are held—and slow down, as the season calls for more reflection as we give thanks with friends and family and pay our good fortune forward through service and charitable giving. Here at BDS, I offer my thanks to a community that inspires me every day.  

That for which I am thankful…

  • A window next to Big Blue. It happens like clockwork—during every meeting in my office, the conversation is punctuated by the joyous laughter, song, or shout of a child outside the window. The sounds are a visceral reminder of why I am here and, more importantly, why I love this job.
  • The ‘new family’ diet. I have finally figured out why my workouts aren’t as effective as they once were. I have the distinct pleasure of meeting with every new family each year and delight in getting to know them and discussing the ways that we can partner together for their child. At each meeting, delicious pastries are provided by our phenomenal kitchen staff. It takes a considerable amount of discipline to resist the leftover croissant. I am, after all, only human.
  • The self-titled “Fred and CP Traveling Show.” Fred Colson and CP Paramithiotti, our directors of finance and operations respectively, have done an extraordinary job of quickly integrating themselves into our community, taking the lead on the building project, and ensuring the steady and thoughtful stewardship of the school’s finances and physical plant.
  • The courtyard—an outdoor learning space designed to inspire the wonder and joy of discovery in our students—and the pre-k and kindergarten teachers who see the opportunities the space provides. More broadly, this spectacular campus and the two folks who maintain it, Anderson Santos and Lino Medeiros. 
  • The lifeblood of the school—the faculty who give fully of themselves to our students. They understand the children in ways that surprise us as parents: “How could they know that about my child already? And so well?” “They have helped to unlock an otherwise undiscovered passion in my child.” “They are connecting the school’s values to my child’s education in ways I could only dream of.” These are actual quotes, and there are countless others that speak to the ways that our faculty delivers excellence to students every day.
  • The beautiful textile work hanging in the Erskine Library that speaks to the talent of our students and arts faculty, the interdisciplinary connectivity of our curriculum, and the commitment we have made to multiculturalism in the classroom.
  • Barbara Carey, the face of the school.
  • The explosion of the early birds program. Whether they are gathering to shoot a few hoops in the gym, taking on the latest design challenge in the Erskine Library, or finding a friend for a game of chess or Magic: The Gathering, the early morning arrival of students has become something of a cultural phenomenon. It is the answer to the prospective parent’s question “Do kids like coming to BDS every day?” Yes, at 7:30 a.m. on the dot, it turns out.
  • The sweet sounds of a Tuesday morning walk through the building. The ensembles program keeps the school humming, quite literally. It is a testament to the proud tradition of music education that has long defined BDS.
  • A culture of innovators led by director of technology Dolly Ryan, the division heads, and the entire teaching team. Whether they are the engineers of first grade, the novel engineers of fourth, or the growth mindset students in seventh, the culture of innovation is everywhere at BDS and is built upon the notion that innovation is not reliant on space but on the spirit of an institution.
  • Neelangi Gunasekera. The true brains of the operation.
  • My Capstone mentee. I have always prided myself on my understanding of Shakespeare. It turns out, I still have a great deal to learn. Her research question “How are the women of Shakespeare’s plays influenced by his life and Elizabethan ideals?” is one that I could never have asked in eighth grade. I have come to find it fascinating and enlightening as an adult. Thank goodness my mentee is there to teach me about it.
  • The power of the parent volunteer, whether as a member of the board of trustees, active in parents’ association activities, or simply engaged in the day-to-day interactions of their child’s classroom. BDS was founded on the critical relationship between parents and their school and that spirit lives on today.
  • Braiding Different Strands. In the midst of yet another iterative design, the Strands program moves us closer to bringing the vision for a more culturally competent BDS community to life. This year, the strands we are braiding include parent and faculty SEED, race-based affinity groups, and curricular review. The open door for discussion that Braiding Different Strands has always stood for opens even wider.
  • Faculty leadership. From the Q5 planning task force work to establish program objectives for new space, curricular reviews, and working and task force groups, the humming beehive of activity is led by capable and thoughtful faculty who keep one thought front and center: What is best for students, and how can we make that happen?
  • Hema Ramachandran and Audra McFarland. Our marketing consultants referred to the admissions team as “punching above their weight.” And how. They are innovators, leaders, and relentless executors of a vision to fill our school with bold, inspiring, and remarkable students year after year after year.
  • The cautious smile of an associate teacher who just taught a killer lesson. Captured in that smile is the joy, mastery, and enthusiasm of a career in teaching. A school filled with lifelong learners is an extraordinarily powerful one. Our associates inform the school’s culture and serve as reminders of where every teacher’s journey began. We are so lucky to have them here under the careful and thoughtful guidance of Heather Woodcock.
  • The multifaceted brilliance of Deborah Brissenden. We have started to call it the “whack-a-mole” design of assistant headship. There is nothing, and I truly mean nothing, that Deborah has not already seen, done, addressed, solved or considered at Belmont Day. She takes on the minutiae and the monumental on any given day. What makes her such a remarkable and strategic colleague and leader is her ability to keep her eyes steadily fixed on the horizon for our school.
  • The potatoes (and everything else) in the garden. Whether it is pre-k buccaneers discovering buried treasure there, the pumpkins that became pumpkin bread served at lunch this week, or the community workday on Saturday to prepare for winter, the BDS garden provides students with a critical connection to nature and the earth.  
  • The controversial penalty shot at the end of the faculty-eighth grade soccer game. The score was 3-2 with the faculty leading and less than two minutes left. Some might suggest that the student ‘oversold’ the foul. Certainly, the faculty member involved thought she was innocent. No matter. The shot was awarded and the student buried it in the back of the net finishing the game with a fitting tie. Behind that score was the commitment of the coaches to ensure a rewarding experience for students, and a love for competition for all parties involved. Joy informs our PE and athletics programs every day.
  • Program design throughout the school—the new design of a sixth to eighth grade middle school program is a labor of love for middle school faculty; the newly articulated role for fifth graders as the eldest lower school students; innovation in every lower school classroom in anticipation of construction—there is phenomenal work happening everywhere with an eye on our future with teacher leaders and division heads Liz Gray and Diane Foster guiding the way.
  • Understanding the proper order for dressing for cold weather. Jacket. Then hat. Then gloves (or mittens). I was the fortunate beneficiary of an illustrated guide from a pre-kindergarten friend yesterday. His explanation made it clear that pre-k has this important process locked in. The guide is on display outside my office for anyone who has questions.
  • Raising the Roof while we Raise Y[our] Voice. The leadership of the school’s most ambitious capital campaign—Margaret Wade, Brad Lewis, and Mary Merrill—have been extraordinary, aspirational, and visionary. We are getting closer and closer to our goal! Thank you all for your support. A sincere thanks, too, to Beth Sousa for her tireless commitment to maintaining our Annual Giving Program with all that we have going on these days!
  • The strength of our financial management. With Sarah Barrow and Dale McGhee working tirelessly behind the scenes, our financial picture is a healthy, responsible, and confident one as we foray into an exciting future for our school.
  • A trip to Bonkers Funhouse. In fairness, I have not made this trip personally. But Blair Fross, Joe Jean-Mary, and Bea Rooney have. These fearless leaders of the after school, enrichment, and summer programs are quietly applying the glue to our community to keep us whole. They know every member of our community, and their work contributes mightily to school culture.
  • Alumni. What lies ahead for a BDS graduate? Well, if the alumni I have had the pleasure to meet are any indication, in a word: greatness. From designing tech-enhanced jewelry to help keep young women safe to mastering the martial arts, to being leaders on high school sports teams and school ambassadors, our alums are crushing it. Due, in no small part to the excellent work of Sarah Merrill as our high school placement director.  We are so incredibly proud.
  • BDS Belmont residents and everyone who attended a town or school meeting, wrote a letter in support of the Barn project or simply paid attention to the exhaustive process to acquire town approval of our building project, I will never truly be able to articulate my appreciation. I simply invite you to join me when the Barn opens to watch the magic unfold for our students.
  • Nurse LaRocque’s stunning ability to know what a child needs before they have even turned the corner to ask, and Leesa Mercedes’ listening ear, compassionate heart and thoughtful counsel.
  • The new homepage on the school website. Koreen McQuilton, Audra McFarland, and a team of parent volunteers have brought our website into the future. It is stunning in every way and offers an authentic look at what BDS is all about.
  • The children for whom we are all thankful. Each and every day.
  • And, as always, to Koreen McQuilton and Andy Rentschler for their enduring patience on a Friday afternoon waiting for me to get my blog to them at a reasonable hour.

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Giving Thanks

On Tuesday, we will gather for our annual Thanksgiving assembly—an opportunity to express gratitude as a community.

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