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BANNER, May 2016: The Value of Community Traditions

I haven’t seen the green of spring leaves in decades, so it has been particularly astonishing to see angular tree limbs budded with such effervescence. Crayola’s “spring green” has a renewed meaning for me! Spring—and the siren song of summer—have finally arrived.

A school year has commensurate seasons, too, and it has been an honor over the past 10 months to learn Brookwood’s rhythms. Experiencing each anticipated tradition has given me a window into our school that I could not have had any other way. This spring, I have enjoyed several beloved traditions for the first time:

With the help of several fourth grade students and the behind-the-scenes support of Tim Wright, I made a boat this spring for the Recess Regatta.  Whether belt sanding or learning chiseling techniques from students, I was reminded of the satisfaction of handwork in our increasingly digital and virtual world. The regatta itself was a delight—about 60 boats launching from the banks of Culter Pond at the full mercy of the wind, and young sailors scurrying along the pond’s muddy edges as they tried valiantly to convince their boats to leave the shore. The second grade students’ satisfying cheer of victory made our morning when their boat bumped into the duck house first—nearly 25 minutes later!

The PreK Play had all the elements that create a successful production: courageous actors owning their roles, a hard-working parent crew, and a tireless director with each actor’s best interests firmly at heart. Most exciting was how we in the audience came to know each student a little bit better as we saw personalities mingle with the roles they played.  Whether Duck's dogged perseverance in loading the tricky typewriter with paper, or the humor of one of the pigs as she removed a ballot that was stuck to her backside, the play was a window into the youngest members of our community and helped deepen the connections among us.

The Student Art Show transformed our halls and meeting spaces into an extraordinary gallery of visual expression. Whether 3-D robots built from recycled materials, mixed media self-portraits, paper machaied animal sculptures, or color studies of spring, our students’ self-expression, skill and imagination were celebrated across the campus. My favorite part of the show was watching the buddy groups walk the halls exploring their classmates’ work. They made beelines to their own projects to point out to their buddies, and played with the question prompts that accompanied each exhibit. What better way to deepen connection and learning then engaging with a buddy who helps you see the world a little differently and who shows both the possibilities of the future and the sweetness of the past.

The Middle School Revue—this year, songs from Matilda—gave Broadway a run for its money while giving us glimpses into our fourth and fifth grade students.  As they sang about being “a little bit naughty,” we saw determination, animation and gusto expressed in actions and across faces. And yet connection remained at the performance’s core: singing "Revolting Children" they pulsed toward the audience, enveloping us in their insistence. Most notable, however, was when a fourth grader recognized that his character was frightening a PreK audience member. As he crept toward her chanting his lines, he broke character, gave her a high five, told her his name, and said, “It’s just me!” and then rejoined the wave of song. These are the moments when our students—and our traditions that highlight them—shine most brightly.

Finally, I had the privilege of seeing my first Harold W. Wise Declamation Contest earlier this month. Our Honorable Mentions and Finalists represented the full fifth through eighth grade student body as they proclaimed, posited, challenged, and revealed. The broad range of selections and presentation styles demonstrated how our students stand confidently as the individuals they are becoming while sharing their skill and presence. Conversations continued throughout the day as students and adults shared their favorite poems and performances, quoting lines and recalling impactful moments from the contest.

So what do these spring traditions suggest?  I see evidence, once again, of a school bound by connection and strengthened by the people who comprise its talented and down-to-earth community.  We appreciate each other, help each other, and make this special school a place where it is most definitely cool to be your best self—whether on the banks of Cutler Pond, on the School Meeting House stage, and threading through our hallways. 
- Laura Caron,
Head of School