Let’s Celebrate the Work

December 1, 2020

Message from the headmaster



On Monday I welcomed our students back to school from break for this short but intense period between holidays. This is always a time full of activity, as we try to finish the semester strong and find ways to celebrate each others’ accomplishments.


So far this semester, our messages from Fuller Hall have returned again and again to those basic things we want to make sure we don’t forget about; the elements of character we want to continue to re-center around and reestablish as our foundations—kindness, perseverance, commitment. We have wanted to make sure these elements are understood from many angles, so that no one can fail to know what matters to us. And this year, given the unique confluence of challenges we have faced, we’ve pointed most often to the importance of things like compassion, patience, gratitude, service, and thinking about how to serve or lift up others, even in small ways.


So, we talk a lot about this. But as I thought about what would help us focus and generate some energy for these last three weeks, it struck me that we don’t talk enough about the work itself. What students and faculty actually spend the bulk of their time doing every day, in class and out—the learning, academic progress, mastery of skills, and development of the mind, critical skills, and voice. Day after day our faculty are focused on developing our students’ abilities—often with huge amounts of effort and dedication. They are teaching students to communicate ideas and solve problems, to understand the world from a wide perspective and tell truth from misinformation, to ask good questions; to build things and fix things; to make sense of an electrical connection or to map out a construction project or essay, to time and prepare a meal, or to speak bravely in class.


The work itself, after all, is very good. We are so proud of, and so concerned with, this daily work, that it deserves not just to be done, but to be thought about and recognized.


I asked our advisors—who were listening to chapel with their advisories from all over campus as I spoke from an empty hall—to help their advisees to take a minute and appreciate fully what they are engaged in doing. What are those things that students are engaged in that have them most fired up? What do they love about a class? What work always makes them wish it was the only work they had to do? In short, what are you excited about right now? What are you hoping to accomplish, or already proud of having done?


I asked advisors to share what they heard from students. And they heard a lot.


All day long, advisors wrote to tell me what their advisees had said in response to this question, and it was, as one teacher put it, “extremely interesting,” and led to discoveries among some groups that made them perk up. Seniors were getting energy from getting into college—students such as Emma Powers and Aliyah Hill and Miranda Degreenia were also excited about Presidential and Dean’s scholarships that would help them and their families afford it. A good number of freshmen were excited by the podcast that they were asked to make in Humanities—and most, regardless of teacher, love Biology (“‘special props’ to Mr. Driscoll!”)! Sophomores were a little worried about finishing AP Seminar, and a few juniors were stressing about their major “AOI” (Area of Interest) papers coming due. One student said they were excited about “starting a new topic in Statistics, because the last one was difficult!” Others were glad of the chance to reset a little in these weeks and dig in—and also looking forward to their classes next semester.


Overwhelmingly, too, what got students from all grades and across all demographics excited were the projects they are working on in their hands-on classes. Digital Design projects with Alex Shea; baking wedding cakes and gingerbread houses with Chef B; working with Flo Darling in what most just called “Clay;” CTE classes across the board; designing dresses in Fashion. One student was “excited for my solo in dance [with Marianne Hraibi]…It is amazing to think that I choreographed something from start to finish, and I am eager to perform.”


So many arts, design, building and other creative projects are getting students motivated and loving being here—and these projects are happening both alongside and in the context of their academic work—not just clay, but projects in Computer Science and Spanish and English.


I love hearing about all this excitement! And I am excited to have these insights and to know these conversations are happening—it gives me, and I know it will give other faculty, such energy (and a much-needed boost) for our daily work. The quality and diversity of the work done at this school continue to amaze me, and I am so proud of the faculty and students for all they are accomplishing together this fall.


Dr. Sharon L. Howell



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