2018

Head of school's blog archive

  • November

    Endurance

  • October

    Answering the call

  • Knowing

  • September

    Jumping in

  • Orange ties

  • June

    Message for Poly's Class of 2018

  • Independence

  • May

    Family photos

  • Generations

    Almost every week, my son and sometimes my daughter have dinner with their grandmother. While the kids cook, she chops — Blue Apron meal kits are big on chopping — opens a bottle of wine, and listens to their stories about the world of construction management, high school teaching and coaching, and the lives of millennials. Like many her age, my mother-in-law has given up all pretense of editing her thoughts. Instead, she shares her wisdom with unapologetic honesty and a lifetime of experience. They listen. So does she.

    During a fabulous alumni family picnic hosted here last weekend, which was catered by three Poly graduates, I had an enlightening conversation with the grandson of a member of the Class of 1969. While the young lad devoured a cheeseburger as only a 5-year-old can, he told me about his new school, the cheeseburger, the ice cream he was going to have, and his sister. There wasn't a lot of eye contact because he was busy surveying the scene, his gaze darting about. His grandfather chimed in periodically, nudging his grandson with a gentle reminder about the question I had asked or to tell me about something that I might find interesting. They were a great team.

    I am struck by the unspoken connection that exists between these generations. Kindred spirits, they are both capable of a devastating eye roll when talk of the child/parent in between them unfolds. Because neither one is fighting for the independence that will define them. they can let down their guards, and their conversations meander into hidden nooks with uncorrupted patience, unseen by most.

    On Saturday, I talked with alumni from classes as far back as 1948 and their families, including a soon-to-be member of the Class of 2031. Representing their generations admirably, they loved that they had been or would be part of this community. They shared generously and candidly about their experiences here and their hopes for the future. They are proud members of the Poly community.

    Leaving the final performance of the Upper School spring musical on Sunday, I bumped into a second-grader who was spellbound at what she had just seen. It turned out that it was not so much what she had just seen — the singing, dancing, costumes, and set — but whom she had seen: her favorite babysitter on stage performing with a passion that signaled to future generations the unfettered joy of being part of an ensemble and to the past a great reverence for those who graced the stage before her. The circle continues.

    JWB
  • April

    Spring fever

  • Engagement

    This past week I spent several evenings with our graduates in Princeton, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. A few are in college, but the rest spanned Poly’s graduating classes all the way back to the early '50s. Typically Poly, their stories ranged from government work to start-ups, research to finance, and academia to medicine. Our alums are an eclectic fascinating bunch! Consistent throughout was their love for a school that nurtured them when they were 4 and embraced them as adolescents. Each remembered being engaged by something that gave them confidence or a fresh perspective. Athletics, ethics, the musical, The Paw Print, and debate were just a few some of the areas where they talked about being nourished, supported, and challenged — and not always in ways that were comfortable. The adults at Poly didn’t allow them to be passive observers or to float through class without asking meaningful questions. They were seen.

    In the weeks ahead, there are a number of rites of passage, new and old, which are designed to highlight our students’ engagement. The Poly Pet and Hobby Show is probably the best example of the school’s 101-year commitment to giving students the opportunity to demonstrate their passion. While you won’t see many stamp collections anymore, you will see projects and displays that represent what our students are thinking about and spending time on. Eighth-grade projects are another great example of how, with just the right blend of direction and freedom, our students delight us with their creativity, gumption, and varied interests. I will never forget the pneumatic-tube soda delivery system that brought a cold beverage from a refrigerator to a lounge chair — a binge watcher’s dream! And this year, we are dusting off senior projects and piloting them with a few adventurous souls.

    The cautionary tale here is that we must avoid constantly entertaining in order to capture their attention or respect. “I’m bored” seems to carry particularly heavy weight in an era of ubiquitous YouTube videos and SnapChat images at our fingertips. Fighting distraction is challenging even for those of us who remember phones with cords — hopefully long enough to duck around the corner away from parents’ prying ears — and televisions that required physical exertion to change the channel. Nevertheless, focus and engagement are essential in order for our students to fulfill the dreams that drive them. At times, we will capture their imagination with rites of passage like the ones that Poly celebrates. Still others are less memorable — moments that tug at adolescent or preadolescent synapses, thus making connections that spark curiosity and insight. Then and only then are they engaged for themselves. Their futures, like those of our graduates, will be defined by the connections they make, figurative and real, and they will thrive.

    JWB
     
  • March

    Dogged determination

  • A chance

  • February

    Bifocals

  • The art of conversation

  • January

    Nerves

  • Early mornings

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