The following post is the text of my opening remarks at Brimmer’s Opening Convocation Ceremony on Monday, September 11, 2017.
Welcome to the 2017-2018 School year. I am delighted to be welcoming back such a wonderful group of students and to have so many new students join our School. With three instructional sections in grades 7, 10, 11, and 12 we are clearly achieving our goal of having a larger Upper School, and we are certainly in need of this amazing new facility. I think we will find that we will fill it up quite nicely!
Before I start my short talk about this year’s School’s theme, Inspiring Thinkers and Doers, I would like you to join me in welcoming our new faculty.
Please also join me in thanking our administrators for their outstanding leadership of the School, to our teachers for their commitment and dedication, and to our staff for the support and service to all of us.
In June the administrative team deliberated about our role as educational leaders. Our discussion focused on what is important for you as learners in the year 2017 and there were several creative ideas and insights. Our collective wisdom, problem solving, and experience directed us to our theme for the year – Inspiring Thinkers and Doers.
This theme pertains to the work of all of us. As teachers we will be thinking about ways and doing activities to inspire each of you; as administrators, we will plan our work with deliberate attention so we can inspire others to produce excellence results, and as students you will be encouraged to inspire each other to be both thinkers and doers so you can be the best you can be. Each speaker this morning will illustrate how we plan to achieve this work for the year ahead.
It is important to be both thinkers and doers so that we choose the right things to do, and then get them done. However, most of us are stronger at one than we are at the other. How do you know if you are a thinker or doer? You most likely have qualities of both. The qualities of a doer include synonyms such as executor, worker, and organizer. Doers are often quick to take action, are people who love to take risks, and their level of failure is often higher than their level of success. Doers don’t procrastinate, and doers are often goal oriented. Do you see yourself in this category? Maybe some of the time? Perhaps most of the time?
The qualities of a thinker include being a reader and problem solver, one who uses his or her intellect. The thinker likes to study, reflect, and ask questions. Thinkers often offer ideas and usually act only after information is clear to them. They tend to look at a bigger picture and put their idea in the context of other ideas. Are you more of a thinker? Do you see parts of yourself in this category?
We have images of thinkers: people scratching their heads or sitting with their hand on their chin. We have images for doers: people holding their fists up in a moment of victory. Or a doer may be using a gesture of thumbs up for achieving success.
So the question for us this year is how do we become better and better, which as you know is our School’s motto. How can we understand what we do both naturally and perhaps a bit less naturally? How do we as learners harness what we do naturally and expand what we do less naturally so we grow into our best selves? The School’s motto holds an enduring message for us all. Pursuing an education is not a destination but rather a commitment to growth, a commitment to seeking both truth and achievement, and to fulfilling a promise to become better and better with each passing day.
A good way to do this is to surround yourself with people who are a little different than you are. If you find yourself to be a bit more of a thinker than a doer, then find the doers and collaborate with them on a project. If you have a bit of a problem getting started, find a doer to help you move forward. This is called cognitive diversity and is a proven method for increasing better performance. This is why teachers pair you in class or create diverse groups. It is important that you become comfortable with classmates who work with different strengths.
The Hastings Center was designed to help this synergy happen between learners. In the new space you will find open areas where you can work together as well as smaller, quiet areas where you can step away to think and concentrate. This was a deliberate design concept. Collecting the best from observation of area innovation labs, our new space provides you with small glassed-in cubicles where you can break away from the collaborative space to think and study in a less busy environment. The larger spaces provide you with room and the right equipment to use with the right people.
As a result of our community’s commitment to create a collaborative environment, you will learn to problem solve together, strategize, and communicate. As you know, ideas and problems exist within all disciplines – humanities based curriculum and STEAM focused curriculum interconnects in the real world where real problems need to be solved. Whether you are working on a STEAM project, an international dilemma, a multimedia presentation to express a complex idea, or delving into a research topic, this new space will provide you the tools, space, and equipment to get the job done.
We have a commitment to come together as a strong and supportive community at Brimmer. This year’s theme of inspiring thinkers and doers applies to our social world as well. Our new building has been designed to offer you spaces where you can take time to understand varying points of view, build trust with one another, and collaborate on ideas during your study time. Some of us are more of a thinker and some are more of a doer, but we must all work to be both when it comes to accepting our social responsibilities.
Social doers are activists; they stand up for what is right. They actively uphold the core values of honesty, respect, responsibility, and kindness. They encourage others to take a stand and do something about how they feel. We all must try hard to demonstrate “upstander” behavior.
We must also all try to be social thinkers. Social thinkers talk about ideas, not people. They study the subject that is being discussed. They offer alternative ways to think about the same idea. They look at trends and study history, and they help others anticipate an outcome. They are often best at thinking before they speak, and, as you well know, we all must try hard to think before we speak.
If you find yourself more of a thinker in this domain, then pair up with a doer and visa versa. Together you will be able to do great things. As you think of your own role and place in society, remember to uphold our Core Values and stand for what is right and good. Join forces as a community of thinkers and doers. We all must think about what we are doing. Action matters, and as Gandhi said, “The future depends on what we do in the present.”