Head of School’s Middle/Upper School Honors Convocation Address

Welcome to the final event of the year!

This has been a year of hard work where our students stretched to make themselves the best they can be. I am delighted to be celebrating their many accomplishments today. Congratulation to our students for successfully completing another school year!

This year our students have had many remarkable accomplishments and have provided several inspiring events. I would like to highlight a few of the accomplishments:

  • 8 seniors graduated as recipients of the Creative Arts Diploma, with 13 total members in the program
  • 3 seniors were the recipients of the Global Studies Diploma with a total of 13 members.
  • 3 Seniors graduated as recipients of the STEAM diploma program, with 18 members in total.
  • 8 seniors graduated as members of the Scholar Society. Students who apply to the Scholars Society are chosen based on academic achievement, contributions to Brimmer, and their adherence to the Brimmer and May Code of Ethics.
  • 17 advanced placement courses were offered this year with strong enrollment in each. 114 exams were given with a total of 61 students taking them.
  • 3 students received Bronze medals in the National Spanish exam and 6 received honorable mention.
  • 2 students are members of Congressman Kennedy’s Youth Advisor Council
  • 2 juniors have earned National Merit Award status putting them in the nation’s top 3% of all collegebound students.
  • For its third straight year, The Gator placed first in Suffolk University’s Greater Boston High School Newspaper Competition for Excellence in Online Journalism. Our student writers and journalist leaders have done an outstanding job publishing well-researched, well-written articles and editorials throughout the year.
  • In addition to outstanding performances, incredible concerts, and outstanding video productions, our students also earned numerous awards for their creativity in the visual arts. This included:

8 SISAL Awards— including 2 First Places and Best in Show for the Middle School

12 Scholastic Art Awards— including 2 Gold Keys and 3 Silver Keys

And we had 6 Students published in The Marble Collection.

If you missed Brimmer’s Academy Awards, I encourage you to watch the outstanding presentations offered on our website. They are fantastic student productions.

  • Our athletes also had outstanding seasons. They represented our school with strong team spirit and high levels of good sportsmanship. The highlights include three league championships –Cross Country, Varsity Girls Soccer, and Varsity Baseball. The many awards and distinctions are proudly displayed on our website with the photos and videos that represented them at the Athletic Award Assembly.

Finally, I would like to recognize the students and families who participated in the Student Exchange Program for language immersion at the Northlands School in Argentina. Best wishes to all of you who will be traveling there in the coming weeks.

I would also like to highlight some of the Middle School accomplishments:

  • Mr. R-V and the teachers exclaimed over how impressed they were with the work our 8th graders did on their Ambassadors for Social Change project. This was the culmination of their studies in the humanities using the Facing History Curriculum that focuses on what it means to be an upstander in difficult times.
  • We are also very proud of our seventh graders who worked on a robotics project. Students in seventh grade grouped into teams and worked with Lego Mindstorms learning principles of design, coding, engineering, and programming. After learning the basics of crafting and programming simple functional robots, the teams each selected a problem to solve. Problems ranged from picking up and moving objects to being capable of navigating trails autonomously. They will be able to explore further these concepts next year through the new elective called Innovation Hour, which will be offered in our new space!
  • Our sixth graders completed the annual GreekFest celebration and competition last week. They learned what it means to be part of a democracy, and we are eager for them to explore American history and literature next year, which will culminate with their trip to D.C. in March.

This year has also been a wonderful one for our School:

  • Our annual fund to date has raised over $700,000, and the fund is still growing. This allows us to be nimble in our programming, classroom equipment, and professional development. As a result, our faculty is able to explore a number of professional development opportunities this summer. Thank you for your support!
  • We completed the School’s Strategic Priorities for 2013 and Beyond. Tuesday night we announced the Hastings Family Challenge — a $400,000 dollar-for-dollar match. This resulted in 150 new gifts and pledges that were matched in 30 days, meaning $800,000 for Brimmer! Thank you, Hastings Family!

The Campaign for Brimmer: Realizing the Vision is officially complete! You probably remember that the Campaign goal was $7.5 million for the new 2-story addition that will house a new entry, lobby, dining commons, innovation space, maker space, new classrooms, a college counseling suite, new offices and an endowment for Faculty Innovation. We have surpassed that original goal and have raised $8.1 million for our School. This puts our school at the forefront of innovative programming. Thank you so much for your generosity.

Finally, I would like to highlight our theme for this year “Building the Future.” Our amazing new addition will provide space that will inform how we bring our students into their future. In a recent article titled “Why Can’t Schools be More Like Makerspaces?” the author writes, “Makerspaces support invention, design, artistic creativity, programming, hacking, and tinkering. The maker culture emphasizes informal, networked, peer-led, and shared learning motivated by fun and self-fulfillment. This is an optimal model for school.” In September, you will see first hand how a makerspace facility and culture will inform the future at Brimmer.

Once again, I wish to congratulate all of our students on working toward achieving their personal best and for reaching for excellence throughout the year. Your hard work has been noticed, and we are proud of you.

 

 

Brimmer Community Service

According to the National Service Learning Clearinghouse, “Service learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.” Those principles of learning were evident this past week at the Grade 8 Community Service Fair. The students presented a short explanation of their 8-hour project with a focus on what was gained from the experience and how the experience taught them the importance of giving to a community.

Throughout Brimmer, community service is a central focus for grade levels, division levels, and for individuals. For the past several years the School has received awards from the Parents’ Independent School Network (PIN).  At the last meeting of the year, PIN gave special recognition to our kindergartners for their Cards for Seniors program, to our second graders for their thank-you letters to MSPCA donors, and to our eighth graders for their annual Individual Community Service Project. Having a heart for civic engagement and an awareness of the importance of public responsibility happens over time for children. As our students grow, it is important for them to have good role models, have opportunities to serve in meaningful ways, and work to increase their individual commitment to service. This helps our students become responsible citizens.

Thank you to all of our students for giving back to both Brimmer and the greater community.

Innovative Plans for our New Space

Conversations about how we will be using the new space with students have increased now that we are in the final months of the school year. Most recently, Mr. Neudel and I gave permission for a Robotics Competition team to begin enrolling participants. As I spoke with the students about their plans, I was impressed with their knowledge of the equipment needed and the process we will use to gain a place among other high school teams. They will be looking for parents who are willing to volunteer their time and expertise once this program gets underway.

Other conversations have involved discussions about digital equipment, green screens, open lab time, and new curriculum and electives. Partnerships between grade levels are also emerging as our first graders begin their collaboration with the Upper School astronomy students next week, and the sixth graders collaborated with our fourth graders on the construction of catapults using the creative design process before spring break.

Our School’s mission to “uphold high academic standards while implementing innovative ideas” matters more than ever as we balance core curriculum with innovative approaches to teaching and learning. As lifelong learners themselves, Brimmer’s educators embrace change and see innovation as an opportunity to apply their creativity and expertise to the complex practice of educating young people.

Head of School Judy Guild’s Well Wishes for Spring Break

Mark Twain writes in Innocents Abroad, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views … cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” This past week, and into spring break, we have students and faculty traveling together throughout our world and within our own country. Together they are talking about ideas, cultures, challenges, and beauty. And, of course, they love the food choices! I have been reading their tweets and posts, seeing their pictures and videos, and texting with our chaperones about how well-behaved our students are and how proud our young people make us as they learn about being globally minded. You can follow them by going to our website.

As we move into spring break, I want to thank all of those who helped to make Winterfest a grand success. It was delightful to watch our children have a fun-filled day. Congratulations as well to our cast and crew of Into the Woods. The talent of our student body is astounding. Likewise, the Lower School production of Robin Hood showcased the creative talent of our young actors at Brimmer. It is such a privilege to be part of the creative lives of our children.

When you return from break, you will notice how well our construction is moving along. We are still on schedule to open the new addition in late August. Some of the renovated space will take us a few more weeks, but we are very excited for the fall and the changes that will take place at our School. Warm wishes to all of you for a delightful time with your children over spring break.

Head of School Judy Guild Attends NAIS Conference

I spent this week at the NAIS Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. I met with educators from around the country and world who work in mission-focused schools that uphold their unique values and visions. After listening to a variety of speakers and workshop leaders, I came away with an assortment of fresh ideas and insights. However, I was reminded frequently how Brimmer’s faculty and administration are thought leaders, expert practitioners with a clear focus, and are working on the cutting edge of curriculum development and delivery. I look forward to sharing the readings, ideas, and topics with Brimmer’s educators and families in the coming months.

As I write this, I am eager to return to see the Upper School play, Into the Woods, tonight and to be part of the WinterFest event tomorrow. I hope to see many of you at one of the events.

Judy Guild Shares History and Implementation of Coalition’s 10 Common Principles at Brimmer

Last month, the Coalition of Essential Schools announced the organization will be closing their doors. A reporter from Edutopia called me to ask about the impact the Coalition’s work had on our School. We discussed how the Coalition’s 10 Common Principles are routed in everything we do at Brimmer, and the impact of them on student learning has been profound.

One outcome of implementing these principles is that they produce lifelong learners. Recently, the cover of the January 14 edition of The Economist examined this issue in the context of today’s schools: Life Long Learning: How to Survive in the Age of Automation. The article begins with a summary of how over the past two centuries education has had to keep up with technology in order for our country to prosper. The fear today is that our schools have not been able to keep up with the needs for tomorrow’s worker. Change is taking place so rapidly that an education focused on a set of skills with a vocational aim will produce unprepared, out of work citizens. The solution, according to the author, is that schools shift their focus: “Lifelong learners start at school. As a rule, education should not be narrowly vocational. The curriculum needs to teach children how to study and think. A focus on ‘metacognition’ will make them better at picking up skills later in life.” The Coalition Principles speak to this topic.

A school that adheres to the Coalition Principles teaches students to “use their minds well” (Principle #1), resulting in students being problem solvers and critical thinkers; this, in turn, produces lifelong learners who know how to study and find information. At the center of this education lies the teacher who is committed to coaching a student (Principle #5) to stretch and learn beyond any given assignment. Importantly, a School must do this with a commitment “to democracy, equity, and diversity” (Principle #10), so all members of the community are prepared to be productive citizens.

At Brimmer the Coalition Principles, which have guided the school since the late 1980s, continue to be the cornerstone of our practice. The Coalition’s sound principles are firmly routed in the pedagogy of Brimmer’s educators.

Instruction and Learning Beyond Brimmer’s Classroom Walls

Next month, our faculty will be extending instruction and learning beyond Brimmer’s classroom walls. Three Lower School teachers and co-director of International Students Helen Du will travel to China to teach in an elementary school and offer workshops on STEAM related curriculum. Sarah Abrams, Kate Pappas, and Janet Sweezy will offer workshops that demonstrate how we infuse creativity across the curriculum. In turn, they will learn how lessons are taught in China. They will be visiting the Dapeng New District Education Research and Development Center, which includes nine K-12 public schools in that district. Dapeng is a district in Shenzhen, in southern China, which is a one-hour train ride from Hong Kong. Last year, teachers traveled to Bejing. The experience was so enriching, we worked with our partner to offer this program again this year. Our teachers will be doing this work over their spring break.

In the Middle School, our faculty will be traveling with the seventh grade to the nation’s capital. As part of the U.S. history curriculum, our students will visit the many monuments, museums, and historical buildings with their teachers and peers. While they are visiting Washington, D.C., our Upper School students will embark on their Winterim trips. This year, students will travel to Japan, Vietnam and Cambodia, Switzerland, Ireland, England, Cuba, and Boston. Every trip has a curricular focus, and all trips are designed to expand our students’ understand of our interconnected world.

Our faculty’s commitment to offering their students a broadening experience that takes them out of the classroom and into new environments is commendable. When we survey our graduates, they rate these experiences as a highlight of their time at Brimmer, and many point to their time off campus with their teachers as life changing. Likewise, our faculty reflects on these opportunities as periods of constructive professional growth.

Head of School Judy Guild Shares School’s Mission and Core Values with Middle and Upper Schoolers

On Monday, I spoke to the faculty and students in grades 6-12 about the School’s Mission and Core Values in the context of some of the recent executive orders issued by President Trump. Many students have been confused about the executive order regarding immigration and some worried about what this may mean for their extended family members and other members of the Brimmer community.

Throughout its history, Brimmer has had an unwavering commitment to inclusion and diversity and the Board of Trustees and administration strongly believe that we all benefit from being part of a diverse and inclusive community. Among other topics discussed, I shared stories of when the School accepted refugees from an area in the world suffering from war and genocide. Current students learned about the children of a family who came to our country looking for a new beginning. They found a community at Brimmer where they were educated, loved, and supported. Today, as alumni, the members of that family give back to our School in many ways and make it possible for our current students to have the same strong education they received. We continue to benefit from students attending our School who are from various places in our world; they are enriching the community with their presence and different perspectives.

Our Mission states, “We develop lifelong learners who are informed, engaged, and ethical citizens and leaders in our diverse world.” I asked the students to think about how they might stay informed, be engaged in their education, and learn about people around the world so they will be prepared to be good citizens and leaders. As we strive each day to realize our mission, we proudly continue our belief that we all benefit from being part of a diverse population.

Lastly, we discussed the importance of upholding our Core Values, especially to be engaged actively and to be upstanding people. I stressed how each day we must strive to show kindness and be respectful, honest, and responsible community members. I encouraged them to support one another, to think about their behavior as they engage in conversation with others, and to discuss ideas with their teachers. I ended by referring to my Thanksgiving remarks using the words of Greek Philosopher Socrates who said, “Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.”

As you might imagine, talking to a large group of students, some as young as 11 and others as old as 18, can be difficult. I would encourage you to discuss these topics with your own student in a manner you feel is appropriate. I hope by sharing the conversation I had with the Middle and Upper School students, we might together engage our young people in a conversation about the ideas that underpin our democracy as well as the principles on which their School is based.

Head of School Judy Guild on Navigating the Digital World

Common Sense Media is an excellent resource for parents and educators as we help young people navigate the digital world. Their Twitter feed has helpful daily suggestions, such as how to help your child spot fake news or how to navigate the complex world of digital imprints and identities. The more parents know about the digital world and make it a part of their regular conversations with their children, the better equipped our children will be to make choices about how they will interact with media and the world around them. This resource offers game reviews, movie and book reviews, and offers insights and comments on the use of all forms of media.

As the advancement of technology offers us countless ways to improve and enhance our lives, we must also recognize the importance of guiding our students to be responsible and respectful users. This requires us, the “non-native” users, to be committed to staying ahead of our children so we can guide them in their growth and development. Common Sense Media is a great place to find help with this responsibility.

Next week, on Thursday morning, the Parents’ Association will offer an interactive session with members of our Technology Department for parents who would like to discuss their ideas and ask questions regarding this subject.