Inspiring Thinkers and Doers 

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.” 

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.