Back to School

David Braemer, Head of Upper School, offers his comments on the positive buzz associated with the new school year. Often there is tremendous growth over the summer, and that can lead to even greater enjoyment of the learning process.

During the first days of school, I spend a fair amount of time reconnecting with students who I have not seen since the spring, and connecting with those students who are new to the Upper School. Not surprisingly, the genuine excitement and optimism that comes with the start of a new school year is obvious during these brief chats. In digging a little deeper to get a sense as to why students have such positive feelings, I am struck by the degree to which these sentiments are tied to their maturation and their readiness for the academic challenges that lie ahead.

For example, I was speaking with a 9th grade boy who was effusive in describing the increased freedom he was enjoying. “The teachers trust me to take care of my business and to use my time well. I had last period free yesterday, so I did homework during the first half of it and then went to the batting cage to take some swings.” His appreciation of this situation was obvious, as was his understanding of the importance of managing his academic responsibilities effectively.

For an 11th grade girl, the excitement was based on being engaged in courses that she was able to choose for herself. “Not that I didn’t like my classes last year but this year I feel like I am more in control. We all took the same history class as sophomores but now I am taking African-American history, which is great.” While she went on to acknowledge that some of her classes might be pretty tough, she seemed confident in her ability to be successful.

The prevailing theme of independence across most of my conversations with students speaks to the degree to which they are not only prepared but eager to handle the increased expectations that come with a new year. Developing a healthy balance between freedom and responsibility is essential in the educational process, benefitting these students throughout their time in the Upper School and beyond.