Being New at Greenhill

Head of Upper School Laura Ross writes about her experiences during her first trimester on campus.

Being new to Greenhill this year, the first trimester felt like a whirlwind of activity. It wasn’t until the Thanksgiving break that I felt I had time to reflect on my experiences thus far. What I knew of the School was from an outside perspective, from my previous lives as a college admissions officer and as an administrator at a fellow SPC school. I sensed from those somewhat limited contacts with Greenhill that the students seemed like they had spark – like they had a strong sense of identity, individuality, and curiosity. What I didn’t know, however, was how that actually happened. What did Greenhill do to foster that spirit in its students?

One of the great benefits of this job is that I visit classrooms every day. I didn’t know what a privilege that would be until I realized that what I would see in those visits. In the last few weeks I’ve visited classes in Vector Calculus, AP Chemistry, Chemistry I, AP Biology, AP Art History, AX 9, Senior Rhetoric, Sociology, Chinese III, AX 10 and Fashion Design, to name a few. There was quite a bit of variety in terms of the way the learning was happening: I saw students counting glowing bacteria on lab plates; I joined students touring major architectural sites in Dallas; I enjoyed a Socratic Seminar run entirely by ninth graders; I viewed group projects with the latest in presentation software (good-bye PowerPoint!); I listened to podcasts with integrated music and interviews; I was inspired by self-portraits modeled after Civil War era photographs; I watched students draw on state-of-the art design software; I observed students taking exit quizzes on their smart-phones; and I observed students using Digi-Pens to take notes for absent classmates. The way the learning happened varied widely from classroom to classroom. But here’s what didn’t vary: the laughing. I haven’t been in one classroom yet where there wasn’t laughter at some point.

The atmosphere in each room was challenging and respectful but also joyous and playful. It reminded me that learning, at its heart, is the joyful act of creating – new connections, new applications, new neural pathways – new ways of looking at and interacting with the world. It reminded me that this career I’ve chosen (or that chose me?), and Greenhill in particular, provides daily reminders of the promise of the next generation of leaders and thinkers. When I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, all I need to do is pop into a classroom and then I remember why I’m here.

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