Returning to Campus in the 2021-2022 School Year

Thank you, thank you, thank you!  It is hard to believe that we are three weeks into the school year already, and we could not have asked for a more positive, energetic, and exciting start to the year. Such a great start could not have been achieved without the hard work and support of everyone in our community. I was fortunate to be able to spend some time over the weekend reflecting on the start of the year, and I honestly could not have imagined as we were planning for the beginning of the school year that we would have such a strong first three weeks. Our faculty and students seem to be getting used to our new schedule, our mitigation of the pandemic continues to trend positively for our community, and the resumption of our “more normal” programming has all of us feeling more connected with greater appreciation for the community that is our School. 

I hope others feel also that renewed appreciation for the tremendous strengths of SMH.  Our students are so genuine, talented, thoughtful, and committed to learning and doing their best.  I appreciate how our parents want to partner with us to do what is best for their children, and I have been privileged to witness this in a more connected way through our first week of parent coffees.  And our colleagues returned this fall excited to get back into the classrooms, studios, stages, and fields to help our students grow and learn. 

Perhaps one blessing from last year was that it has reminded us how important these moments of human connection are to our work.  I’ve been both impressed and thankful for all the efforts organizing our back-to-school nights, our morning parent coffees, our Convocation, Blue Tie Ceremony and Parade, our first Chapels, home sports competitions, dance socials, and Sorting Days for Middle and Upper School.  In formal and informal ways, returning SMH families have reached out to welcome and offer support to our 128 new students and their families. 

Whether new to SMH or graduating up to the next division, entering a new community can feel daunting and overwhelming; the thousands of small gestures undertaken by all of us make our new families feel that sense of belonging that we are striving for as a community. Importantly, our returning students feel this too.  I thank each and every one of you for helping to build that sense of care, commitment, and involvement at the School. 

Having been in schools for my whole career, I have always found the fall so full of hope and ambition because it is the start of the school year.  It is a time of new beginnings and of new challenges.  It is a time of empty notebooks, unread books, and inchoate questions and ideas.   All of us will have our goals, or as we call some of the first meetings with our students and parents, “Hopes and Dreams.” 

One of my hopes and dreams is that each of our students dreams “big” this year.  We should want them to be ambitious because they are so talented and the world will need, in due time, their gifts and voices.  My hope for our School is that every one of our students—and every member of our community—comes to feel proud of who they are and that they’re able to share their sense of self with the community in authentic ways.  Among the most important things we can do as a school is cultivate a deep sense of belonging for each and every one of us who comprise our community.  We do so by listening, respecting, and appreciating each other’s individual voice.

Educational research overwhelmingly supports that the precondition to deep learning is a sense of wellbeing.  If members of our community feel overwhelmed, invalidated, or discouraged, they cannot be their best selves.   So let us take this unique moment at the start of the school year to remember how we together are responsible for creating a sense of community that empowers all of us to dream big.   Let us take care of one another, support each other, share our ideas gracefully, and take exciting but appropriate risks.   May each of you grab hold of your hopes and dreams this year, and may each of you offer a hand to those that need one along the way.