Looking Back to Move Ahead

When I came to Ellis for the first time in 2011, it was as a Kindergarten Teacher. I worked with the Queen of Kindergarten, Ms. Carol Krescanko, and the wonderful Ms. Karen Chambers was Head of Lower School. I experienced that year as if I had boarded a speeding train that took off on the first day of school and zoomed along non-stop until it came to a halt on the last day of school.
There were moments when I wanted to get off the train and take time to revisit lessons I had taught or deconstruct interactions with students or parents, but there was no stopping or looking backward, just looking ahead, preparing for what was coming next. After that first year, I became more accustomed to the pace, I used my summers for reflecting and planning, and the sensation of being on a train disappeared.

When I returned to Ellis this year as Head of Lower School, I got back on the train and it was faster than ever. Although I thought I knew Ellis well, in many ways it felt like a different world because there was so much to learn in this new role. I experienced all of the traditions I had participated in as a teacher in an entirely new way. Things that were barely on my radar in my teaching years because Ms. Chambers took care of them were now my responsibility. As I experienced this new ride, I thought often of the students and how it is similar for them. For many of the girls, Ellis is their second home, a familiar place. There are predictable routines and traditions that carry on year after year. But each year there are changes – new teachers, new students in the class, a new classroom, new things to learn, new challenges to tackle. As students progress through the grades, they are asked to take on greater responsibilities and their privileges increase as well. It made me appreciate all of the ways we ask students to stretch themselves and what an amazing job they do of rising to the occasion.

This year’s journey has come to its end. All of the learning and growing that has taken place over these months has transformed us. The kindergarten student who came in September knowing just a few letter sounds is now a reader and a writer who has earned her new role as a grade 1 student. The grade 4 student who came in the fall looking to the teacher to intervene during conflicts with friends has discovered she can solve problems on her own. She is ready to leave the Lower School behind and claim her place in the Middle School. My role will stay the same for next year, but I will bring to it a fresh perspective that reflects everything I have learned from this year. I am grateful for all of the families who shared their experiences and perspectives with me over this year. I am most grateful to the girls for reminding me every day that hard things are worth doing and for making the Lower School such a joyous place.