I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes school communities really strong...what makes them exceptional places for children and adolescents. I hold a deep belief that one key element is for school to be a place where each student feels known, welcome, cared about, and able to be her full self. I was initially drawn to Ellis because it felt, from my first encounters, like a place where this was really true.
Now in my third year here, the evidence is all around me. I was particularly struck in the past weeks by several large, and small, moments. On the large side, when our Upper School students produced The Wolves this fall, the actors gave remarkably professional, emotionally mature performances—the kind that are only possible when students have built trusting relationships with their director and each other. That kind of trust, and caring, shone brightly here on October 28, when our Middle and Upper School students each planned their own assemblies in remembrance of the horrific anti-Semitic violence at Tree of Life last year. I could not have been prouder of the thoughtfulness, respect, and care our students displayed during those assemblies. On the smaller side, I was so impressed by the individuality and spirit all our Lower School girls displayed in their Halloween parade. At some schools, there is a tendency for many students to pick similar costumes, to follow the crowd. Not so at Ellis, where we saw all sorts of unique and wonderful outfits befitting each girl’s interests and style. Girls felt free to be themselves.
Another vital aspect of an exceptional school community is that it be a place in which students’ health and wellness are as important as their intellectual growth. At Ellis, we know students learn best when they are physically and emotionally strong. We think carefully about this, and have developed programming and experiences in all grade levels that build our girls’ knowledge about health and wellness. Ellis girls develop a sturdy toolkit of skills to use to keep themselves healthy and strong, so they can grow into the resourceful, resilient, and responsible adults we all want them to be.