A Year of Stretching and Engaging

It feels quite strange to me to be writing my last first GreenSheet message of the school year—not because I am sad about retiring next summer, for that timing feels just right for me and my family, but rather because I remain so excited about and focused on all we are doing at Ellis this year.
During our opening faculty and staff meeting prior to the start of school, I shared that my biggest hope and dream for everyone at Ellis—teachers, staff, students, families—is that this be a year of stretching and engaging. I shared the same message with our Middle and Upper School students during their opening division assemblies as well.

All of us, regardless of our age or stage in life, learn and grow in exciting ways when we are stretching just outside our comfort zone—trying an activity we haven’t tried before, thinking hard about problems we don’t already know how to solve, working with teammates whose strengths may differ from ours, tussling with ideas we haven’t yet come to fully understand. I love the many ways in which Ellis teachers create these stretching moments for our students in all divisions. These stretching moments, of course, mean that none of us should expect students to perform perfectly at all times. As I shared with the students at the start of school, Ellis is designed to be a place where it is okay to have questions, to ask for help, to make mistakes and learn from them.

While stretching, I also encouraged all our students to be engaged—with their teachers, their peers, their classes and activities, and the life of the School. We’ve talked a lot with students in our opening days about connecting not only with existing friends, but with new students and classmates whom they don’t yet know as well as they might. We’ve talked about the importance of group projects and being self-reflective about how each of us contributes, or might inadvertently detract from, the success of that work. As I often say to students, we come to school to learn together. If we were just learning by ourselves, we could just all stay home.

One aspect of engagement is being physically present—simply showing up—but another is being attentive to and connected with other people. Given the ever present lure of the digital world, that can be challenging for children and adolescents (and adults, as we all know). We think a lot about this at Ellis, and we have created policies around cell phones and connected devices that are meant to nurture real-time, in-person connection. Our Middle Schoolers may bring cell phones to school, but they must keep them in their lockers throughout the school day. Our Upper Schoolers may carry their cell phones but may only access them in limited spaces and times during the day. Current research indicates how distracting interruptions from texts, calls, and social media postings can be. We hope families will partner with us to help all our students have healthy habits around their cell phone usage, including resisting texting or calling your child during the school day (parents can always reach their student by calling their division office).

Finally, my hopes about stretching and engaging extend to all our Ellis families as well. I hope families will take full advantage of all the opportunities we’re planning throughout the year for them to learn about their child’s development, come to campus to see what their child has been up to, connect with us when questions arise, and attend the many campus events designed for us to connect and celebrate as a school community.

Here’s to a wonderful year of stretching and engaging for all of us.