When I am asked about my profession and tell people that I am the Head of an Upper School (or principal for those not familiar with independent schools), I typically hear one of two responses: people either tell me that they are sorry for me or that they don’t know how I do it. At this point in the conversation, I have the opportunity to explain that my role as Head of the Upper School at Ellis is not typical. Unlike other high school principals, my job does not revolve primarily around discipline and student management. Instead, I have the privilege of spending my time supporting student learning, listening to ideas borne out of ingenuity and initiative, and helping girls find their purpose. It is because I am at Ellis, in a strong community of Upper School women, that my job is not typical.
When the school year opened on August 27, the Class of 2019 entered as positive and excited members of the Upper School. We often expect the older students to be role models to the younger students, and one of the most important responsibilities of the job is the way in which they set the tone for the Upper School community. From the Opening Assembly when Student Council President Leah and Senior Class President Sydné spoke, the members of the Class of 2019 have helped to frame this school year as one in which students embrace challenges. When younger students have concerns, the seniors are appropriately supportive and encouraging. They have mentored the Class of 2022 through their transition into the Upper School, and the freshman class reports that they have confidence in their own ability to work through and learn from challenges.
On September 18, the Upper School students presented the annual clubs showcase. At Ellis, clubs are developed and encouraged by student interest. In watching the clubs showcase this year, I was struck by how varied the offerings are and how reflective they are of our student body. From engaging with philosophy to learning from big data to exploring a path to medicine, Ellis girls are organically inhabiting spaces that have historically been male-dominated. Because they are at Ellis, they do not hesitate to fully delve into their clubs with purpose, and they often spend their lunch periods in animated discourse about their shared interests.
In the upcoming months, the College Counseling office will be sharing resources with our juniors and seniors that will connect them to the network of Ellis alumnae as well as our parent community. These resources are meant to help the girls access internship opportunities, seek out mentors, and tap into fields they may not have otherwise considered. How fortunate our students are to have a ready-made network of outstanding women eager to help them access doors previously unopened.
The interactions I have in my day-to-day encounters with our students are positive and fun. When people tell me how difficult teenage girls can be, I can proudly tell them that is not my experience. Ellis girls are different; they are thoughtful, engaged, and powerful. I am lucky to be the Head of an Upper School that is created by the presence of unique and individual young women who are united by their engagement with their community, their willingness to resist barriers, and their support of each other.