What Makes Ellis, Ellis?

I have quickly become very fond of my moments spent greeting girls as they arrive each morning. They are such a warm, bright, diverse bunch, and they seem to bring a great deal of joy and eagerness with them every day. The enthusiasm for learning is clearly evident at Ellis—one of the qualities of the School that makes it so special.
Since arriving this summer, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and listening about what makes Ellis, Ellis. I spent time with the faculty and staff talking about this during our back-to-school meetings in late August and was inspired by the clear sense we all shared about what makes Ellis special. I could capture that sense as follows:

  • Every girl is known, and there is no one way to be an Ellis girl.
  • We challenge and cherish, support and stretch each girl.
  • We empower girls to develop into fearless, independent, critical thinkers with fierce voices.
  • We foster leadership, curiosity, and creativity.
  • We build a welcoming, kind community with deep relationships.
  • We cultivate joy and excitement in the journey of learning.
  • We do all of this better because we are an all-girls school.
I’d like to focus for a moment here on the idea of fostering creativity. I believe all children have a great natural capacity for creativity, and think one of the most important jobs we, as parents and teachers, have is to nurture, support, and stretch that creativity.

Sometimes we make the mistake when we are speaking and thinking about creativity, of assuming that we are just talking about the arts. Of course, there are enormous opportunities for students to build their creative talents through the visual and performing arts, and I am so proud of the rich opportunities students have to do just that at Ellis. Our arts classes and programs are key to girls’ experiences, and are often named by alumnae as some of their most cherished memories of their years here.

But I also believe in the importance, and real possibility, of nurturing creativity in all areas of school life. In my years as a math teacher, I believed it was much more important for me to help my students become creative problem solvers than it was for me to teach them specific mathematical theories or algorithms. I knew that, when they were in the adult world, it would be much more important for them to be able to wrestle with messy problems, imagine and explore alternate approaches, feel excitement and pride about seeing their way through the problems and crafting effective solutions, work with others to do so, and communicate their ideas. These were the gifts I wanted them to develop, and the gifts I believed would help them become successful, independent adults.

I’m delighted that all the girls at Ellis have many opportunities to grow in this crucial way, whether it be in the art studio, on stage, in the hands-on messiness of science, or in the writing of an original story. I look forward to watching their creativity blossom this year!