Becoming a head of school means having to adjust to not being at your students’ sides for all of their achievements. For that to happen, you need to be in class with them all the time. Learning to read, for example, doesn’t happen overnight: it’s a journey strewn with obstacles, signs to decode, and churlish letters that a child may recognize one-by-one but when coupled together, make an entirely different flummoxing sound. Before being able to read, our students rack up a lot of triumphs. Their teachers are the witnesses and the custodians while the heads are in their offices doing who knows what exactly. When you are a head, you are restricted to more “visible” victories. It’s not that those victories are more important–every achievement is important–it’s just that there are certain rites of passage that a head gets called upon to witness–a photo with students when they win a competition, a speech when they are awarded a certificate or when they graduate.
Keeping a Watchful Eye
However, when students leave a school, heads and teachers find themselves on an equal footing. We follow them from afar with a protective, hopeful eye: we celebrate when news reaches us of college acceptances, job recruitments, marriages, and births. We worry when we hear of break-ups or the loss of a loved one. We marvel above all else at the paths they take and at the lives they construct. We tell ourselves, that we have contributed in some small way.
Testimonials from our Alumni
We don’t get the chance to weigh up the extent of our contribution every day. But on Tuesday evening, during the High School Admissions Panel organized by Rachel Loble and Melissa Milan, we had that miraculous opportunity as we listened to Lulu, Cora-Louise and Alexandre tell us exactly what being students at The École had meant to them and how being our alumni continues to guide and inform their choices. You can listen to their testimonials here (at 42:35, following Rachel and Melissa’s presentation) and I encourage you all–parents and colleagues–to have a listen.
Teachers will be proud–of that I am sure. Not only of their work in class but also, more generally, of their convictions, their place in a team and in a school whose culture values dialogue and places the child at the heart of everything. Parents will get a glimpse into the future that awaits their own children as they listen to Lulu, Cora-Louise, and Alexandre describe their experiences.
Advantages of an Education at The École
We are well aware that many of our families wonder whether it is a good idea to stay at The École until 8th Grade. They are concerned about the transition to high school. They worry that the bilingual program might mean their child is not adequately prepared for the French or the American system. They fear that our low student numbers (which are not really that low!) will be perceived as a disadvantage. The truth of the matter is, however, quite different, as Lulu, Cora-Louise, and Alexandre explain: The École’s 8th graders are in fact at a considerable advantage. They have a wealth of opportunities open to them when it comes to choosing the perfect high school, followed by the perfect college. They have a special relationship with the adults at our school that enables them to go further in their reflections. They also have the benefit of a work ethic that empowers them to face the most demanding high school programs. And finally, as a hallmark, our alumni have a capacity to articulate their ideas and to respond thoughtfully and pertinently, allowing us to relish their inspiring intelligence and maturity.
On Tuesday night, I was a happy head, proud and motivated by the idea of continuing to contribute (if only from a distance) to the awe-inspiring future of my students.