I started writing to my school community on a weekly basis when I was head of school in Taipei because I was convinced—and still am—that it is crucial for every school to tell its story. I enjoy writing, so the story of The École—our story—sometimes takes personal detours and diverse paths that may surprise and, I hope, give pause for thought. I also tell our story to parents who visit the school and are considering putting their children in our care.
I tell them about the growth in our student numbers and how we are rapidly approaching our cap—I want to always be in a position to greet each child by name when they arrive at the door in the morning (as well as their parents, sometimes their grandparents, and their childminders). I tell them about the renovations and refurbishments we’re constantly undertaking (at times as a result of that same growth) and how we rethink the layout of our learning spaces so that we can use them to their full advantage. I know that those of you who remember the MPR (Multi-Purpose Room) on the 3rd floor of the Elementary & Middle School Building are wondering about the decision to convert it into classrooms. We’ve responded to the resulting need for additional sport and meeting spaces by renting a gym in Baruch College for Middle School sport, doing Elementary sport in smaller class-level rather than grade-level groups in the repurposed Préau, and reconfiguring the former canteen into a theater/assembly space.
I tell them about our ambitious curriculum, how it aligns two educational systems that are as rich as they are different, about our desire to “create” students who are equipped not just with knowledge but with know-how, students who become brilliant, passionate, confident, and cultivated young people. I talk to them about my background—similar to that of millions of French students who are instructed to use the passive voice in order to avoid writing “I” in their essays because we are not asked for our opinions—we are supposed to analyze the opinions of others. That erasure of “I” is the absolute antithesis of a US system that promotes and encourages the use of “I.” This example of two very different approaches encapsulates the benefits and infinite possibilities of a bilingual system like ours—it allows children to express themselves to the fullest extent of their personalities without forgetting the importance of understanding others and seeking inspiration from the culture of belles lettres and savoirs so can take their place confidently in the world.
I tell them about who we are, about this community that has chosen The École, the connections that unite us, and the pleasure we take in watching our students grow up together. I tell them about the wonderful teachers that joined us this year, the projects that motivate and excite us, and the desire we have to invite families back inside our walls again after two years of COVID-imposed separation. I tell them about how happy we are to welcome new families and how sad we are when “old” ones leave.
Sometimes it feels like I’m cheating on you and that I tell them more than I manage to tell you, even though I only have a few short minutes with them and I have the privilege of writing to you every week. But I tell the same story, I describe the same school—one that offers its students a unique experience thanks to its bilingualism. Whether our students decide to use ‘I’ or not is of no great importance. The importance lies in the fact that they have the choice.