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Senior Arts Night

We often say in the Admissions office that it is hard to truly bottle the Berwick experience for prospective families to understand. Senior Arts Night is one of those magical Berwick moments that is difficult to fully explain. One certainly feels the power of a PK-12 community when kids announce they will be playing the song they last played in the fourth grade talent show. When I spend time with these young adults, I feel such optimism for the future. Last night I was able to sit with some senior parents, some of whom I have known for over a decade. Whether it was hearing their own child sing or a peer sing, it did not take long for the tears to roll.

What I have always loved about Senior Arts night is that it never fails to offer surprises – a voice I didn’t know about or an artist that had been working in the shadows. It is a night when I often most appreciate the value of the “whole child” education that we preach on this Hilltop. Beyond the reality that being able to play guitar…
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Senior Spring

There is a great deal of mythology and expectation surrounding senior spring in the world of independent schools. As someone who has worked in these schools for over 20 years, it is hard to avoid viewing senior spring without some kind of nostalgic reverie. Surely part of that is taking me back to that same time in my own life: accepted to college, mostly done with academic responsibilities, prom on the horizon, and finally having a chance to exhale after 13 years of fairly structured and demanding education. One realizes in middle age that these moments of exhale – where the routines take a pause for an extended period of time – are incredibly rare in one’s life. One also realizes just how special friends are in one’s life. While the past decade probably hasn’t left as much time for my own friends as I may have liked, my closest ones remain people with whom I shared some time on the quad during my own senior spring.

We have finally been rewarded with some good weather in recent days.…

Grandparents Day

There is nothing quite like Grandparents Day at Berwick Academy. In recent years we have seen as many as 500 grandparents and special friends on our campus, and we are looking forward to another big crowd this week. For me, there is always something about the day that offers perspective to our work as both educators and parents. During the crazy fury of the school year’s end, this day seemingly forces all of us to reflect on the centrality of family and love in our lives.

So often I am stuck by comments from grandparents who actually listen to and appreciate my speeches in unexpected ways. They ask about my family, and they comment on how lucky kids are to go to Berwick Academy. It is true that we, as a school, try to put on our best face for this day. Beds are mulched for the first time, we plant a few extra flowers, and we even ask students to dress up more formally. Some could argue that we overdo this and that we should present ourselves to our guests in more typical fashion. I m…

Arts Underground

One of Berwick’s great strengths is its arts culture, and I have always felt that there is both a public and private face of this culture. The public face includes our amazing concerts, our ambitious productions, and the various art shows we produce throughout the year. The private face tends to include things like private lessons, coffeehouses, assembly performances, murals painted on walls, and unexpected artistic expressions that emerge on campus throughout the year.

One of the great traditions I will miss at Berwick will be the annual recital week in April. So many of our students hone their craft on private music lessons throughout the year in the hopes of having a public performance at this time. Simultaneously, we have a week of performances in the theater and in Chip Harding’s coffeehouse lair – the space he likes to refer to as his “smoldering ruins,” referring to the carnage left there after every Middle School electric guitar class. This year, for my second and final time, …

Sugar Shack

Late April always brings the excitement of the BPC benefit, and I want to encourage the community to attend on April 28 at the Sheraton in Portsmouth. Certainly it is a fun way to gather and celebrate what makes BA so special, but it is also true that the funds raised through BPC help move our school forward in such compelling ways. Just this week I was reminded of this reality after I was invited to offer feedback to Krysta Ibsen’s eighth grade science project.
As many of you know, Krysta has become famous for her Sugar Shack projects, which teach our kids aspects of science and entrepreneurship through the practice of making maple syrup. Clearly this is an example of student directed learning, where kids get to pursue individual interests within the broader educational construct. What I have always loved about the event is that it changes every year, and this year Krysta charged the kids to propose a real model for a permanent Sugar Shack we might build on campus someday. Kids constr…

Setting the Table

Yesterday marked our annual Board of Trustees retreat, where we welcomed new Head of School Jim Hamilton to have a thoughtful conversation about leadership transition and future strategy. While part of this conversation was about how our Board might best support the new Head of School moving forward, the bulk of our time was focused on the strategic direction of Berwick. Everyone in the room was committed to seeing this amazing community forge ahead. Over the course of the next 18 months, our Board will be authoring the next Berwick Academy long-range plan, and there was a great deal of focus on continuing the momentum we have created as an institution in recent years.

As part of this exercise, I was asked to present some thoughts on issues that strike me as pressing as I leave the Hilltop. I distilled my thinking into the challenges of program, people, and projects that will face Berwick in its next chapter. Additionally, members of our Board helped us take a deeper dive into a l…

A Trip to Commons

On Monday afternoon of this week I made a trip to the Commons. I was excited because Ben Baldwin had asked me to learn an a cappella tune along with Kent Allyn. Thus, I was offered admission to the lair of African drumming. Like a human aquarium, the drumming room exists in the basement with ceiling-to-floor windows, while its inhabitants experiment with rhythm and sound. As I am sure many of you can attest, spending half an hour with Mr. Baldwin is good for anyone’s soul, and this visit was no disappointment. Within about 15 minutes I had become the baseline for “Lucky Dice” – a song that seems to be a little bit like an education in gambling, ironically. Filled with phrases like “snake eyes and boxcars,” I was temporarily transported away from hiring calls and enrollment spreadsheets.

Suddenly, some Middle School musicians went walking by and peered into the Baldwin aquarium. We were invited into the choral room to give an impromptu performance. And so we did. We got those kids …