Dear Parents and Guardians,
In July, before the Delta variant intervened, I promised a monthly parent communication. Since that time, most of my emails have addressed our school’s COVID-19 response, as health and safety remain top priorities here and in other communities. That said, in its August guidance, the CDC emphasized the importance of returning to campus, and they listed the following as the first bullet point: “Students benefit from in-person learning, and safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall 2021 is a priority.”
We are thrilled to have the students back, and they are happy to be here. Athletic contests begin this week, but already we have had great attendance at our scrimmages, a testament to how important it is to see our children play. And in-person learning means that students can seek out teachers and classmates to work collaboratively and face-to-face. I would say the Academy is beginning to look like its former self, but I have never before seen us in action. I am still seeing this all anew, so I write to share some observations.
Without a doubt, my dominant impression thus far is that Worcester Academy is a nurturing environment with mentors who understand the importance of knowing each child. I saw this first in the dorm logs. Each night, each resident advisor records the evening events so that advisors, coaches, and others have a sense of how our students are adjusting. By the end of week one, it was clear to see that our students were already “known” by their dorm parents. In our many orientation events, I listened as teachers and administrators spoke about the importance of community, but I did not fully understand how central it was to the WA experience until I saw our teachers and dorm parents in action.
This notion of “being known” is central to the idea of belonging, which we have set as one of our themes this year. At our opening convocation, Upper School Director Madeline Surgenor Richards challenged the students to know each other’s names and to learn how to pronounce those names correctly. This, too, speaks to the school’s priorities. When students feel a sense of belonging, when they are “known,” they are ready to take academic risks and to commit to personal growth, which is one of our core values and the second part of this year’s theme.
As a newcomer to the community, and as one who has visited dozens of other independent schools, let me assure you Worcester Academy’s commitment to community is tangible, and it begins with active and purposeful mentoring. Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it; you can speak with our alums who will tell you the same thing. It has been a real privilege to travel to interact with graduates from the 1940s who still recall the moment a teacher reached out with an invitation to join a club or to audition for the school play. By many accounts, these were life-changing moments, moments that launched successful careers and, because we are back in person, those moments are happening again.
We will see you on the Hilltop!