Hopefully you and your children are adjusting to the rhythms and routines of the school year. I have already enjoyed visiting classes from Tower Tots to Upper School physics, and it is clear to me that our talented teachers and your smart, inquisitive children are engaged in student-centered learning that will result in many lifelong skills: collaboration, leadership, public speaking, strong writing and analytical thinking, to name a few. I have also had a chance to visit with many of our new students in my office over Rice Krispie treats; we have welcomed incredibly talented students to the Tower Hill community. In conversation about how their transition to Tower Hill is going, some of our new students remarked:
- I love the small classes because my teachers can really get to know me.
- At Tower Hill students from other grades above me actually speak to me.
- I feel challenged here, and I also like the food!
What attracted me to Tower Hill as Head, now four years ago, was the warmth, kindness and rigor of our community in academics, arts and athletics. I continue to be inspired every day by the acts of kindness and the dedication of our students and teachers and by the rigor of our community. “Rigor” implies a certain level of ambition and discipline — a desire to continue to grow and challenge ourselves. Our Strategic Planning Committee, which included faculty, students, parents, alumni and trustees, felt strongly that one of the three core tenets of our Strategic Plan is the commitment to be an engaged and diverse community:
- Commit to the ongoing development, recognition and support of current faculty as well as a reinvigorated focus on the recruitment process.
- Build and engage a more diverse and inclusive community. Tower Hill students and faculty will be deeply connected to their community, their world and each other. They will view themselves as change-makers and problem-solvers.
- Develop Tower Hill students’ communication, reasoning and leadership skills and prepare them to become active contributors to their communities and the world through an innovative, exhilarating and timeless educational experience.
To this end, we want to ensure that we continue to challenge ourselves to be the very best school community — one in which we support each other, truly listen to one another, respect many different points of view and understand that being part of a diverse community enriches academics, prepares us for the real world and makes us better human beings. In opening Upper School assembly I clarified to our students the following: It is never OK to be disrespectful or rude to someone who holds different opinions from you, or to disparage someone from a different socio-economic background than yours or because they are a different race or religion – that is unacceptable. If you are a racist, homophobic, sexist, anti-Semitic, a bully or get in the way of another person’s ability to learn and be fully him or herself here, then Tower Hill is not the place for you. As an Upper School community, you lead the school, and this means being strong enough to stand up for what is right and to live with integrity.
As Yale University President Peter Salovey stated to his students, “The work of inclusion is difficult, but the rewards are great.” He encouraged his students to make their friend circles large and wide, not through 700 followers on Twitter who all have the same opinions, but by branching out and being inclusive, welcoming and learning about the traditions of others. As our Jewish students and families celebrate the high holy days, we honor our commitment to being a truly diverse and inclusive community.
Have a good weekend,