Each year the Headmasters Association, founded in 1893, holds its annual meeting for a group of heads of school from around the country — to gather, reflect and share as we recognize the privilege of leading schools, supporting amazing teachers and investing in the hope represented by our students.
We are gathered on the campus of Duke University, and the theme of this year's meeting is Unsung Heroes: People Who Make a Difference. We heard Dr. Tony Campolo, professor emeritus at Eastern University, speak with powerful testimony about the importance of ensuring that there be "love and joyful laughter" amidst our schools. He defined love as being "the decision to care, the ability to forgive and about being something one creates." In schools, we focus on learning, character, community and creating a strong foundation for life. At Tower Hill, our teachers are called to bring out the best in students each day. Our teachers are unsung heroes, as they create the conditions that enable our students to truly know themselves. Our teachers love their call to affect students' lives, and they find joy in the laughter and the learning.
Carol Folt, the first female chancellor of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, shared her vantage point from higher education. As a scientist, she contends that schools and universities "need to be nimble and flexible" and that we must continually be imagining the future, asking ourselves what the liberal arts look like today and how we deliver a well-rounded education that is relevant. Tower Hill's Strategic Planning Committee is doing just this for our school; you will receive a Strategic Plan Save-the-Date soon so you can see and hear more about the committee's work to date.
Dr. Folt also brought up social media, mental health and sexual violence as being areas of most concern in higher education from her vantage point. We as school heads worry about many of the same themes and topics, and we are continually talking with our school teams and faculty about ways to partner with parents to ensure our students are equipped to be successful, smart, make wise decisions, know how to deal with setbacks and know when to ask for help.
Heads from around the country and our speakers thus far all remarked on the importance of our school communities and our teachers — as families and children navigate the changes, dialogue and polarization in our country right now. Virtually all heads of school agree that this year in our schools we can feel and see very real evidence of a heightened sense of anxiety and concern that manifests itself in a variety of ways. Many of us share the conviction that creating space and time for our students to share their worries, questions and opinions respectfully in age-appropriate ways, facilitated by smart, caring adults, is more important than ever in schools today; our students do not learn in a vacuum. Equally important is to celebrate the ways in which our teachers and students demonstrate a continued sense of hope and joy. At Tower Hill, we claim community, integrity, respect and intellectual discourse as part and parcel of our academic mission.
I am indeed fortunate to be head of a school where teachers are our children's heroes and where "the future is part of our daily dream," as Chancellor Folt says!
Elizabeth C. Speers
Head of School