When Possibilities Bloom

I know what Emily Dickinson meant when she wrote her poem entitled “I dwell in Possibility.”

I am right there with her: every morning when I arrive on the Hilltop and see the faces of teachers and students with dreams and plans; every evening when I leave and hear the echo of things tried and goals met.

I feel it at the start of the year when the sense of possibility is everywhere, and I feel it even more now, as I see those possibilities turn into accomplishments.

Upper School Academic Awards

Upper School Academic Awards

When we recognize the academic, leadership and character accomplishments in our Upper School Awards Assembly and Middle School Day of Celebration, we dwell in possibility and inspire others to work hard and value the St. Luke’s culture of excellence, good character, and kindness.

When we practice good sportsmanship, not only do we dwell in possibility, but also we triumph on the courts and on the fields as our teams become champions in varsity Softball, Golf, Girls Tennis, Girls Soccer and Boys and Girls Basketball.

When we focus on communication and language, we dwell in possibility and celebrate stunning performances in our World Language Department—where our French students took 1st place at the Olympics for World Languages and attained national recognition for their excellent performances on the 2016 National Spanish Examination, National French Contest and National Latin Exam.

At the beginning of the year, those who saw potential in debate and in the Social Justice Leadership Summit transformed that belief into big wins for the debating teams and the largest Summit ever.

Finding da Vinci Challenge

Finding da Vinci Challenge

When our students identified themselves as potential problem solvers, Middle Schoolers rose to the Finding da Vinci challenge, and 9th graders workshopped action plans for issues as big as poverty and gender identity—then acted on those plans for the culmination of J-Term.

The possibility of practice blossomed into virtuoso performances in this week’s musical concerts and two recent plays: This is a Test and Avenue Q. Earlier this month, eight St. Luke’s students were invited to the selective Connecticut Music Educators Association All State Choirs.  Just days ago, St. Luke’s theatre students received 18 Halo Award nominations—Connecticut’s high school equivalent of the Tony Awards.

18 Students in Connecticut Art Education Association Youth Art Celebration

18 Students in Connecticut Art Education Association Youth Art Celebration

Emily Dickinson wrote poetry all her life, but it was not until after her death that 40 volumes—1800 poems—were discovered, rocketing her into the pantheon of American poets. She described “the possible” as a “slow fuse lit by the imagination.”

On June 3rd, when we gather for Commencement—the ultimate St Luke’s celebration of what’s possible for each and every one of us—we will feel that glow.


A March Reflection

Over the break I took a quick glance at the superb “News & Views” page of the St. Luke’s website (kudos to Nancy Troeger and her team).  The headlines included a story about the three seniors selected as National Merit Finalists and another about the Yale Dean of Admissions who will give a talk for St. Luke’s parents on May 7th.  I also attended conferences of national scope in the last month where St. Luke’s faculty led sessions on important topics.  At OESIS, Jon Shee, Matt Bavone and Michael Mitchell showed how they are using new thinking and tools to deepen students’ learning, and at NAIS Stephanie Bramlett presented on the reasons why PhD holders are increasingly finding independent school careers attractive.

These examples reflect great news in our School:  Students and faculty asserting and distinguishing themselves on the national stage for academic and professional excellence.

Of course we should celebrate and nurture these developments—but we must not forget our obligation to care for the social and emotional health of our students.  Producing moral, resilient, productive, and persistent graduates does not happen by prioritizing achievement over learning, accolades over effort, winning over goodness, metrics over the unmeasurable but essential daily work of building a healthy, inclusive community.

That is why I sought recently to engage fathers in a conversation about our role in the emotional health of our children.  That also is why we put such an emphasis on building an inclusive community—not to be politically correct but to help all students in both divisions become their best selves through deeper understanding, honest conversations, and the hard work of true collaboration.  And that is why we give students more relevant and purposeful learning experiences such as J-Term, the Hackathon, service learning, global partnerships, and portfolio-based courses such as Engineering—which seem to leave students feeling more joyful about their education, less anxious and depressed although they have worked every bit as hard, or harder.

It has been a very good year for St. Luke’s.  I feel so pleased with the spirit of wanting to be the best we can be, with the strengthening of people and program, and with the reputational excellence that continues to drive such strong interest in the School.  I also feel pleased that the social and emotional health of students continues to be a distinguishing hallmark of our school.  We do not have all the answers, nor can we claim a perfect record in helping every student lead a healthy life at St. Luke’s.  But we can claim to care, and to prioritize what’s best for kids in our curriculum development, hiring, and future thinking.  That’s what makes St. Luke’s a great school, and what makes it a place worthy of our committed service.