Our home resembled less of a head of school’s house on Saturday evening and more of a teen center as the Hill family hosted our first open house of the year. It was a true pleasure welcoming students from 7:30 until 10:00 p.m. Whether they were stopping by for lemonade and cookies before heading to another venue, or sticking around to play one of the myriad board games, students seemed to enjoy this inaugural event.
At one point, a competitive game of “Sorry!” was taking place, with the 9-year-old boy who happens to live here having a particularly fun time of it with the big brothers and sisters who invited him to play. Williston students were their typical selves: outgoing, grateful, and inclusive. The following picture gives a fuller sense of the fun as some of the more musical in our midst joined talents at the piano. When the temperatures get even colder we will serve hot chocolate and enjoy fires in the twin fireplaces that distinguish the front room of this wonderful house.
Williston’s first visiting author of this year’s Writer’s Workshop Series was also the first dinner guest at our home when we hosted a meal in her honor with members of the English department. After dinner, Ms. Suzanne Strempek Shea regaled the capacity crowd in the Dodge Room with stories of how she came to be such a prolific and far-ranging author. For the budding writers in her midst, Ms. Shea had something for everyone, and her message was inspiring: out of the merest chance encounter or observation comes the kernel for a story.
Stories, as Daniel Pink notes in his often cited book, A Whole New Mind, allow us to “emotionalize and contextualize” the world of ready facts in which we live. Right-brained creativity, according to Pink, will differentiate our students in the 21st century marketplace, and Ms. Strempek Shea brought that idea to life by telling of her work as a newspaper reporter before turning to fiction.
Williston’s emphasis on writing, manifest not just in the work that our students undertake across the curriculum but also in our highly regarded Writing Center, goes a long way towards setting our students up for future success. We look forward to the second speaker in the series, Debra Monroe, on October 7th.
While attending a meeting of the National Business Officers Association in St. Louis with Chuck McCullagh, Williston’s chief financial officer, I had a chance to spend dedicated time with professionals from around the country and discuss fascinating topics in close quarters with folks like Professor James Honan of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Pat Bassett, president of National Association of Independent Schools.
The essential question of how our schools meet the needs of students as we prepare them for the future was the focus of dedicated discussion and brainstorming. Certainly, the fast-paced changes in technology have forced all of us to conceive of education differently than in the past, and the possibilities for hybrid classrooms and sharing of resources seem limitless. Too often, though, schools have tended to be in the “and” business, that is, adding programs and people as the latest fad washes over the educational landscape. We all recognize that the need to be in programmatic equilibrium means that as we introduce new initiatives we should also consider the totality of our offerings.
These decisions are not easily made, and it is invigorating that I see the Williston faculty devoting meetings to these important topics so that we continue to provide the best education for our students.