Convocation | September 8, 2015


Faculty, staff, students, Nicole - Welcome to the 2015-16 academic year. I hope that you all had a wonderful summer. We start this year in a new way, with a convocation, to symbolize the ushering in of a new year, a new beginning. The academic calendar allows us to start fresh every September. Every year, we bring new energy, new ideas and, for many of you, new growth, both physically and emotionally.

I imagine that all of you arrived at school this morning with a certain amount of excitement, anxiety, or trepidation. It happens to us all – students, faculty and staff, and even parents.

I spoke with a few students at Camp Bernie last week who were moving from the Middle School to the Upper School. Their most common concern, by far, was getting lost - knowing where to go when and making sense of the Upper School schedule.

Folks – it is really quite simple. If you follow this simple formula, you will have no problem.

The B-week schedule is the reversal of the A week schedule, except for the second and third periods on Tuesday which are always period three and four. The first periods of the day always go in order, so that on B-week they go 1-5-2-6 and on A-week they go 3-7-4-8. Finally, the third period of the day is always the first period of the other day that includes the same set of periods (like Wednesday and Friday) except for Tuesday. Using this formula, you can calculate the periods of any given day simply by knowing the time for a single period...

Easy, right?

My advice? Carry you schedule around for the first few weeks.

Faculty also have anxiety before the start of a new year which often presents in the form of teaching dreams before the first day of School. Mine often involve being unprepared in some way. I am a cellist, and a common dream involves a performance where I can't find my bow, or music or even, my cello. I scramble around searching desperately for the unattainable. Fortunately, I always wake up before a real disaster occurs.

So, while we are excited to be here, all of us have our own sets of concerns as we start another year.

With that said, all of us are lucky to be a part of MBS. Whether you are new to the School or a "lifer," you are aware of our emphasis on being engaged, kind, responsible, caring members of the community - so cast those anxieties aside and have the confidence that you will have the opportunity to become fully engaged in a vibrant community. I don't think you could matriculate at MBS and not be aware of the opportunities for engagement or the culture of kindness that we foster here. But what does that look like? Exactly what does it mean to engage fully in a community?

It means that you are aware of what you say and how you act towards others. It means that there is no difference between your private self and your public self. The things you say and do with your close friends are consistent with the kind of behavior you demonstrate in public when everyone is watching. Being a part of MBS means you are getting to know as many members of this community as you possibly can. It means you constantly have your eye out for ways you might pitch in, whether this means picking up trash that is not yours, helping a visitor to the school find her way or watching out for a new student.

Being a community member of MBS means you are developing skills and habits of stewardship, stewardship for the School, for our natural environment, and for our local, state, national and international communities.

Being an MBS community member is perhaps one of the most rewarding things you will ever do, and it requires constant vigilance and awareness of those around you. But most of all, it requires engagement, engagement with people, with activities, with clubs, sports, with the arts and classes.

So what about being a student? What, exactly, does it mean to be a student? Like being a community member, being a student means being engaged, but intellectually engaged, and you can intellectually engage through conversations with your teachers, even if you have no formal relationship with these adults in the classroom. All adult members of the community are your teachers, and I want you to reach out to them.

I challenge you to get to know as many teachers as you can. Your teachers are from all over the world, and they have a greater abundance of collective world experiences than any other faculty I have ever seen. Beyond the international diversity, they have enormous diversity in life experiences, and they are deeply committed to you.

We often think of schools as places that are full of facts, knowledge, and information. Today I want you to free yourselves from the sense that our school is packed with information that you must conquer. Instead, I want you to focus on what it is that you want to learn. By discerning what you don't know, and by asking good questions, you are actively taking charge of your education - you are owning it.

The best schools teach the ability to understand that there is more than one way to see the world. They help us to understand the complexities of our world and to embrace a multiplicity of perspectives. This understanding will help us be innovative and empathic citizens of the world, and at MBS we deeply value these qualities.

At MBS, we want you to learn to engage in problem solving and independent thinking. We want you to take intellectual risks and make cross-disciplinary connections. We urge you to try new things, to discover new talents, and to see yourselves in new ways – if you do, you will be powerfully prepared for learning and for life.

So on that note, I invite you to take command of your educations. Get to know each other; get to know your teachers, and engage in as much as you can – sing, compete, dance, spectate, discuss, debate. We have a lot to offer here at Morristown-Beard School, but we cannot give you an education. You must decide on your own to seize it.

Thank you – now, let's have a great year!


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