Welcome to the new school year

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by Lark Palma, head of school

The first day of school is right around the corner and I couldn’t be more excited. Teachers are busy preparing for students to join us on campus. From the Upper School, where the new science lab gleams with possibility, to the Lower School, where first grade teachers are sorting books for their classroom library, the campus hums with anticipation.

Host families are reaching out to new students and parents to smooth transitions. Preschoolers and kindergartners enjoyed summer play dates on campus with a terrific get-to-know-you activity: running through sprinklers. Second graders had an ice cream social. Upper School pre-season sports practices have brought new and returning athletes together. After the first few weeks of school nobody is a stranger.

Faculty and staff members who are new to the school are becoming oriented, and we are getting to know one another at retreats. I can’t wait for you to meet our remarkable new teachers and staff members. Read about them on pages 4 and 5. I think you will agree; Catlin Gabel attracts the best and brightest.

Ours is a school with a deep history, fine traditions, and generations of community members. But each year’s infusion of teachers, staff members, students, and families offers opportunity for asking why we do things the way we do, for reflecting on our strengths and weaknesses, and for embracing change and growth. I hope those of you who have joined our school community feel free to ask questions, share your ideas, and assert yourselves in all that you do here.

A few years ago when the admission office hosted an event in the Barn for incoming freshmen, I observed how easily we can be insensitive to newcomers in our midst. The event was for both current Catlin Gabel 8th graders and students coming to the Upper School from elsewhere. Some of our 8th graders clustered together in front of the Barn, giggling and gossiping. They had unconsciously created a closed circle with their backs turned to new arrivals. Knowing this would make new students feel unwelcome, a teacher approached the huddle and gently reminded current students to open their circle and greet our newcomers. That was a teachable moment — for all of us.

It is fun for returning students and parents to come back to campus after summer vacation and see old friends. At the same time, please remember to open the circle and include new folks in your conversations. Extend a hand, say hello, introduce yourself, ask if you can give directions.

Our curiosity about one another is an extension of our curiosity about the world. You never know when someone you meet will become a beloved friend, favorite teacher, or business associate. I challenge each of you to seek out people you have never met before. Help our students remember this simple act of kindness, too. Learning about each other opens doors, opens minds, and opens hearts.

Here’s to a great year ahead. Welcome and welcome back!