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A Little Spring in Our Steps

A Little Spring in Our Steps
Andrew Webster

In terms of the weather, Spring has offered a halting sort of rebirth, but trees on campus are beginning to flower and there an undeniable sense of renewed energy is palpable.  In fact, recent weeks have given us several examples of a return to our usual spirit and some fine exemplars of the meaning of our school mission.

Our mission statement reads as follows:  The Wardlaw+Hartridge School prepares students to lead and succeed in a world of global interconnection. We provide an educational atmosphere characterized by academic challenge, rigorous inquiry, support for individual excellence, diversity, and a familial sense of community.

The notions of global interconnection and diversity are closely intertwined, and our reborn International Family Fun Night provided an outstanding expression of it.  You would be hard-pressed to find a more diverse set of families in any school community, and the celebration of food, music, and dance was uplifting.

Our annual recital is an expression of support for individual excellence, as it provides a showcase for musicians who are pursuing growth in their musical mastery through lessons and ensembles outside of school.  The event allows us to celebrate them and provides them the opportunity to perform for their peers.  The talent on display is often breathtaking, and we know it is not merely talent but extended focused work that produces such excellence.

We are reaching the point in the year where our senior Capstone students, along with those undertaking Capstone projects in the 5th and 8th grades, reach the culminating expression of their extended research.  As a parent, I have seen the lasting positive effects of programs that support students in this type of rigorous inquiry, and I have heard graduates years later say that their research as senior Capstone students was at least as challenging and rewarding as any project they took on in their colleges.

Just before Spring Break, the Upper School actors and crew presented a fabulous version of Grease.  The actors made a special appeal to be able to perform maskless for the first time in a while, which was granted at pretty close to the last minute after careful thought and monitoring of conditions.  I’m so glad we were able to do so as it added an extra exuberance and quality to the performance, and the students deserve to be able to perform at their best.  Especially when the musical is one many have seen several times previously, the measure becomes whether the performance transports and engages the audience rather than leaving them with a detached feeling of comparing to other performances.  I felt like I was seeing it for the first time, and I know others felt the same way.

Another fabulous returning event that offers support for individual excellence (usually in collaborative expression of this idea) and a familial sense of community is the Indie Film Festival, which occurred last week.  The festival highlighted eleven short films created by student teams, and all were met with enthusiastic applause, whether they emerged as prize winners or not.  It also featured several ideas generated by the student organizers, including a mocktail hour reception with a live student band, live singing and dance performances at the start of the event and at intermission.  Do you remember a time in your adolescence when you and your friends just felt cool and found joy in celebrating each other?  That was the vibe of the Indie, and it is so good to see that feeling in such overwhelming evidence.  Everyone should feel so cool sometimes.  

There are more events on the near horizon that demonstrate our mission come to life, from student speeches to spring concerts, visual arts shows, and the Cookin’ Cabaret, to athletic competitions, to AP Exams and other final exams and projects, to Middle School class trips and the Middle School regatta, and even to Lower School Field Day.  We have also begun planning discussions regarding educational programs featuring domestic or international travel for next year, and I look forward to bringing those to fruition.  

All of these opportunities are supported by a unique sense of community that is particular to Wardlaw+Hartridge, and I am grateful to lead and work in such a community.