Welcome to the 2023-2024 school year!
It feels really great to be here with everyone today, looking forward to a brand spanking new year together.
This is my 54th first day of school, and I’ve had the great fortune to share many of those first days with amazing, inspiring, thoughtful people, some of whom are truly my heroes. Individuals who have dedicated their lives to a purpose well beyond themselves and who have worked tirelessly to make a difference. I’m thankful for them, and for the examples they’ve set for me.
I hope, for you, that some of the people in this room today will be guiding lights for you in your lives, here and beyond Vistamar, and that you will work to learn from them. I know I speak for your teachers when I say that they will work to learn from you, and that they fully understand what a gift that is.
It’s amazing to me that I’ve been in school since I was barely three and the amount of stuff I still don’t know or understand keeps getting larger every single day. And even though I’ve learned a lot about a few things in my life over my lifetime, the more I know, the more I know that I really don’t know very much.
That being said, despite the fact that the amount of stuff out there in the world that I don’t know keeps growing, I find that I do know more about myself and am more honest about who I am than I’ve ever been. I work hard to understand my strengths, my challenges, my values, my fears and my hopes. I know that treating people with kindness and compassion is better than being judgmental and gossipy. I know what it’s like to be bullied, so I try to be more empathetic, and I usually root for the underdog. I also know what it’s like to judge others, and to be wrong about those judgements. I know what it’s like to be fearful of the unknown, what it’s like to be timid when tough decisions have to be made, and I know what it feels like when I have the courage to take responsibility for things when I’d rather blame others.
I get things wrong all the time and I try my best to be honest when I’ve made mistakes. I’ve had countless opportunities to grow and to learn and to become whatever it is that the world has opened up for me in my life; I’ve taken advantage of some of these and squandered others. I’ve witnessed great injustice. Sometimes, I’ve had the courage to stand up and other times, I’ve shirked that responsibility. But I know that the opportunity to be better is always an option worth taking and I’m trying to do better, because I have that choice - to reflect and change and move forward with new eyes and a better perspective. Because that’s what learning is, in its essence. And that’s what we do here at Vistamar, each and every one of us.
As Head of School, I get a lot of feedback, most of which is fair and warranted, and however tough it is to hear, I try to stay open and reflective enough to learn from it all, because it comes from a good place, and because I’m not fully formed - I have much to learn. And, as long as I keep my eye on things that matter, and know that I’ve done my best to treat others with dignity and respect, I have a good shot at bringing some goodness into the world. I’m deeply fortunate that I get to come to school at a place like Vistamar and learn from and alongside the most dedicated and committed group of human beings I’ve ever known, and I try really hard to not take that for granted. Life isn’t forever, so it matters today that I do my best and aim to do better.
School is a place where lots and lots of people are lining up to give you feedback - how you did on that quiz, that project, the way you worked with your partners on a lab, the defensive work you put in during the last game, and on and on. We talk about this all the time in faculty meetings because what we measure is what we value. My deepest hope this year is that the way we talk about growth and your learning will be helpful and supportive as you navigate the complexities of the school year and your lives. Vistamar is designed to be an experience where it’s ok to make mistakes, where reflection is valued, and where everyone has a chance to improve and pursue their lives in community with people from diverse backgrounds and experiences.
I’m at Vistamar because this school aligns with who I am as a human being: both the school and I have an interest in pursuing an educational experience that benefits everyone who’s a part of our community. And, that we work hard to become better, more honest, more open, more willing to do what needs to be done so that we have the very best chance of affecting positive change in the world.
My deepest hope this year is that, as a school, we will all strive to understand ourselves, to understand our community, and to become the kind of place where each of us feels valued and respected for who we are and what we’re striving to become. The process of being educated is energizing, fulfilling, and inspiring, but it can be uncomfortable at times. But we are the kind of school where we practice forgiveness and where we give each other the benefit of the doubt.
We are all imperfect and we’re all searching for something. Sometimes our interests conflict, of course, and that’s where we’ll find opportunities to grow in ways we hadn’t thought of. And when conflict happens, I hope that our commitment to the nobler aspects of being human will transcend our differences so that we can find the grace to understand, to have empathy, and to find a better way forward.
In the end, I hope we remember every day that we have a lot to learn.
Because of all that, I’m happy to share now that our Essential Question this year is: “Who are we and who do we want to become?” We will keep this question front of mind throughout the year in hopes that it will guide us and challenge us as we think about our own individual work, the way we work with others, and the work of the school as a whole.
In years to come, some of you may actually remember some of what I’ve said today, here on our first day of school in the year 2023, but it will most likely fade into the background of our lives fairly quickly. This is a good thing though, because our work together is not just one day, it’s an invitation to grow, incrementally, step by step, every day. Our commitment to constant incremental growth over time is the best way to ensure that what we learn, about our world and ourselves, is lasting and authentic.
I’m grateful that we don’t have it all figured out already, because how boring would that be? It matters, the work we aim to do together, so I hope each of you will be inspired to bring exactly who you are to this wonderful school every day and that your work will be fulfilling and meaningful. I’m looking forward to all of it, and I hope you are as well.
I wish you all the strength, courage, and hopefulness possible to support you as we embark on this journey together once more.