- Allison Gaines Pell, Head of School
While I am not a religious person, something I enjoy greatly from the holiday of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year) is the concept of hineni, which means “here I am.” It is a way of talking about showing up, noticing, taking a pause to remember that we are here, and to figure out how we are participating in our lives, showing up with our children, with one another, and with ourselves. While I’m sure we can each think of ways that we can show up more and more and say “here I am” in our lives, I have found myself thinking about this phrase a great deal as we enter our 10th year.
So tonight, I want to take a moment with you to say: here we are, and to reflect on where we have come from, where we are now, and where we are going.
We come from:
- From 14 children in a living room with materials, sound, play, good hearts and big idea
- From a board and founders who have been, from the start, tireless in their efforts to push the school forward
- From several moves – a roving tour, even! -- all throughout Lower Manhattan, and a lightning fast build out of our beautiful permanent home at 241 Water
- From growing pains, authentic conversations, openness, and warmth
- From genuinely wanting parent voices and helping them to give shape to our work
- From a superstorm that diminished our neighborhood and our school, but made our community stronger
- From a group of faculty who have committed to working in a more demanding place than is the usual because of the intellectual rewards of this work
- From parents who, despite being told way back when that they would not know the next year’s location before signing a contract, insisted on staying because they believed so deeply in this journey
- From parents who met with me over one summer to start a real life Families Association that lives today and supports so many of our efforts
- From members of our community who, when they heard the call for a small old fish market next door that was yearning to be a school, stood up to be counted on to support us to make it happen
- From many long discussions, risks, rewards, and creative innovations in the pursuit of being, despite all odds, the school that could
and so much more…
Here we are:
When our founders set out to build a school, they imagined a place that would both practice and model a truly dynamic (even electric) balance between self and social learning, academic mastery, and creative thinking. Today, 10 years in, I have the truly happy news to share that so many of you see this approach in our classrooms and hallways. You tell us in person and through surveys how much you see this balance, the creative ways your children are being challenged, the way they (and you) are seen and known, how much they strive for and discover each day in their intellectual pursuits.
And we, the lucky, who get to spend our days around your children and these classrooms, get to see it first hand. We see joyful struggles, dynamic discussions between young children, joyful romps in the wonder room, forts built and refined by three year olds, and inspiring studio studies of space and nature. We see the deep and thought-filled discussions among faculty members, the late night runs to the bookstore for that book a teacher MUST have for the next day, the conversations that happen in meetings in which they carefully reflect on what they notice in your children. We hear the community board presentations by seven year olds, the buzz of the letter-writing campaigns, the delicious and inventive writing by 9 year olds, the passionate discussions of sentence structure by 10 year olds, energetic and purposeful play by our fours and fives, the careful and thoughtful probing of natural phenomenon, the big stories being drafted, enacted, and revised, and the mathematical mysteries pursued with struggle and joy. We see hugs and laughter and holding hands.
We appreciate every day that we get to be here because of your belief and sustaining support of our work.
So, what happens now? Ever energetic and evolving, with one strategic plan behind us that was focused on building, streamlining, operational steadiness, and communications, we decided that while our big goals remained the same, our strategies were ready for refreshing. We are now finalizing our 2015-2020 strategic plan that will focus on key, critical areas informed by many discussions and input from you. The summary highlights of will include:
- increasing coherence in teaching and learning practices throughout our three divisions while allowing for natural and developmentally appropriate differentiation to take place between them
- Increasing the ways and means for recruiting for a more diverse and thus more mission-driven population, including striving to increase giving for tuition assistance across the school
- Furthering our work on diversity and perspective taking, including a yearlong monthly seminar led by and for teachers trained by SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity)
- Opening our extended campus at 233 Water Street and building out a master plan that will include more facilities growth for the school, as well as vigilant care of our beautiful home here at 241
- Maintaining steady and rapid growth while we preserve the warm, connected, authentic ways of doing business that make this such a great place to be
- Increasing the visibility of the public facing work we are doing with our conference “On Thinking,” our Blue Notes speaker series, and pushing ourselves to build out our public purpose
- Last, but not at all least, we will also continue to push ourselves to do all of the other good stuff of making Blue School great: daily energy towards the best and most powerful classrooms anywhere, led by the most hungry and dynamic teaching faculty anywhere, ever more efficient, responsive, and effective in its operations, and with your help, a stronger foundation of financial support
It’s going to be a huge undertaking, and this wasn’t even close to a complete list! As it is ready, we will be excited to share the full plan with you.
So tonight, in addition to sharing all of this with you because it is important for you to know, I also want to let you know how important your support is, in all ways, to make this happen.
We know that you pay tuition. We know you work hard to make the gift of Blue School a reality for your child. We know that that is a big commitment for which we are grateful.
I ask you to give to Annual Fund because you know that we, like all independent schools, do not cover the cost of the education of each child with tuition alone. The difference between this number and the number we need to raise each year translates to materials, trips, professional development, compensation for teachers, tuition assistance, and so much more.
I ask you to give because of how fast your children ran to school on the first day, the questions she or he brings home at night, and their very serious curiosity.
Give in honor of someone in your life whom you wished had had a Blue School education, whose life could have been altered because of the nourishment and intention that Blue school gives each learner.
Give because you see that the neuroscientific research, the industry pleas for people who are problem solvers, collaborators, creative thinkers, and the pushback from parents and authors everywhere when they see the impact of standardized education are converging to a point. Give because you believe that Blue School has a responsibility to amplify these understandings through conferences and speakers and to ensure we reach a tipping point that translates into impact for schools.
Give because this is the hardest working group of teachers and administrators anywhere and they deserve the answer to be yes to any request for supplies, trips, and professional learning that we can make possible.
Give because you want more children who wouldn’t dream of applying to Blue School due to the tuition to get the message that they can, that they should, that we have funds to support them.
Give because it feels good, no matter what the level.
Give because you are saying “here I am” and “here we go,” onto the next ten years, our adolescence, which will be filled (as our middle schoolers lives will be) with wonderful new friends, conversations, ideas, risks, and rewards.
For all those reasons, consider and make your gift and send it in, but before you do, in the spirit of 10 amazing years at Blue School and as a wish into the universe for the 10 years to come, multiply that number by 10. I’m kidding. Sort of.
Seriously, if you are interested in gift at a higher or more strategic level, perhaps associated with initiatives such as our STEAM program, scholarship support, or our programs focused on impacting schools outside Blue School, contact James or me and we’ll find a time to sit down with you to talk more.
I end tonight with a quote from the letter written by our founders that is on our website.
“Blue Man Group started as an outrageous idea: We wanted to inspire creativity in both our audiences and ourselves. We wanted to speak ‘up’ to the intelligence of our audience members while reaching ‘in’ to their childlike innocence. We wanted to create a special kind of organization, a place where people continually learn and grow and treat each other with just a little more consideration than is usually evident out in the "real world." We wanted to recombine influences to create something new. And we wanted to have a good time doing it.” Having a good time is what tonight is about.
I wish you a great year, in the ideas and new accomplishments your child shares with you, the connections you will make with one another, and in your own lives outside of Blue School. Thank you for your support, for showing up in the big and important ways that you do.