The beginning of a new academic year traditionally is one of the most exciting times in the life of the School and the start of ‘2021-2022’ was especially exciting. Welcoming all our students as well as parents back to campus has been one of the most gratifying and fulfilling experiences for me and all our faculty and staff, since COVID began in March 2020.
Of course the pandemic is by no means behind us. You will see masks in most photos of this magazine; a requirement when indoors in all our buildings. Ongoing weekly testing in our Lower School of our youngest students, and our teachers and faculty who engage with them, continues. I remain encouraged by how vaccinating, and now booster shots and new approvals of vaccinations for our youngest students, are helping to address COVID variants and improve the health and safety of our campus. And as our current families and students are aware, my weekly Email updates regularly reflect COVID numbers within our community as well as all efforts taken to keep us as healthy and safe as possible.
By adopting a growth mindset that views challenges as new opportunities, certain pandemic restrictions, such as distancing requirements, are enabling incredibly innovative new ways of connecting our community. Witness our blended Zoom and “in real life” assembly gatherings, and eating ‘al fresco’ under the tent on Leggett Field, by far the most popular lunchtime and Coop snack destination for our Middle and Upper School students.
This issue of D-E Today, which has been recently redesigned, aims to capture the energy that has remained palpable on the campus since September despite the pandemic. In addition to providing highlights from early fall, and the first of a series of departmental-specific editorial overviews, we provide a comprehensive ‘look back’ at where the School has been over the past year — in particular with regard to special presentations to “D-Efine our community through conversation” (Click Here).
With regard to conversation, this fall has also introduced new listening initiatives. You may have heard me say that it is through listening to understand, rather than to react, that we can learn how to improve the community and ourselves. Last spring, I asked the faculty and staff to reflect on these last 18 months and answer a set of questions based on what I needed to learn more about to help guide us forward. Their feedback was honest, forthcoming and extremely helpful in my planning for this fall. And yes, we continue to implement many of the suggestions they made to help us be better this year.
As I have shared before: The simple phrase in our Mission “embrace diversity” is tangled in a nationwide conversation about how to do that well. It’s a simple phrase that our country has struggled with since its beginning, and it’s a phrase our country continues to struggle with, today. Our “D-E Voices” listening project, about which you are hopefully already aware, included a survey and two forms of online focus groups to give the survey ‘voice.’ I have also formalized this fall a process I’ve done throughout my tenure at the School: Opening ‘my door’ to listen, so that I can help make our school better by always improving our ‘what’ and ‘how’… expanding, in a way, the more formalized process I followed with our faculty and staff last spring that has helped us this fall. Suffice it to say, the world is a challenging place right now, for parents, as well as students. I look forward to these opportunities to learn more from each other and work together to ensure we can be the very best we can be.
In closing, I ask that we all reflect again on our Mission (see below) and realize that to live to its standards, we must commit ourselves to constant change because the world is changing — and so are we. Our Mission also requires that we listen — that we invest ourselves to learn from each other as we also do from current research and best practices.
“As a community of learners, Dwight-Englewood School strives to foster in each student a passion for life-long learning. We seek excellence, honor integrity, and embrace diversity in order to develop the skills, values, and courage to meet the challenges of a changing world and make it better.”
Dr. Rodney V. De Jarnett
Head of School