What the kids have to say about school

October 7, 2019

Before you arrive at The Wheeler School Open House on Saturday, October 26, I can’t resist sharing a bit about our school with you. There will be many opportunities for conversation, and for talking with and hearing from students, faculty, staff, parents, and school leaders–but it is also worth sharing with you some of the essential insights that I have gleaned as Head of School, even before you arrive. Fortunately for all of us, we have the wise words “to learn our powers and be answerable for their use” by our visionary founder, Mary Colman Wheeler, whose originating imperatives are lived out day to day here at school. But, we also have the equally-wise words of our students who are seniors this year.  Let me share a bit with you from my recent message to faculty and staff.

Allison Gaines Pell, Head of School

What the kids have to say about school

“There are many metrics on which schools can be measured, and certainly there is no shortage of punditry on which ones are best. But on the evening of September 19, standing alongside the 92 members of the Class of 2020, who spent almost two hours reflecting on their Wheeler experience, it was possible to bear witness to the most important measure of excellence, on display in the dispositions of our soon-to-be graduates.

One by one from out of the dark, lit by the brilliant light of a very tall campfire, came their voices. They remembered it all, calling out the Blast Off to the Moon in Nursery, Safari Day at the Farm, those super-challenging Bio labs (with chuckling to boot), the scenes from Midsummer Night’s Dream, that time a teacher said something funny and they snorted water onto a computer, the many inside jokes of a Chinese language class, the teacher who saw them or greeted them with a smile each day, those AP classes, the 6th Grade Farm overnight and getting stuck in Fire Pond, and so much more.

They spoke of their gratitude to the adults at Wheeler: from the teachers who know them well and care for them, who will “do anything for them,” our Food Services and Maintenance colleagues, who are always ready with a smile or a hello. They remember your kindnesses, and those that they gave to each other along the way, including the student who first said “hi” or invited them into a game. They reflected on the intellectual and dynamic culture. One student said that before he came to Wheeler in tenth grade, he assumed that no learning really happens in high school, “I thought it all happens in college. But Wheeler,” he said, “changed my mind.”

The Class of 2020 and the Class of 2034 at the Opening School Assembly, 2019.

Another student who has been at Wheeler since Nursery piped in that they didn’t know of any other school that “literally makes anything possible.” Another said she remembered being so grateful when she came in middle school to be in a place where it was okay to be smart, okay to speak up in class about your ideas. A few spoke about moments when they decided to sing or perform or try something new and everyone rallied to support them. In thinking about their senior year, they reflected on the importance of being role models and setting the tone for the younger students.

In the end, their reflections – albeit in the light of the fire which makes everything a bit more sentimental – demonstrate the best we can hope for in our graduates: empathy, gratitude, intelligence, reflectiveness, and a sense of agency in their own lives and our shared future. I hope you will relish the fact that we all played a role in nurturing these dispositions, and that they will have them as they leave us in 2020.”

Thank you for deciding to visit the decidedly uncommon Wheeler School on October 26. Our faculty and staff will be thrilled to see you and talk with you; our parents and students will be on hand to walk you around and answer your questions, and you will have the chance to hear from and speak with various school leaders, faculty, and staff throughout the school.  While nothing compares to a visit during a day of school, we feel sure you will experience the energy, vitality, and dynamism of our community on Saturday, October 26, and we can’t wait to share Wheeler with you.

By Allison Gaines Pell
Head of School

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