Who Will I Become?
1 December 2017
13 Kislev 5778
This was an intense and exciting week with programs and events happening on and off campus every day and night.
To highlight two of these events, last Saturday night we hosted our annual alumni reunions, at which graduates of nearly every class met in Boston to reconnect with one another and with their alma mater. It is so deeply rewarding to see the extraordinary work they are doing and the lives they are building and to share many of the ways that our young school has evolved and matured since their student days.
On Wednesday night, Gann founders and supporters filled our library and gallery space for our annual major gifts event, Nadiv Lev, which focused on our vision for an evolving, open, innovative campus that meets the needs of our dynamic, student-centered teaching and learning. Our guest speaker was John Palfrey, Head of School of Phillips Academy, Andover, and author of many books including Born Digital: How Children Grow Up in a Digital Age, who spoke about what the physical spaces of schools, specifically libraries and maker/design spaces, should look like in our digital, highly connected, 21st century world.
While Mr. Palfrey was inspiring, the highlight of the night was our students, who presented their work in arts, computer science, engineering, and design, teaching all of us what is possible when you give students the tools and the flexibility to follow their passions and drive their own learning.
While the week was filled with activities, the most salient moments and common threads running through everything were the opportunities to watch our students shine. Our five boys’ and girls’ basketball teams took the floor of all three gyms, working hard to prepare for the start of their season next week. The dedicated cast and crew of this fall’s theater production, You Can’t Take It With You, stayed late into the evening rehearsing for next week’s production. I encourage everyone to come see it!
At last night’s Admissions information session for prospective families to learn about the school, a panel of students reflected in personal, authentic, and articulate ways about their high school experiences and what makes Gann unique to them.
During yesterday’s lunch, at a table surrounded by students and clearly “staffed” by student council leaders, one student invited me to share “one way that I think our school could be better” feedback they were soliciting from the community in order to form their student-led, school-improvement agenda.
This is one of the most deeply meaningful aspects of my work and of being part of this Gann community—the privilege of bearing witness to all of the ways that our students are thriving in and out of the classroom. Just this week alone, in addition to their classroom learning, our students were practicing, rehearsing, playing, acting, programming, designing, presenting, inspiring, learning, teaching, leading, and much more.
At the heart of these activities is our school’s commitment not only to develop our students’ knowledge, skills, and talents, but also to create an environment in which they can find their unique voices. In his commentary on the names of each Torah portion, the Lubavitcher Rebbe suggests that the name of this week’s parsha, Vayishlach, which means “And he (Jacob) sent (emissaries to his brother, Esau),” connects to the concept of “shlichut” a central feature of Chabad Judaism and a more general mystical concept that we are all put on this earth for a reason, with something unique to contribute to the world. For some of us, this might be a calling or passion that becomes a driving force in our lives. For many of us, this might consist of listening more subtly to the world and our inner voice, asking ourselves as we move through the world, “What does this moment or this point in my life demand of me?”
While we certainly do not expect students to arrive at grand conclusions about their life-missions during these four precious high school years, this idea of shlichut translates into a deeply held belief that our students, like every human being, are endowed with God-given potential, a unique, holy spark, with which they can light up the world in unique ways. High school can be a laboratory, a sandbox, a four-year experiential journey of relationships and experiences, challenges and opportunities, successes and, even sometimes, failures, through which students learn about themselves and the world, gradually unleashing their potential and always asking themselves, “Who will I become?”
What an inspiration for all of us!
Rabbi Marc Baker
Head of School