It has been a busy (and hot) week. Students are working hard and teachers are encouraging and inspiring them to even greater heights. From Jeremy Thatcher projects in the Lower School, to writing, producing, and videotaping the first big speech in the Middle School public speaking class, to the assessments that come with the close of the first quarter in the Upper School, everyone is pushing themselves. This is when a great school like Brentwood hums along at an incredible pace.
I’ve talked with more than a few Upper School students who report, with pride and a bit of exhaustion, about weekends spent researching, writing, and studying. While we do not want this pace every weekend, intermittently it is good for students to bear down for an intense period of high-level academics. And while the pace is not quite the same in the Middle and Lower Schools, we do know that this is the season for assessments (read tests for those of us who graduated in a different decade) as the quarter comes to a close.
Our students have, in turn, begun to assess their teachers: Who are the hard graders? Who will cut them a break and who will not? Who motivates them to work harder and better than their norm? And the list goes on. Students and teachers alike now know generally what to expect from one another and are thoroughly engaged with one another.
The timing of Homecoming weekend, therefore, is perfect. It is a time when we lean a bit the other way, away from intense work and into relaxed play. This is something the school and faculty support. For example, in the Upper School, Homecoming is one of three "No Homework Weekends" we have, so that our message to our students is clear and congruent: You’ve been working hard, take a break, relax, and spend some time with friends.
Not only does everyone need to balance their hard work with some fun and play, but it’s also a time for the greater community to reconnect. That is, many alumni come back to campus for our Homecoming celebration. This is when we get to see the why behind all our students’ hard work. Alumni visit Brentwood to see old friends and to reconnect with former teachers. These are the same teachers whose influence stayed with them as they moved beyond Brentwood—the English teacher who insisted on a well-constructed essay, regardless of whether or not it was in the form of an email; the coach who inspired them to push harder each time they worked out; the history teacher who launched them on the path of making a difference in the lives of others, no matter the situation. Every year, our alumni come back to reconnect with their former mentors and to visit the place that helped shape aspects of themselves now integral to their identity.
Watch the conversations this weekend and appreciate the quality of the interactions taking place. Former students and teachers standing side-by-side, arms folded, having just gotten past the required questions about where they live and what they’re up to these days. And then, the pause as the student offers direct or indirect words of thanks, wanting to make sure the teacher knows that they made a difference in his or her life.
So let’s win a few games this weekend, have some fun, and remember that we are all part of the greater Brentwood family.