Near the conclusion of Tuesday’s Upper School Assembly, a couple of faculty members turned to me and said: “It’s meetings like this that make me incredibly proud to work at Brentwood!” Several others nodded in agreement and I spent the next 24 hours unpacking that statement to better discern what we do at Brentwood to ensure assemblies like this occur.
One of our six core values, K-12, is caring. We support this value in both formal and informal ways that mutually support one another. For example, in the Lower School we have the Buddy program, pairing older and younger students with each other. They develop a relationship based on caring, with the younger students often looking up to their buddies with stars in their eyes. At a recent 5th Grade football game, I witnessed a 1st grader run up to his buddy after a particularly good play to congratulate him, and on his way back told anyone within listening range that that was his buddy! And, of course, in the Lower School, we have the structured Community of Caring groups that meet every Friday afternoon in every grade throughout the year.
In Middle School, we have a refocused advising program that in 7th Grade addresses the six core values through the lens of empathy, inclusivity, and diversity. In 8th Grade, we again focus on the core values, though this time through the lens of leadership. This kind of structured focus makes a difference. As one mom of a new student recently reported, “My son just goes on and on about how nice all the 7th graders are at Brentwood. He feels so included already.” Many faculty reported seeing this caring in action at recent retreats where students reached out to one another on their own accord to offer support in making the transition into Brentwood.
In the Upper School, we have our Senior Peer Leaders who work directly with all the 9th graders, establishing caring mentoring relationships along the way. Also, the advisory program regularly addresses these core values—along with consuming more bagels than one could possibly imagine! Some Upper School students tutor Middle Schoolers in the ARC program on a weekly basis. Another valuable facet are the Tuesday Talks at assembly where students address peers on serious topics from their lives and where periodic guests share a powerful story and message with our students. Last week, for instance, former Brentwood parent and board chair, Tom Gordon, talked to the kids about his family’s persecution in Russia, survival in Nazi Germany and their relocation to the U.S. Many faculty members and students are still talking about it. And, of course, throughout the full K-12 we have a strong and consistent service learning program.
This all brings me back to this Tuesday’s Assembly where two of our GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) students talked personally about how the community supported and cared for them, one after he came out to various folks at the school: and the other, an ally, during a particularly difficult period in her life. They commented on the general sense of acceptance, and then gave specific examples of how a range of people—faculty, classmates, and family—through small gestures, made a huge difference in their lives. It was beautiful, and not because it was so extraordinary, but quite the opposite, because at Brentwood this kind of caring is becoming more and more the ordinary.
Have a great weekend.