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Craig’s Blog

Politics Over Pumpkin Pie

By Craig Gemmell
Head of School

Thanksgiving is coming! Tuesday evening we had our Thanksgiving dinner: a priceless boarding school tradition.  We ate heartily and wrote thank you cards between courses.  What a sight to see my nine dinner companions hunched over and writing in earnest!  Then as we began our dessert, Haitham, a student from Oman, some 7000 miles away from Wolfeboro, spoke to the packed Estabrook in the latest installment of “senior speaks.” With pride and gratitude, he talked about Oman’s king Qaboos bin Said al Said, who has transformed Oman over the past five decades into a place of peace and prosperity by endlessly acting with love. In the wildly diverse crowd with students from 27 countries, even the most fidgety students were rapt. Politics over pumpkin pie. Continue reading “Politics Over Pumpkin Pie”

Navigating Family Weekend

By Nancy Hughes
English Teacher

I can only conjure two memories from my Parents’ Weekends when I was in high school. The first is more vague than the second. My parents had arranged a dinner in Hartford, close to where we lived, for my friend and her parents who were from South Carolina. Two other girls whose parents were unable to attend the weekend joined us as well. I remember feeling happy that my parents were close and thus could be with me and proud that my parents were able to host a family from South Carolina, a place that seemed to me – someone who had never been to the South – almost a foreign land. (I also remember my mother’s commenting to me quietly after the meal about how awkwardly my friend held her fork.) Continue reading “Navigating Family Weekend”

On Connection

By Craig Gemmell
Head of School

First community dinner Thursday night was a sight to behold.

Once everyone found their seats, Bret Barnett encouraged kids to put away cell phones and be present. Reverend Gina Finnochario from the Congregational Church bordering campus followed up with an extemporaneous, ecumenical blessing so beautiful that it took our collective breath away.

The dining hall seemed to read the tea leaves perfectly on this cool fall evening and answered with comfort food: chicken pot pie, green beans, lemonade. Perfect. Continue reading “On Connection”

Tightening the Net

 

By Craig Gemmell
Head of School

Opening weekend at boarding school inspires more emotion than reality TV: joy, despair, stress, enthusiasm, fatigue, amity, enmity. Life’s great drama writ small; surely worth the wait after the humidity of August and butterflies of Labor Day weekend. Continue reading “Tightening the Net”

Listening

By Craig Gemmell
Head of School

After a day of rain and snow on campus, the GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) met at Lord House on Monday evening. Sitting in the comfortable bay window looking out on Main Street, students and faculty talked about fostering an inclusive school climate. Tuesday’s senior Lobster Bake, a tradition sponsored by Alexis Pappas ’88, brought successful tech entrepreneur Nate Drouin ‘10 back to campus. Nate talked to students with tremendous legitimacy about the virtue of finding a passion and figuring out how to learn what is needed in its pursuit. Wednesday night was a double bill: a faculty discussion about inclusion after dinner followed by a meeting just south of campus, at All-Saints’ Church, to hear about plans for a homeless shelter in Wolfeboro. All interesting and provocative topics. Many viewpoints, ideologies, agendas, stories, realities. I listened intently.

Continue reading “Listening”

Rites of Spring

By Craig Gemmell
Head of School

Winter’s snow only a memory, excepting the residual white fingers slowly retreating up the slopes of Gunstock Ski Area across the lake. Early yesterday morning Lamb Green was frosty, and I left footprints in the grass, yet temps had soared to the mid-seventies by the time sailors and rowers made their way to the docks in the afternoon. Seniors cluster in eddies of conversation on their patio; I wore shorts last night after the school day had ended. Culminating and celebratory events fill the calendar, prom-posals are happening at a frenzied rate (Jake and Casey are going together if you haven’t gotten the memo), and the project period approaches quickly. Spring is here in all its mayhem.

Continue reading “Rites of Spring”

Story Time

By Craig Gemmell
Head of School

8 a.m. last Thursday and Sarah Hunt’s junior English class is thick into Gatsby. I am trying to be invisible; I’m there to learn what I can about Brewster’s academic program in the latest of my string of team visits. She’s terrific – kids respond to her and book with aplomb. They break up into STAD (student team achievement divisions) groups 10 minutes in and their job is to develop a sense of the theme of chapters four and five.

Continue reading “Story Time”

Back to School

By Craig Gemmell
Head of School

I taught nearly continuously for 27 school years before arriving at Brewster in July. Something like 5,000 days, perhaps 20,000 classes in total. I went cold turkey on July 1: I talked about animal energetics and human impact on the biosphere last year, energy budgets and personnel decisions now. What a difference a year makes.

I’m not wary about the work I do – I know deep down it is important because it lets the real work happen in the classrooms, the dining hall, on the playing fields, in the dorms – and I have no regrets. Like an athlete who has been sidelined, I still want to watch the game, yet caution has prevailed because my scientific training, owing at least in part to Heisenberg’s work, taught me long ago that the observer influences the system and becomes an unwitting variable, especially when the observer is the head of school and observation is perceived as evaluation.

Continue reading “Back to School”

The Real Work

By Craig Gemmell
Head of School

It’s Friday: the final two days of a seven-day boarding school week stretch before me. I’ve been scrambling because members of Brewster’s Board of Trustees are driving and flying from points near and far for a stretch of weekend meetings.

I’ve pored over the budget for weeks, prepared hours of content to shape the meetings and worried over details. I know I should be fretful. I won’t be able to answer every question perfectly and sweat my way through the challenging stretches. But I’m not all that wound up about the meetings because tonight we’re honoring the legacy of Bob and Shirley Richardson and I’m distracted. Though Bob passed away in 2014, Shirley will be with us.

I want to do right by them and have thought much about what they mean to this place — and in the process my thinking has spiraled from Bob and Shirley to Brewster to the very act of teaching and, ultimately, to the really big questions.
Continue reading “The Real Work”

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