The following post is the text of my remarks at Brimmer’s Opening Convocation on Monday, September 11, 2017.
Good Morning Students, Faculty, and Administration,
It is great to see so many former Lower School students sitting on the stage at the start of their senior year!
I would like to start by sharing a poem that may help you understand how to be a thinker or a doer.
All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten
by Robert Fulghum
Most of what I really need
To know about how to live
And what to do and how to be
I learned in kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top
Of the graduate school mountain,
But there in the sandpile at Sunday school.
These are the things I learned:
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life –
Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world,
Watch out for traffic,
Hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.
Yes, it all begins in Lower School; for a number of you on this stage, it started in Pre-K with Mrs. Bos and Mrs. Bentley! Whether you started in Pre-K or Kindergarten here at Brimmer or at another school, you took the first steps to becoming thinkers and doers in those early grades. Early Childhood classrooms have always been innovation spaces in which students have enjoyed tinkering.
I want to thank the fourth-grade teachers for giving me a leg up on an example of inspiring thinkers and doers. They have created a Human Body Arm Design unit in
which the students are thinkers as they research how an arm works and then make plans using their acquired knowledge to build a movable arm. The doers use the design process to actually create an arm that works and can pick up an object. The students learn the importance of being both thinkers and doers and as importantly collaborators.
When I asked the fifth-grade teachers for an example of how they inspire thinkers and doers, they were quick to point to the Fifth Grade Capstone Exhibition and said that it challenges the thinkers to do and the doers to think! The students need to identify how a person, a group of people, or an event demonstrates “Strength of Character,” which takes a lot of thought, and those of you who attended Brimmer in Fifth Grade have to remember being doers completing your written and visual components while honing your three- to five-minute oral presentation.
Finally, I always feel that the faculty tries to mirror what we want our students to do, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I remember one time when the Lower School faculty, as part of our Critical Friends’ work, was asked to create a game. We were given a ping-pong ball and a table space, and we were told that the game we developed could be anything we liked, except it could not be anything like table tennis! Well, trying not to make a long story longer, we had a lot of thinkers in the group and the discussion regarding rules went on and on and on. Finally, one person said, “Let’s stop talking about what we want the game to look like, and let’s get up and try playing it!” I’ll let you all figure out who the doer was…
As this year progresses, be thinkers or doers or better yet, be both!