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Student Engagement

One of the many experiences I will miss when I retire from Brearley is speaking to parents of admission applicants with Ms. Zimmermann, Head of the Lower School. In those “fireside chats,” we talk about our decisions to come to Brearley, as well as what makes this such a special school. It’s a joy to share with prospective families the values of our community and how and why it has remained true to its mission to educate girls of adventurous intellect and diverse backgrounds to think critically and creatively while acting with courage and integrity. 

There are a few key ideas we highlight in every session: Our history as a revolutionary institution for the education and empowerment of girls; the faculty’s responsibility for molding and shaping the curriculum; the mission of the School to prepare alumnae to serve the greater good; and the expectation that Brearley families will commit to a community based in mutual concern, meaning care for others in addition to their own immediate circles. At a time when we are relentlessly buffeted by divisive cultural crosscurrents, these principles and practices continue to inspire exceptional student engagement.  

There is an unusually high sense of possibility and positivity in and outside the classroom at Brearley this year. I say this not to minimize the impact of external events on our community members, but to highlight how schools such as ours can provide a balance to the hopelessness we often feel when reading the paper or consuming social media. I feel personally restored by our students’ deep engagement in their studies and activities, and I know that my colleagues feel the same. If you listened to our Middle and Upper School orchestras at Carnegie Hall, or were in the audience for the US performance of The Prom, or watched one of our athletic games or dance shows this year, you have a sense of the love of learning and camaraderie that our faculty and staff see in class every day. Their extraordinary teaching, mentorship and guidance sustains and deepens students’ learning at a time when it would otherwise be hard for them to focus. 

The magnetism of this community connects us to one another and before we know it, we’re swooped up into a commitment to something greater than ourselves. I believe this is an essential part of creating a strong, responsive and resilient Brearley that sustains all of us during difficult times. 

There is another “force” for good that I’d like to recognize at this moment—our seniors. I am grateful for their thoughtful and principled leadership and wish them well on their final set of exams. We are excited to see the new ways they will contribute to our community during senior spring when they take on exciting internships in and outside of school, as well as mini classes with some of their favorite teachers. As they look forward to their lives beyond the walls of this school, I know that they will be fortified by the relationships they formed here and the strength and resilience of our community. 

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