37 min read

Convocation Speeches, 2021

Sep 30, 2021 10:57:10 AM

New students were welcomed into the Waring community during a Convocation Ceremony on Saturday, September 25.

What does it mean to be a part of the Waring community? Take a look at this year's Convocation Speeches to learn what it means to members of Waring's senior class, faculty, administration, trustees, and parents. 

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Robine Vaneck '85, Associate Head of School, Welcome Remarks

Good morning and welcome to the 2021 Convocation of the Waring School. It is truly wonderful to be here with all of you, in person, today. We have some catching up to do after our smaller virtual ceremony last year, and lots of introductions to make, so let us begin!

Convocation has not always been a landmark day in the annual cycle of the school, and since its inception it has always seemed a bit strange that well after we have had many, many ‘firsts’ (orientation, preseason, camping trip, first day of class, first week of class, etc.) we are finally coming together for the formal opening of the school year. I hope that after today, however, you will all agree that being present in the same space together to welcome new members of the community, and to affirm shared values in act and in word, is an important statement of some of those values in itself, and an event that is well worth the wait.

A testament to the significance of this event in the life of the school is the number of people I see today who have been here in different roles over the years. In addition to the students and families joining us for the first time, scattered amongst us we have alumni, alumni parents and Board members, past and present.

Many of us wear several of these hats, and because we have so many new members to the community under the tent with us today, I decided we should probably take the time for a quick round of ‘stand or wave to be acknowledged’. 

  • Could I please ask all alumni to stand or wave, as you are able, to be acknowledged? 
  • Could I please ask all alumni parents to stand or wave, as you are able, to be acknowledged?
  • Could I please ask all current or past Board Members to stand or wave, as you are able, to be acknowledged?

Thank you to all of you, for your on-going relationship with and service to this community.

I would like to introduce our Parent Group Chairs, Lauren Marano and Calli Towne, who are known to most of you by now I think, and if not yet they soon will be. The parent group plays a valuable role in serving the school in many ways, from organizing speakers for the community, to creating beautiful settings for nearly every large event throughout the year, to making sure we always have delicious food after events such as this; speaking of lunch, a final recognition and thank-you to the Group 4 reps – Nina Gadmer and Elana Peled.- and their co-parent volunteers who decorated the tent and prepared lunch for us this afternoon .

Finally, in the way of introductions, I must bring your attention to my colleagues seated to my left this morning.  The faculty members at Waring bring the depth of their impressive academic and life experience, as well as their affection and respect for their students, to every class they conduct, every game they coach, and every lunch they share. They are creative and inspired as teachers, expending vast amounts of energy in everything they do at school. They amazed me – truly – with their own capacity for growth and adaptation last year when they taught themselves and each other how to teach, tutor and counsel on Zoom, how to manage new and different platforms with names like Padlet and Jamboard, how to collect and correct homework online, and how to inspire and share Art and Music and conversation in the virtual world we inhabited last year. That your work is at the foundation of the community we create was evident during that period of physical isolation and we all owe you a debt of gratitude for the brilliance, care and dedication you demonstrated during that time.

It is also my pleasure to introduce several additions to my group of colleagues who have not had the opportunity to be publicly acknowledged since joining the faculty and staff in September of 2020. I have you listed in little clumps, and in chronological order, so if you could stand as I name you, that would be perfect.

  • Terry Kidd, Isabelle Skillen (Waring class of 2014), and Marianne Durand (who cannot be here today) all joined us in September of 2020, and Marianne and Terry, both new to the school, bravely spent their first seven months, and Terry his whole year, actually, meeting and working with students , not to mention colleagues, exclusively online; 
  • Sara Golden joined us at the start of last year as our Substitute Nurse and subsequently Health teacher, and Kristen Bock joined us as our Learning Support Specialist in October of 2020 – each is also parent to two children at the school;
  • Paul Marquis and Nick Cook joined us as Director of Facilities & Sustainability, and Caretaker respectively, late in 2020 and have had their hands full with the many shifts in our protocols and buildings and classrooms ever since;
  • Joining the administrative team since last March, Bradford Akerman came in as Director of Technology and Innovation just in time to help us get settled in the new building , and Will Potter and Barbara Lucier joined us this past summer as Director of Finance and Administrative Assistant.
  • As this academic year started we welcomed three new teachers to our classrooms: Rebecca Reed, Alison Frye and Chris Brandt. Rebecca is a Tutor and is teaching math and programming; Alison is a Tutor and is teaching Biology as well as Oceans & Climate (a late change but one that is already clearly in her wheelhouse!) ; and Chris is our new Chair of Performing Arts, a role that has too many parts to it to list them all, so I’ll just say that he has been very busy so far this year!
  • And lest you think that just because it’s September and we must be all set...Dan Wellehan is not only a new parent but also a new member of the Core Science Teaching Team; and our most recent addition, Lindsay Goldstein, Waring Class of ’94, will be the school’s new social worker. 

There is obviously much more I could have said about each of these new faculty and staff members, especially those who I have already had the pleasure and honor to work with. We are grateful for and also look forward to the inspiration, creativity and energy that each of you brings to the community. Welcome.

I’ve taken more than my fair share of time, but I cannot close without noting that a lot has happened since our last in-person Convocation. At least on paper, this is a very familiar event for some of us – we know what to do: we order a tent and some chairs, we ask the seniors to write speeches and all the students to regale us with music, we introduce new members of the community and recognize old ones. And yet…not only have we forgotten just how much work it takes to pull it all off, it really isn’t quite the same as it was 2, 3, or 5 years ago. We are under the tent on a Saturday in late September, but the landscape has changed; we have 51 beautiful new faces to welcome, but we are missing some old, familiar ones. We are all changed, somehow, by the experience of the past 18 months - this is a theme emanating from many quarters as this year gets underway, and we are hearkening to that message as the drumbeat of the year seems to pick up its pace. One of our greatest challenges as we move into this year may well be to discern those places and times that tradition still generates what we seek for our students, ourselves, and this community, and those places and times that it could yield to a new and different way of living out our values. 

As for this traditional meeting we are engaged in right now, I feel nothing but joy at being here with all of you – hearing our students’ voices, celebrating our current and past community members, and welcoming our new students and families as we start the year together, in community – that is the tradition of Convocation, after all, and I hope that you will find it to be the joyful coming together that we have all been waiting for.

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Yew-Cheong Tham (P ‘18, P ‘20), Chair of the Board of Trustees, Greeting

Welcome, Waring community and our guests!

There is a lot to celebrate today, but my task this morning is to welcome all the new members to this close-knit community.  We have a large number of students who will be inaugurated today, so I have been asked to be swift in my welcome message.

The clock is already ticking, tick tock, tick tock…  

New students, your time at Waring has also recently started, tick tock, tick tock….  

I would like to invite all of you to join me in a brief activity that is about “time” or “the clock”; the analog kind.  

(At this point, I begin to introduce the activity.) 

Just to be sure that we are all on the same page, in this digital age, let’s all raise our fingers and point at 12 on an imaginary clock. Now point to 1…. 2…..3…..  keep going, keep going, tick tock, tick tock….  Keep doing that. Now we all have a good idea of how the hand goes round the clock. This directional motion is called clockwise.

Now, I would like us to picture the clock above us and use our fingers again to mimic it’s motions.  Tick tock, tick tock, be sure your clock is working clockwise.  Keep the clock running as you slowly lower your clock, while keeping it flat.  Lower, lower, tick tock, tick tock…  Keep your clock running. What do you see, what do you discover?

Our clocks are all going counter clockwise!  The same working clock presents to us differently when we look at it from a different vantage point, from a different place. We can extrapolate from this lesson that considering issues from a different background with different experiences can lead you to view things that are “the same” in very different ways.

To all new students of this community, we not only welcome you, we cherish the ideas, opinions and perspectives you bring with you.  We also want you to be open to listen to others’ perspectives.  As we have discovered in the short exercise, when we look at the same thing from a new perspective, we can make revelations!  So, be relaxed, be engaged, share your perspectives and be open to discoveries.  Your clock at Waring has started, tick tock, tick tock…. Enjoy your journey, we look forward to learning with you!

To all new parents, you will very soon realize that you have not only sent your child or children to Waring, you have also sent yourselves to Waring.  We look forward to seeing you at many events and promise not to work you around the clock…  For many of us parents and past parents our time here seemed like a time when our clocks stood still. We made long lasting friendships and were fully engaged in our children’s education.  We were part of a community that collectively raised our kids. We still are…..  

(At this point, I invite a former parent, Jonathan, to stand in the crowd.)

Me: Jonathan, in your few years at Waring, how many people did you get to know well?

Jonathan: 800…

Me: How many did you share wine with?

Jonathan: 2000!

See, I have made my point.  Welcome, again, new families. We look forward to getting to know you.

To the new faculty members, we are excited to learn from you.  I would like to share something that I was told some years ago, that a great teacher is a teacher of students, not a teacher of Math, Science or other subject matters.  If we place our students at the position 12 of our clock, all the motions we make are part of the journey that will bring us back to our locus, our anchor, the students. 

Welcome to Waring, all!  

Thank you.

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Tim Bakland ’94, Head of School, Tim Averill, faculty member, Yasmine Fraser, faculty member - Presentation of the Richard G. Prouty Award

Dick Prouty, former Waring parent, two-time Chair of the Board of Trustees, expert in experiential and outdoor learning, and mentor to many, exemplifies extraordinary service to Waring School, our community, and the values that the school has represented since 1972.  I will personally be forever indebted to Dick for returning to Waring as Board Chair in 2015, mentoring me as a then new Head of School, and helping to envision so much of Waring’s evolution in these past several years, from our campus improvements, to our efforts in diversity, equity and inclusion.

This year marks a significant change in the award formerly known as the Dick Prouty Award. As Tim Bakland has already indicated, the award goes to a parent/guardian who has given extraordinary service to the Waring School.

With Dick’s enthusiastic support, Waring has chosen to rename the award the Dick and Doris Prouty award. Doris exemplified all of the attributes which this award recognizes, and as Dick’s life partner, she was a major influence on the development of Waring. For those of you who did not have the good fortune to know Doris as many of us did, here are some brief words of praise.

She was the mother of two of our finest graduates: Ila, who graduated in 1987 and Seth, who graduated in 1991. Ila later returned to become chair of our art department from 1999-2006. Ila inherited many of her artistic gifts from Doris, who was herself an extraordinary artist and quilter, practicing and exploring the roots of her African American cultural and family traditions. 

Doris served as the host mother to three of our Chinese students over a five year period, guiding Peter Zhao who learned a great deal from her over his four years in Lanesville.

Doris was a loving critic of Waring, using her strong sense of humor and her keen insight into the needs of others to keep Waring on a course to expand its efforts for diversity and inclusion. 

In a marriage like Dick and Doris shared, it was clear to all of us that the great work that Dick did and for which we created this award was also the result of the love and support and guidance and accountability that Doris provided.

We all miss Doris deeply, but in renaming this award, we are doing our utmost to keep her spirit alive. 

We’re lucky, here at Waring, in our parent body. That’s you, and many others who have preceded you. You’re supportive of your children, you trust us and our program, and you help the place function in so many ways, taking on an enormous range of tasks, from showing up at Admissions Open Houses to chat with prospective families, to running major fundraising events. That’s why, seventeen years ago, we established the Dick Prouty Award, now the the Dick and Doris Prouty Award, to recognize parents who have given outstanding volunteer service to our school. In those seventeen years, it’s been given just seven times, each time to a truly extraordinary parent in this community who has been nominated and voted upon by the faculty. Those seven are Lorraine Pocknett, Sam Otis, Jeff Averick, Alison Brooks, Randi Mitchell, Vicki Lincoln, and Leslie Lyman. I’m particularly lucky, since the last two named, Vicky and Leslie, both had children in my Tutorial. And this year I get to add a third former tutee parent to that worthy group, which makes me particularly happy, as I remember very well how wonderful they all were on a day-to-day, personal level, whether their child was experiencing the rush of success or perhaps going through a more challenging period in their life at Waring. 

Today’s honoree is exuberance and energy personified. This was sometimes a cause for mild embarrassment on the part of his daughter, when she was in her younger years, but as time went by, she grew to be enormously proud of all he did, and of how well-liked he was, by both adults and students at Waring. He loved driving her to school, partly because they could talk about Waring, and partly because it gave him the opportunity to chat with other parents in the circle. She says, “Sometimes even after my first-period class was over, I’d see him still parked over by the bike rack.”

He attended every Open School, even after his daughter graduated in 2018, usually showing up with balloons. It was always a party. He remains someone you can always count upon, obtaining items and sponsorships for the annual Auction, and organizing our first ever Wine Raffle, bringing in thousands of dollars for the school. He was helpful in the new School Building project, among other campus improvements. He’s always welcoming, always looking to make everyone feel included. He’s good at raising money, but people, building community, and making it fun, are his top priority.

Many people probably associate him most with the Great Gatherings: wonderful evenings of conviviality on which he took the lead quite early in their existence, and then spearheaded for five consecutive years. There was the first one I was invited to, when I drove around Gloucester and Rockport for an hour, trying to find his house - I’m quite directionally challenged, and this was when I was clinging stubbornly to my flip phone - and I finally gave up and went home. I wrote a highly apologetic email, and next thing I knew, he had presented me with a GPS so that I’d be able to get to the next one! (Which I did, this time accompanied by three visiting teachers from France, whom he and Sally duly welcomed like long-lost friends.) 

Jonathan Golding is still spreading his love for Waring all around the North Shore. His contagious energy motivates others to join in. It’s a ripple effect, and it’s far broader than just what he’s done. I’m told that various parents, some of whom are perhaps present here today, can tell tales of being “JG’d” into hosting events, and realizing, in a bit of a daze, that they’ve just volunteered to go completely out of their comfort zone. Which is actually rather a lovely thing, since asking students to go outside their comfort zone is such a part of what we do.

His daughter Libby and her friends, of course, were also prime candidates for being “JG’d” - conned into preparing and passing food and drinks at the Great Gatherings, and into helping out in myriad other ways. I heard them as they groaned, in tolerant affection - you know the way teenagers talk about adults sometimes, with just the hint of an eye-roll - “Oh, Jonathan,” they’d say, talking about this slightly crazy man with great fondness.

Oh, Jonathan, would you come up here, please? Sally, would you stand? And Libby - where are you? Would you give us a wave, please?

Jonathan, we love your energy and your spirited promotion of Waring and its culture. I’m greatly honored to present you with the 2021 Dick and Doris Prouty Award for volunteer service to Waring. Congratulations, and thank you!

Post Ceremony Reflections from Jonathan Golding (P'18), 2021 Recipient of the Dick and Doris Prouty Award

As probably the case for many of us, I tend to be a lot smarter after the fact.

Being called up on stage at Convocation caught be me by surprise. My wife Sally and I had plans to go to Toronto during this year’s Convocation, yet we moved dates around because I was under the impression that Sally who had recently stepped down after 7 years on the Board of Trustees, along with our friend and fellow previous board member Priscilla were being acknowledged, and I of course, wanted to be there to supportive. 

As a board member’s spouse I often got the privilege of sitting on the front row, so nothing unusual about that. It wasn’t until Yasmine starting talking that my simple mind grasped what was going on.  So…. it was a treat to be recognized and have my name forever on the newly rechristened Dick & Doris Prouty Award. Dick and I go way back to when I worked for Project Adventure in Savannah Georgia running “Adventure Based Counseling” courses for “youth-at-risk”, and Dick was the CEO of Project Adventure, so that makes it an even more special association.

I’m going to take this moment to expand on my ad-libbed message about becoming an engaged Waring Parent.

Here’s the deal:

The window is short.

My daughter Libby started Waring in 2011 and graduated in 2018.

        Boom …Gone.

She came is as a little girl and left as a poised, compassionate, bright, socially-aware young lady.

I remember that when I told a friend that my daughter was going to the Waring School, he said with a laugh…. “Don’t worry Jonathan, Waring makes up for bad parenting”.

I don’t know about that, yet I do know that being a Waring School parent presents the classic life scenario of “You get out of it what you put into it”…..except in my case, I received far more in return. 

  • Being an engaged parent is true opportunity of “givers gain”.
  • Look for the opportunities to get involved.
  • Where are the voids and holes to be filled?
  • Where are the areas where you can contribute…..and make a positive difference?

And here’s another other thing….

No matter how great an organization, a school, a department… a project, a fund-raiser, a Great Gathering might be….  It can almost always be improved.

The nature is Waring is one of continuous improvement.

And you dear parents have the fresh eyes, talents and skills to do just that.

It was a real treat to be acknowledged and honored at Convocation. The standing ovation was my Tom Cruise Moment. And….it was fabulous to be back on campus and see old friends and buddies and have the opportunity to meet some of the new Waring Parents. As a matter-of-fact, I spoke to several new parents about the idea of hosting a Great Gathering and offered my assistance on design and delivery. I would like to extend my offer to all Waring parents

I don’t think I am alone in believing that the need to socially reconnect after the past 18 months is a strong driver.

And if you want to find out more about hosting a Great Gathering, please contact Laura Biter, or Nina Gadmer, or Peter Pound…. Or myself.

Let’s make things happen!

As Yew Chong reminded us at Convocation….  Tick Tock, Tick, Tock….  The clock is running.

Look forward to seeing you again. 

Mike Kerskerfaculty member, Message from the Waring Community

The Influence Joy Has on Sport

Watching my two year old son Mikey find joy exploring, learning and creating through play has become mine and my wife Vanessa’s favorite pastime as of late. Through my engagement as a soccer coach and administrator in the Tot, youth and collegiate soccer world over the past 30 years and as the Director of Athletics at the Waring school since 2007, I have come to appreciate just how precious an asset joyous play is for our children’s growth. 

As toddlers push into school age children, joyous play, for the most part, typically morphs into organized sports. These various sports provide a vast disparity of experiences for young student athletes, where the joy of sport either continues to be at the foundation of why we play, or is stripped out of the coach’s or organization’s framework, where winning at all costs becomes the foundational basis for play. 

In a 2018 study, Project Play, under the oversight of the Aspen institute, found that only 38% of kids ages 6 to 12 played team sports on a regular basis in this country, down from 45% in 2008. 

Unfortunately, the average child today spends less than three years playing a sport, quitting by age 11, with the major factor being lack of joy. How can you blame these children, with inexperienced youth coaches sending wrong messages, teaching through transactional quotes, such as Vince Lombardi’s, show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser. 

I commend our founders for their vision and foresight on arriving at 35 Standley street. Philip and Josee Waring created a culture here on our campus where sports was and continues to be an extension of the classroom, where transformational teaching and coaching take place. We find joy in learning throughout our studies, we find joy through learning and playing in our athletics program. 

Experience tells us that finding Joy in sports can produce a deeper dive into a student's creativity, offer perspective and create insight into helping to solve complex problems. Joy helps to facilitate a caring and trusting sports culture, while taking risks that can produce large rewards and help student athletes achieve personal and team goals. 

Waring student athletes live into these aforementioned outcomes every day, and they do it in an unconventional way, as we do with many things on this campus (thank goodness). We work to incorporate our student body in general into our sports teams, regardless of their previous experiences before coming to Waring. This physical, mental and emotional benefit to our community is vibrant and lucid, as expressed by Josh Webb’s tutees, who shared with Josh in one of our recent tutorial exercises how excited and grateful they were to be participating in their team sports experiences once again.  

After losing Sarah Malboeuf, our Girls soccer Goalkeeper to graduation, 5 foot 2, Sophia Boyd waltzed into our 2019 preseason approaching me with a big smile on her face and said, “Mike, I know we don’t have a goalkeeper but you should know, I am willing to play if that is what the team may need and if you and Slack feel like I could do it.”  (Time stood still for the next few moments), although we continued walking and talking, while both she and I tried figuring out what my message to her would be, which may or may not have been, we’ll, we’ll we’ll talk about... 

With no previous experience in goal, and our coach willing to take a chance on someone who puts themselves out there to solve a problem for the team and for herself (as Sophia knew she may struggle to get time as a field player), Sophia earned the starting goalkeeper position that year. It wasn’t easy, there was and continues to be a steep learning curve. 

There is just so much I love about this scenario as it captures the essence of what is possible when joy is present in sport. Sophia felt comfortable taking a risk and being about as vulnerable as one could be in this type of circumstance. Sophia felt empowered to problem solve with creativity, self advocacy, a very large smile and showed confidence and sacrifice around team and personal needs. 

And so, for the rest of Sophia Boyd’s life, she can speak about her experience leading and captaining her team as the starting goalkeeper her sophomore and now senior year as she moves through different phases of her life. I can already hear the conversation and picture her new college friends' faces when they hear her say nonchalantly, “oh yeah, I was the starting goalkeeper for my high school varsity soccer team.” Think about the perspectives she can share at those extravagant dinner parties, the conversation starters with future employers and I’m sure someday she can even brag to her children about the big saves she made over and over for her team. 

And so I say to our unconventional community, show me a good loser and I’ll show you a platform that poses challenges for student athletes to learn and grow, while playing the game over and over again, with joy- at its foundation!

Mary Boyd (P’16, P ‘19, P’22), parent, Board of Trustees member, Message from the Waring Community

I love Convocation.   Actually, I love many events at Waring, but Convocation really jazzes me up.   The beginning of  the academic year is ripe with possibility.   Thirteen years ago, we sat in the audience for the first time, and wow.  The performances, the ritual of welcoming new students, and the speeches, especially Paul Hemberger’s talk about how Waring is a Place where Shame comes to Die’, left an indelible mark on Bill and me.  

Convocation was our first true look, as new parents, into the wonderful world of Waring... her culture and traditions.  And it was exciting to anticipate the journey our children would travel here.  Over the years, Waring has not disappointed.  

Thirteen years in, or as my husband likes to say,  21 tuition years,  and our last year as current parents, I would like to say, 

Waring…. I love you.  

How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways….

At Waring, everyone matters.  

It doesn’t matter how big or small you are, your presence is important.  Each person has something of value to bring to the table.  And that’s important because this small school needs everyone to participate and contribute, to push beyond their tried and true comfort zones, and in so doing, discover and enrich unknown talents.

People take care of other people.  

The tutorials and the tutors are integral to the growth and development of the student - it’s a family within the larger community, where one learns how to support and be supported, where one is encouraged to be a better version of themselves.    

Teachers will challenge and push your child academically to engage their deepest learning. They also genuinely care about their health and well being.  When asked about homework for an unwell child, the teacher’s response was, ‘Rest, tea and honey.’

Students help out other students... by teaching writing and math and art,  by helping you remember the forgotten lyrics to the song you’re singing at a soiree,  by working together on big projects, and by looking out for one another.     

Waring welcomes Ideas and innovations.

If you have a thought, and inspiration, it will be heard and valued and quite often be realized.  

Some ideas are  simple, like  ‘We should have Convocation in a tent instead of crowding into the theatre.’  Some advance the curriculum and learning, like ‘We should build a stone labyrinth during the Medieval Studies Course’ and ‘We should start a robotics team.’  Some are more complex, like ‘Our new school building should be a Passive House.’

But perhaps the most challenging idea in recent times,  ‘We can continue to educate our students during the COVID pandemic,’  truly demonstrated the Waring commitment to education, the search for the best solutions , and most critically, the devotion & hard work of our teachers and staff.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much.

‘Waring’ is a surname, a proper noun, and an adjective.  

“Philip and José Waring founded a community of lifelong learners.’

‘My children attend Waring.’  

‘That’s so Waring.’

I like it best in adjective form.  

Traditions, both academic and experiential, are the liminal events of a Waring education.

There are trips and adventures…

  • to Northwoods, where the seniors will plan activities, and you will canoe, and talk about the all school summer reading, and sing songs with Nick Page,
  • Off campus with your tutorial, 
  • to France with your classmates, unless there’s a pandemic

There are projects ...

  • Building a bridge out of popsicle sticks
  • Acting in the 8th grade play
  • Measuring seasonal erosion at Singing Beach
  • Writing, and rewriting, and rewriting essays and research papers. 

There are books, lots of books, sometimes multiple copies of the same book, that will be read and inscribed with marginalia... 

  • The Iliad - of which there are five copies at the Boyd house
  • The Canterbury Tales, which you will read and recite and hear in English and Middle English
  • All Quiet on the Western Front, which will be re-read in the trenches in France
  • And so many more that will affect you.

There will be other big community events….

  • GrandFriends Day 
  • Core Night 
  • Baccalaureate &
  • Commencement

There are poems to be recited, concerts and plays to be performed, debates to be debated, Grand Concours exams to take, and today --- the post Convocation soccer games to be played and to be cheered. 

These traditions create and sustain the core of the Waring education.   But they also create a foundation that allows for growth and expansion, of the student, of the teacher, of the community.  Even though the same books are read, and the same language learned, each repeated experience brings new depth and dimension to the Waring tapestry.    

It has been said that a person never steps in the same river twice.  This is so true.  You will never ride in the same Romulus or Remus, never hear the same Waring speech, and certainly never attend the same Convocation.  But each shared tradition anchors and enriches this community.

Looking out today,  I am seeing people both new and familiar, each at their own point on the Waring path.  I am simultaneously thrilled for your upcoming journeys and sad to be nearing the completion of ours.  

And so, I ask you…

Are you jazzed about the possibilities of the day? The new school year?  Your Waring education?  

I am. 

Noah Schiller, Senior, Class of 2022 Speaker

My first year at Waring I wore the same pair of splatter-painted jeans two to three days a week. I wore a plaid suit to picture day. I was obsessed with how I could stand apart from everyone and be remembered as the best soccer player this school had ever seen. I don’t know where those jeans went, the suit is too small, and I’ve stopped trying to set myself apart on the soccer field. Clearly, a lot has changed. I began to sink into what I could discover, like writing poetry, rather than what I could be remembered for. 

Sophomore year I struggled with my mental health. For the life of me, I couldn’t find something that simply brought me joy. The winter was long, full of too-short days and stress about getting work done on time. By the beginning of March, I was on the verge of a complete breakdown. And then, in the most screwed up way, the universe had given me exactly what I needed- A break. A break from school, from friends, from society as a whole. I began to write every day, writing poems on top of poems, pouring my thoughts into a little moleskine notebook. I needed a deep clean; an in-depth evaluation of everything I had encountered that year. I traveled far and wide exploring my mind, all from the safety of my bedroom. I cleansed myself, using something Waring was able to teach me even through a computer screen. 

I kept writing over the summer, using my poems as a way to debrief my day, until I could eventually see my mental health improving. I knew junior year was going to be a challenge, one that would test my limits more than sophomore year, so I continued writing through that fall. I even began to submit some of my poems for my writing class, fine-tuning older work, allowing me to reevaluate the past year even further. It was one of the first times I had really enjoyed doing homework; I was addicted to writing and re-writing poems, learning more and more about poetry and myself with each one. My poetry got better and better as the year went on, each line gaining more purpose and meaning than the last. 

One night last May, I sat down and began to write my poem for the day, and when I went back and read it I realized something about what I had written that I had never done before. The poem was happy, full of joy and hope. Gallaudet read us a quote by her father last week in humanities, saying you have to be passionate about your subject, and vulnerable about that passion. That’s what I had done. I had successfully nursed myself back to a good place, a happy place, and Waring had shown me how to do that. I didn’t stop then, I still write one every night. Not because I need to, but because it’s something I really enjoy doing, and I feel at ease doing it.

New students, I want you to keep this in mind: you begin your Waring career assuming you will leave your mark here, trying to figure out what that mark will be. Maybe you’ll be the best soccer player Waring has seen, maybe an amazing actor, thinker, artist, writer, mathematician. But as you ponder this, you’ll gain some perspective on what you want to leave behind, and you will realize that Waring isn’t just about leaving your mark. It’s also about Waring leaving its mark on you. There is something here for you, and you may have to put in some work to find it, or it may come when you least expect it, but it will come. And when it does, you’ll look back on the person you are right now, about to sign your name in this book, and that’s the mark you leave, the one everyone leaves. So don’t worry about what you leave behind, you’re about to do that. Instead, ask yourself, what does this strange, beautiful place have in store for you? You may not see it now, but I can guarantee that it is all around you, waiting. 

Carter McDavitt, Senior, Class of 2022 Speaker

I came to Waring in 10th grade, and throughout my time here, which has taken place exclusively in my older teenage years, I've always been able to use some form of charm to squeeze my way out of some troublesome situations with faculty members. Whether that was being caught having lunch on the roof of the atiliere and responding with the clouds looked better up here. Once I was walking through the gym soaked, and plastered with duckweeds hoping to dry off by French next period.My mission was thwarted by a passing Corry looking disappointed that I had just muddied the freshly cleaned gym floor. ¨the pond was doing no good just sitting there¨ 

These quick comments may work with most of the faculty, and with most situations. But there is one space where the charm is seen right through. The health office. Because you can't sugarcoat broken bones. My first time going into the health office I remember Jackie questioning why she had never seen me before not knowing I was a new student that year, she had thought that I was super safe and never needed the constant stop by at the nurse’s. But she was very wrong. It became a daily visit, I would change the water jug, or search for mac and cheese or popsicles. I even helped pilot a remote control helicopter. But while half of my visits were fun-filled, the other half were as Colleen calls it ¨grey hair causing¨ Walking in with holes in my hands, elbows the size of my knees, concussions, broken fibias and elbows. These injuries were what got me into the most trouble at Waring. While at most schools, I wouldn't be able to squeeze by without a detention or two. But at Waring my main fear is the shame from Jackie and Colleen. Prior to my most recent injury, Jackie had told me to give up skateboarding and take up Yoga. I never really entertained the idea, and after telling Jackie that I was going to Boston to skate with some friends after soccer camp, she really tried drilling in the idea that she did not have a good feeling about my trip to the bone-breaking city. Her nurse intuition was very accurate because two hours later I had a crack in my elbow with nothing but grief and regret knowing this was exactly what Jackie said I was going to do. I despaired having to see the health faculty with a massive pink eye sore on my right arm, and as I told you so glaring me down. While the pain from all my injuries was heavy, the pain of knowing I disappointed people who cared about me hurt more. This is the thing about the spell of a school. Waring forces you to decide what and is important to you.. Instead of being nervous about running in the halls, or speaking out of turn, this school teaches you what it really means to get “in trouble” is with your relationships with people. When you come to Waring, people care and see you, you don't want to disappoint them.

Sophia Mustone, Senior, Class of 2022 Speaker

My first convocation I remember sitting where you all sit now. I remember sitting next to Cordelia and listening to the seniors speaking where I stand now. I still remember Gareth Buhl’s words today: “This school will not be the same school by the time you leave. There will be many new faces, many new things to learn, and most importantly new things to teach.” I sat there, astounded by all the seniors' words and thought “Wow, I wish I could do that. Too bad I’ll be leaving.” 

I was traumatized during my first camping trip. I was thrown to the wolves with all these people I didn’t know, barely having done all the school reading and having gotten about 2 hours of sleep a night. I had decided that the stress was simply not worth it, and that my first year would be my last. 

I have had many moments like I did at convocation. Looking at the honors students in my humanities class presenting their projects on Genesis enticed me. Being entranced by the costumes and performance of Secret in the Wings.  Even in Paris on the Seine, I took every second in with gratitude, I was thankful I got this experience... before I left this place forever.

 It wasn’t till I found myself piercing Quin Adam’s ear in the Palumbo’s bathroom and discussing art history as the needle went through that I actually heard what I was saying and I realized that it was all coming together. My hand naturally slipped into the habit of marginalia, the way I saw bodies as measured by my thumb, how I wouldn’t shut up about how God’s gender is truly not defined in the bible to anyone who would listen to my theories. Waring had hooked me into its colony of bees who were all committed to learning but more than just learning, committed to caring.

Now, I won’t pretend that my struggles and apprehension for Waring ended at convocation. It took my whole freshmen and sophomore and part of my junior year to get myself invested. And it wasn’t until Corona when I was torn from the library listening in on Joshua’s humanities class every Tuesday flex, when I wouldn’t be able to go into the atelié to finish my art homework, that it would be a whole year until I would be allowed inside the theatre again. There was something missing in my life, I was itching to get back to this place and see my friends' smiles and minds at work, and the two days a week on campus, stuck in the physics lab all wrapped up in our sleeping bags with the windows open, was not good enough for anyone.

So in reminiscence of Gareth’s words, here are some of my teachings that I want to share with you. For those who are in the position I was, I want to read you a quote from our very own Joshua Fishburn from humanities class just last Tuesday: “The minute you were born, there were eyes on you and hands waiting to hold you.” That’s what Waring is, we all have our eyes on you, which is incredibly overwhelming I know, but remember that our hands are extended to you, waiting to catch you. You will find yourself bewildered by the amount you can get done when you care about others, and you yourself are cared for. So let us catch you, watch you and care for you. We can’t wait to see what you do. 

Tim Bakland '94, Head of School, Remarks

New and returning students and families, faculty, trustees, parents, alumni and friends, welcome.

In the last couple weeks, I have been thinking of all of us, and new students and families especially, as I have been attending my newly resumed Cantata Singers chorus rehearsals on Tuesday nights in Boston… the first since 2020 and the onset of the pandemic. I have sung with Cantata Singers since 2003, carving out an evening each week to drive into town for rehearsal, enjoying the several exhilarating—if often taxing— concert runs each year, with all of those seasons under the direction of the same, long-tenured conductor, David Hoose. It was during an evening dress-rehearsal in March of 2020—for a performance of the ethereal Fauré Requiem—when David Hoose stopped the rehearsal after receiving a message from off-stage and announced to the chorus that our March concert would be cancelled due to rising COVID-19 cases in Boston. As it turned out, we had sung through the Fauré Requiem with the orchestra for the first and last time that evening. A few days later, during that same March break of 2020, Waring School — along with most of the rest of the world around us—made the decision to go fully online (at that point, we planned to be online for 2 weeks!).  Whether you were here at that time, or would join us for last year’s hybrid school year, or you are among the 46 students who joined or rejoined us this year, you know all too well what the next 18 months would mean for school and life as we know it. As far as my Cantata Singers world:  little did we know that night in 2020 that our in-person singing would cease for 18 months, that several singers would move away from the area over that time, and that Maestro David Hoose would never conduct another in-person Cantata Singers concert before his official retirement this past spring. 

Over these past two weeks, rehearsals with Cantata Singers have resumed and some 40 of us adults have returned with masks and vaccination cards, ready to sing. We sit distanced in odd configurations, we struggle to hear those across the room through face shields, we have quietly lost—without fitting ceremony—an extraordinary conductor of nearly 40 years; and yet, in a core of singers  that remains, and in the energizing new members and interim conductors, we embark upon this season with a purpose both new and old, necessarily reinventing an experience, while tapping into our deepest roots as an organization. 

When during the first rehearsal back with the chorus, we opened our scores to read the poetry upon which this season’s music was set, I was intrigued to find the work of George Herbert, poet from centuries ago, which included his two stanza piece entitled “Oak”, where Herbert reminds us that “Storms make the oak grow deeper roots.”  

So with mixed emotions, with touches of smiles and tears, I found myself in this chorus rehearsal—masked among new and old friends, confronted with a poem so beautifully apt for the moment—and this just days after Waring’s long-awaited return to Camping Trip where we all experienced theses ranges of emotion, excitement and reflection.

Participating in Cantata Singers has been a great personal joy for me; it is both a very separate experience from the busy Waring life, and often parallels and deepens my experience here at Waring.

As an example: The conductor I just spoke of — in his final words to the chorus upon retirement— looked back on the years of musicians and composers and and audiences, friends, and students he had worked with, theorizing on the ways one can approach the enterprise of music-making, from the conceiving and composing of a work, to the interpreting and performing of the music, and even the listening and appreciating of music. David spoke of the many musicians and organizations who tend to focus on the WHAT and WHO and WHERE and WHEN behind the music; and the more sophisticated musicians and organizations who also contemplate the HOW of the experience.

The great musicians and organizations, David argued, go well beyond any of this and, at their best, will venture into the world of WHY. Why art? Why music? Why learning? Why sing in an ensemble? Why perform?  Whether or not Cantata Singers has always achieved this level of thinking and being, David insisted that it will be our willingness to ask WHY that will set us apart as a chorus for the years and decades to come.

New and returning students and families: I cannot think of a more apt charge for Waring as we embark on a new school year.  The WHATS and WHOS and WHENS and WHERES of Waring — our schedules, the books we read, the names we know and love, the Robines and Antons, the Georgias, Jacks, Katherines, Claires, Noahs and Julians-- the syllabi, the rooms and places and old desks and events and soccer games and debate and robotics tournaments and theatrical productions….  these are essential, exhilarating components of our daily experience at Waring. The HOWS — how to learn French immersively without a word of English, how to grow in art by sketching first in black and white, how to complement the natural sciences with robotics and programming, how to make up for Zoom-knowledge-gaps in Math or expository writing skills, how to start the college search while remaining here in the moment, how to undertake meaningful work in the areas of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice and Antiracism, how to be a good community member, colleague, friend -- these too are essential parts of program and ethic.

And yet, as I was reminded by that long-tenured conductor of Cantata Singers upon his retirement, the WHATS and HOWS will lack direction and purpose when there is no WHY.

Why School?  Why Waring? So What?

And no, new and returning families, this is not a segue into a discourse on Why School and Why Waring.  Not only would that be counterproductive (a single person cannot dictate any one and only answer to such a question), but it also runs contrary to the very purpose of asking Why—which I believe necessitates full engagement of a community, across all ages and grades and even generations. Why Waring is larger than any of us, individually; and more important than any one answer is the willingness to entertain the question with boundless curiosity.

Along these lines, an old friend and current Waring parent recently sent me a September blog entry from NYT bestselling author and entrepreneur, Seth Godin who expresses bewilderment at how even after the lessons learned during pandemic lockdowneven after the storms that threatened to uproot us, so many schools are falling back on outdated modes of education with rigid, even obsolete curricula and teaching practice. 

In the blog post, Godin proposes his own take on school reimagined, and I’ll read to you a few of his sample class titles and descriptions:  

History and propaganda–what happened and how we talk about it. More why than when. 

Citizenship–Participating, leading, asking and answering good questions, as a voter, but also as a participant in any organization.  

Statistics–seeing the world around us clearly and understanding nuance. Realizing that everyone and everything doesn’t fit into a simple box.  

The scientific method–understanding what we know and figuring out how to discover the next thing. Learning to do the reading and show your work. 

Real skills–Hard to measure things like honesty, perseverance, empathy, keeping promises, trust, charisma, curiosity, problem solving and humor. 

Communication–listening and speaking, reading and writing, presentations, critical examination and empathy. What happens when we realize that no one is exactly like us?  

Art–expressing yourself with passion and consistency and a point of view; not because it’s your job, but because you can and because it matters. 

Games–finite and infinite, [card games], algorithms, business structures, interpersonal relationships, negotiation, why they work and when they don’t.” (Godin, 2021)

I hope some of this resonates with us -- no matter how new or veteran we are at Waring. There is not much “what, when, where or who” in Godin’s reimagined school, but there is a good deal of how, and it is all driven by “why and what matters most”. 

I’ll leave off with an admission to you — which I’m quite certain is not the recommended way to conclude a set of remarks.

I will confess that there was no single point in time when I arrived at a hard and fast answer to the Why Waring question, and that my own personal view on this has actually changed over time.  15 or 20 years ago, as an alumnus and teacher in early career, I would have focused on what I thought Waring was, and had been and was supposed to keep being.  I would have cited my favorite books and units, or the importance of maintaining what was in my mind so precious about Waring.  Now years later, through continued engagement and interaction and discussion with new generations of students and faculty and families and Trustees and alumni, I see Waring’s purpose and callingour Why — as expanding well beyond the WHATS and HOWS of this place (and yes, these things are important and many are precious), and into a larger purpose and calling; We learn to act for the common goodnot only as individuals in this school community, but for a greater good, well beyond this campus, well beyond today. Waring students have been key drivers in this evolution of Waring’s Why.  Both change, and the deepening of roots.

As I have learned through my Cantata Singers experience through the pandemic: there is no more important time than after a storm has set in to ask the most essential questions of ourselves.

As we embark upon the rest of this year—through poetry and problem-sets, Soirées and soccer practice, and the countless interactions we’ll have together masked and un-masked, may we not for a moment take for granted the marvels of what matters most.

Click here to see more photos of the ceremony.

Laura Bitler
Written by Laura Bitler

Laura is Waring School's Director of Advancement. She earned BA degrees in Psychology and Education from Wheaton College and a M.Ed degree in Education from Boston University. In the summer, Laura loves to water ski on Chebacco Lake in Essex. Laura joined Waring in 2016.