Good morning and welcome. I am Fay Shutzer. I am the president of the Board of Trustees and an alumna from the class of 1965. When mentioning my year of graduation, I often joke, “Don’t do the math,” and today it is especially relevant, because I am going to tell a story about math in just a minute. So hang on to that thought, while you don’t do the math.
It is hard to believe that we are gathered together, anticipating the first day of classes although the weather tells us it is still summer. This year we welcome 100 new students, 95 of them in our 9th-grade class. So today may be the first day at CA for many of you, but you will gather many times in this space over the course of the year. I hope you will feel increasingly comfortable with each visit. For those who have been here before, whether for just a year, or for a “math-defying” number of years like me, welcome back. It is good to be together again.
So the story I promised: It starts on a warm September day at Concord Academy, a very long time ago. The air was still thick with summer heat, the classroom crowded with 16 girls, seated at individual desks, arranged in rows. The teacher, Mrs. Coogan, was breathless from the heat and exertion. She spoke rapidly, in a high voice that was a difficult to understand. Perhaps that was a hint of the problem. She was handing back geometry tests, the first tests of the semester. Now let me stop to say I was a pretty good student when I came to CA, at least good enough to get in, and math had never been a problem.
As Mrs. C walked up and down the rows, she sighed as she dropped a paper in front of each student. She spoke in her somewhat hard-to-follow voice: … “some of you didn’t understand the lesson, apparently.” Was that a clue? I wondered. And then, my paper was in front of me. I saw my name and some writing and red ink and then, as I scrolled to the bottom of the page, I saw only these two words: “See me!”
So why am I telling you this story? Well, not just because I survived it. And not just because no one thought badly of me or actually even really noticed that I hadn’t grasped the concepts of geometry. But because, surprisingly to my 15-year-old self, the dreaded words “See me” turned out to be far from a reprimand. Mrs. C wrote those words to me, and to all the others like me who thought geometry was a foreign language, in order to offer support and help. They were an invitation to conversation, collaboration, and in my case, explanation. Those two simple words turned out to be an invitation that changed how I thought about CA — and for that matter, about education.
I had come from a school where I was afraid to be wrong. I always needed to have the right answer, but I was discovering that, at CA, education was — and certainly still is —a shared and supportive exploration of ideas. You cannot get to “right” if you are afraid to be wrong, or if you are afraid to show you don’t know and are unwilling to be vulnerable and to ask for help. And who says “right” is the actual destination you want, anyway? Though I suggest you don’t quote me on that on your next math test! I can’t promise how well it will go over.
Concord Academy’s mission statement, which was newly revised a few months ago, talks about “love of learning.” In those early weeks of school, I certainly didn’t love learning geometry, but ultimately, once I cracked the code and understood what it was about, I really did. An environment that fosters love of learning needs to build trust and confidence, and a sense of safety in the process. You will find that here, just as I did. I am confident of that.
So whether you are about to start your first CA class, or you have been here for a while, don’t be afraid to encounter “See me” written at the bottom of a paper. It is an opportunity and an invitation. In fact, don’t be afraid to ask your teachers, “Can I see you?” You too can start the conversation, and extend the invitation. I know your teachers will welcome that. Remember, CA is a place for ideas to take shape and grow. You don’t have to have it all figured out. Not even the seniors. This is a place to learn — to learn about yourself and others, about content in class, about social justice, about the environment, and about the world. You have a truly incredible faculty and staff to partner with you and guide you. This is a place, a community, in which we want to see you and for you to truly be seen. We mean that. Sincerely.
So once again, welcome to all: students, faculty and staff, and the entire CA community.
Let’s make it a great year!
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Reaffirming Concord Academy’s core values, the school’s renewed mission statement calls on everyone to engage. See what learning looks like on campus today and how alumnae/i Eric Nguyen ’00, Izzy Lowell ’98, Tony Patt ’83, and Amy Longsworth ’76 are working to create a more just and sustainable world.
Concord Academy has become one of the first independent schools in the greater Boston area to adopt a holistic campus sustainability plan. Approved by the Board of Trustees in the spring, the plan defines targets in the categories of food, greenhouse gas reduction, building operations, and institutional support that the school has pledged to meet by its centennial in 2022.
Please remember that day students who stay on campus for study hall must adhere to the following guidelines:
If they are here from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. on a weeknight, they must be studying, and doing so in the space designated for their grade.
- If they are a 9th grader, they must sign in and sign out with the proctor in the Ransome Room of the MAC (or “chip in” using Boardingware in that location).*
- If they are a 10th grader, they must sign in and sign out with the proctor in the Stu-Fac (or “chip in” using Boardingware in that location).
- If they are an 11th or 12th grader, they must sign in and sign out with the proctor in the library (or “chip in” using Boardingware in one of the approved locations).
Please know that we do not allow students (day or boarding) to use the SHAC during study hall hours. We are trying to protect this time for academic work.
*On nights when we expect a large number of day students to be on campus due to a parent event, we often ask the 9th grade day students to use the Great Room, as the Ransome Room can only hold a few extra bodies on any given night. Students are informed of this in an email from the Student Life Office.