Upper School Director's Blog: February 2020

Recently a GSB alumnus, friend, and supporter of the school gave me two books that I have been reading through the month of February.
The first is The Color of Law, which begins at the turn of the last century and traces the history of red-lining and other housing discrimination practices in America—up through both world wars and on through the seventies. It outlines both the historical problem of segregation, as well as potential solutions. It is a fascinating, frustrating look at how the concept of space was used to create social, financial, legal, and psychological barriers in our country.

The other book is Blending Leadership, a treatise and practical manual for combining digital and interpersonal leadership in schools. It proposes, among other things, that good leaders take as much care with digital spaces as they do with physical and social-emotional spaces; that good leadership means clearing the way, minding the gaps, and opening comfortable arenas for ideas.

Along with these books, I recently have been reading about a motorcycle safety system called multi-directional impact protection, or MIPS, which allows slippage between helmet and head to reduce the transfer of impact forces. For a long time, we built helmets on the idea of keeping the skull solidly safe. It turns out that having the ability to rotate is greater protection than standing still.

On the surface, these three texts appear to be very different, but all of them reveal a great truth, which is the importance of having room to move. Whether it be space to build or buy a home without retribution, space to work on the next big idea, or space to turn away from destructive forces, we need ample room to make our lives better.

At this point, you may wonder, "What does this have to do with Gill St. Bernard's?" Amidst our constant striving for academic excellence, we always offer wiggle room—with silly fun like Spirit Week's ping pong tournaments, Animoji Idol, or Mr. GSB pageant, serious fan fests like the hockey championship and basketball playoffs, or the boisterous diversion of our robotics meets.  We offer choice and balance in curriculum. We even celebrate the simple everyday joy of literal, physical movement from place to place on our campus.

However, there is something greater at stake here. Our society has seen an increase in incidents where young people act against themselves with grave consequences—often because they feel they have no other choice, no other path, no room to move or breathe. As a community, we can constantly remind our young people that they indeed have room to begin again, to start a different path, to make mistakes, turn to face them, and strike out in new directions even when things do not go as planned. Let us remember and remind our children of this truth. Our legacy, our leadership, and our lives may depend on it.
Gill St. Bernard’s is a private, coeducational day school for students age three through grade 12, located in suburban New Jersey. Each of the three school divisions provides a rigorous, meaningful, and age-appropriate curriculum, and all students benefit from the environmental learning opportunities that exist on our 208-acre campus.