Several years ago English teacher Patrick Green addressed the full faculty and made an obvious, but sometimes under-appreciated, point: “This is,” he said, “our school.” It’s akin to another elemental truth that sometimes eludes us: “Schools are for kids, not for us.”
In a large, sprawling K-12 school on two campuses with three divisions, we can sometimes forget that the magic and the meaning of the place has everything to do with community and the way we feel about being “known, challenged, and loved” in a place that’s so much bigger than we are.
Last week we hosted a number of community events that underscore why Randolph matters and how it’s never mattered more. On Tuesday evening the Athletics Department hosted the second annual “Blue Crew” event, a time designed for K-2 students on the Drake Campus to come to the Garth Campus to enjoy hot dogs with the varsity football players, hear about the upcoming season, and take away a jersey to wear to the games on Friday evening. When our youngest students get connected with our oldest students, we’re reminded that they each benefit immensely from these relationships and this is a special school community.
On Wednesday we had our second late start for all students (we’ve never been more popular!) and early start for all K-12 faculty so that we can meet collaboratively to invest even more in the teaching and learning climate that makes Randolph great. That evening we hosted Upper School Parent Night, concluding these open houses for parents as we lift the veil and point to the extraordinary opportunities we hope every child will seize this year. We shared an essential question we’re addressing on the faculty this year: “How will your students know they are learning, and how will we communicate their learning to the Randolph community and beyond?” These evenings get us re-connected to each other, and remind us all that the parent-teacher partnership makes Randolph special and keeps this the kind of school where teachers are free to teach and students are free to learn.
On Friday we hosted one of the biggest advancement events of the year, Randolph’s first home football game. Many families came early for dinner and the Raider Rally. Our youngest students led cheers with our varsity cheerleaders. Kindergartners got re-connected with the senior buddies. Little boys wore jerseys with their senior buddy’s name etched on the back. The band (the largest in the history of the School, by the way) was in mid-season form. Upper School choristers sang the National Anthem. If you were to wonder how the arts and athletics get along at Randolph, you'd know if you were on campus last Friday evening.
The atmosphere was electric. It helped for sure that our boys played well and won the game handily, but I’m equally drawn to the fact that we were there together, celebrating the community, being reminded that “this is our school.” At halftime we honored the boys cross country team for having won its eighth consecutive state championship last November and the girls soccer team for their state title last spring. I saw parents of children from every division I hadn’t seen all summer, and young alumni I hadn’t seen since graduation. And after the game the players gathered in front of the student body and continued a new tradition of joining in the singing of Randolph’s alma mater, no matter what the final score.
Such magical moments don’t happen every day, but they are emblematic of what this place means to so many of us. It’s about the relationships, and when we live like that every day (on the days when the scoreboard looks very different or we come up short in the classroom or struggle with a friendship), we make more meaning of our learning and draw more purpose from this place. We shouldn’t forget that schools are for kids, but we should be reminded that we’re all in this together and we’re all called upon to be a learner for life.