What School Should Be

Posted by James Rainey - 24 August, 2017

Lower School - 4300008 (1).jpgWe have enjoyed some wonderful first weeks of school this year at Randolph and we are looking forward to many, many more as we endeavor to educate your children and work in partnership with you.

As I noted in my letter to parents at the end of July, we will continue this school year to execute our strategic plan, formally approved by the Board of Trustees one year ago, which commits Randolph

  • to identifying and supporting the learning needs – and thus dignifying the intellectual, individual, and social uniqueness – of every student in our care; and
  • to challenging every student to pursue independent work and educational experiences and to prepare for real-world challenges and opportunities beyond our doors.

IDEA PATH-wordsonly.jpgWe are embracing this year the Randolph School Idea Path, an iterative approach to learning that applies across grade levels, curricular disciplines, and even co-curricular programs, and whose constituent processes – “ask,” “imagine,” “plan,” “create,” “share,” and “improve” – simply articulate habits of critical thinking and inquiry that are long-standing hallmarks of a Randolph education, and that are transferable to higher educational and professional settings.

Real life is not a matter of standardization and memorization and regurgitation, and neither is real learning.

Real life is not a matter of standardization and memorization and regurgitation, and neither is real learning.

And if you are wondering what all this talk about real life has to do with your seven- or seventeen-year-olds, please allow me to speak out of both sides of my mouth: Never let them grow up! And please know that when they do grow up, we are committed to giving them the best possible tools for doing so.

We insist at Randolph on dignifying the intellectual, individual, and social uniqueness of every student in our care. We also insist that our students dignify each other’s intellectual, individual, and social uniqueness.

Two weeks ago, a former Google employee made news by suggesting that men as a group are biologically superior to women as a group in math, science, and technology. Two weekends ago, protesters in Charlottesville, in my home state of Virginia, assembled to proclaim that white people as a group are biologically superior to other groups.

At Randolph School, we strengthen our community every day by dignifying every member of it, and by insisting that every member of it dignify every other member of it. We identify the traits and traditions that make each of us unique, and we seek to be understood, and we seek to understand. We seek to love one another at Randolph, not despite our differences but with respect for – and in celebration of – our differences.

Sorting Ceremony - 4311011.jpgIn my summer letter to you, I also referred to the concept of institutional thickness as described by David Brooks. “Some organizations are thick, and some are thin,” he says. “Some leave a mark on you, and some you pass through with scarcely a memory.” We aspire to be a thick institution at Randolph, to leave a defining and empowering mark on the students in our care. Brooks describes a thick organization as a place where “selfishness and selflessness marry.” To be treated with dignity, and treat others with dignity, as we learn and grow. This is what school can be. This is what school should be. 

To be treated with dignity, and treat others with dignity, as we learn and grow. This is what school can be. This is what school should be. 

So about that new logo…. There is no new logo. There is, however, an active effort on our part, in accordance with the strategic plan, to brand and communicate the value of a Randolph education as clearly and as confidently as we can – to tell our story to anyone who will listen, and to entice more people to listen. This effort will, of necessity, entail consideration of our visual identity: the darkness or lightness of our blue and gray; the message of our tagline; the shape of our font; and the design of our primary and athletic logos. This summer we simply got ahead of ourselves. We did not realize the depth of attachment in our community to the current primary logo – what we call the “R shield” design that is familiar to you all – and when we did realize this depth of attachment, we let that sentiment inform us.

Moving forward, we will work closely with the Board of Trustees and the Randolph Community Network (RCN), leadership as we consider changes to Randolph’s visual identity. I cannot promise that it will not change, but I can promise broader participation in and better communication of any changes that do transpire. I would encourage you, as our branding process unfolds, to communicate any concerns that you may have directly to us at the School. My phone line and my door are always open to you.

I am also always keen to discuss books and the ideas they contain. Please consider joining one of the Community Book Discussions I will be hosting throughout the year. We will read and talk about topics that impact our society, our work with students, and the world for which we are preparing them. You can see the selections and express your interest here.

I look forward to continued conversation with you on how we can partner together to build a thick institution that supports, transforms, and celebrates each of the students we are privileged to serve.

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Topics: reading, Head of School, parent partnership


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