By Linda Pryor, Executive Director, The Center for Mission & Academics
As we move swiftly to the end of the school year, making plans to celebrate our Class of 2021 graduates, we cannot help but think about our “Portrait of a Brookfield Academy Graduate
.” The Portrait is a description of the characteristics that have been taught, cultivated, and celebrated for each of our students during their BA journey. This document, written by the faculty, inspires us as we begin our school year, and fills us with pride as our graduates cross the stage and receive their diplomas each May. Given this year of COVID-19 and the many changes we have endured, tweaks to our course of action at BA might be considered acceptable -- including shifted goals and reduced expectations. Some might suggest that it’s okay to look for less.
I am not convinced.
This mindset of minimizing expectations has occurred under many circumstances over the past year among the facets of our daily lives and in some cases, it has been needed. But when considering the education of our students -- think about this excerpt from our Portrait: “Our graduates will demonstrate confidence and enthusiasm in grappling with the difficulties inherent in any worthy activity.”
We know that we grow in these habits of character more by taking actions than by talking -- going after challenges, win or lose, and taking what comes with our best effort. These are incredible learning opportunities. The challenges and the many changes our students managed throughout this year, actually provided great moments for growing and strengthening their resourcefulness and endurance.
Our students learned by doing.
The Portrait says that our graduates will have a “Grasp of the fact that each individual alone determines the force of character and personality which will be brought to bear throughout life while striving to cultivate the habits of ordinary goodness and service toward others.”
Our students learned that despite any situations that occurred around them, they still had control of their own choices. This is an important lesson we have always worked to instill in every classroom, in the halls, on the athletic fields, and within our community. COVID-19 happened, yes, but one could argue the “doing” of cultivating these habits -- over and over with each new pandemic challenge -- gave students an extraordinary collection of opportunities for learning, growing, and making choices.
Our Portrait’s first point states clearly that our graduates will also demonstrate “love and respect for freedom of the individual and an understanding of the responsibilities inherent in this freedom.”
While our students were asked to follow many protocols and had many more expectations thrust on them, they took on these responsibilities because they care about each other and their school. They recognized that taking up new responsibilities to protect their peers and faculty did not mean lost freedoms or any reduction of their individuality.
Challenged with even more “outside-the-box” thinking than ever before, the Portrait document states that students will model an “Expectation of success, firmly rooted in the development and practice of perseverance.” This way of thinking resulted in our youngest scholars enjoying their classes and recess while maintaining a six-foot distance, students producing multiple creative art and writing projects inspired by our world situation, Upper School students displaying an earnestness to remain on track in the college search process -- even when standard visits became virtual. Overall, our students across campus continued to make a difference in the lives of our BA community and beyond.
The Portrait of a BA Graduate is enduring and reminds us that we should continue to strive to maintain our expectations and not settle for less. Buoyed by the outline of our Portrait document, we, at BA, forged ahead, knowing that the expectations -- even during a challenging year of reimagined classrooms, modified schedules, and limited activities -- should always be met because these are the characteristics that foster growth and continue to prepare our students not only for college, but for life.