By Lisa Vardi, Director of Cross Divisional Curriculum
I was lucky to spend a week in late August shadowing our newly arrived staff as they adjusted to a new school culture and attended informational sessions to help them acclimate to campus. The week began with a warm welcome from Head of School, Dr. Boarman, and a brief history of Bullis shared by Susan King, school historian and author of Onward Faring: A History of Bullis School. I think it is so important to learn our history to understand where the school began and how the school has evolved, especially with the opening this month of the newest building on campus, the Discovery Center. What motivated William and Lois Bullis to open a small boys preparatory school in the former Bolivian embassy in Washington D.C during the height of the depression? What drove them to renovate and redesign this space on their own and develop a learning program which catapulted Bullis to what it is today? These talented educators laid the foundation for Bullis to grow into a caring, challenging community with an entrepreneurial spirit and a drive to innovate and create.
This entrepreneurial spirit runs through the halls of Bullis and motivates successful alumni like Marc Steren '89 to give back to the community. Marc directs our Entrepreneurship Signature Program which has grown to include an array of offerings students crave to experience, including the newest addition, a Leadership in Action course. Watching Marc work with students during the second day of class was a joy as he paces the class masterfully and focuses on skill-building throughout the lesson. He has embraced design thinking as a way to encourage collaboration and risk-taking in his classroom. I look forward to learning and leading with Marc this year.
Returning staff joined our new staff in late August to spend a week redesigning their newly-assigned learning spaces, discussing the nuts and bolts of opening day and collaborating on curriculum in grade and subject-level teams. I was inspired by visionary and educational consultant Jen Cort, who challenged the faculty to think deeply about how Bullis addresses diversity, equity and inclusion. She used the power of storytelling, a strategy discussed in all of my leadership courses at Vanderbilt, to help faculty understand her lens to diversity. This workshop was the first of many conversations we will have with Jen in the coming year.
The faculty also participated in cross-divisional discussions on our summer reading (yes, students, teachers have assigned reading as well!) Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing our Students for the Innovation Era. Topics included what skills are essential for preparing students for the future and how might we reimagine Bullis to ensure our students master those skills. I was grateful for the faculty's openness in discussing the text, challenging some themes and assertions of Wagner and Dintersmith and embracing others. We will open this discussion up to the broader Bullis community when we host a viewing of the accompanying documentary on the evening of November 8th.
Marc Steren is not the only talented faculty member on campus. Bullis is full of dedicated educators who devote their time and effort to make learning challenging, enjoyable and innovative. Always thinking of ways to improve teaching and learning at Bullis, faculty leaders invited staff to join Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) via a virtual PLC Fair. These PLCs will continue throughout the year to build collegiality and promote our core values. I look forward to watching faculty continue to inspire students and each other in the coming year.