com·mu·ni·ty

noun 

a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

 

By Craig Gemmell
Head of School

Last week: I mostly walked from appointment to appointment, my leather-soled shoes radiating cold; drafts from leaky-doored coffee shops never let me warm up despite umpteen hot drinks through the week, but the chill was somehow exhilarating.

I was in the city to talk to parents and alumni in my first year at Brewster. Over breakfast, coffee, lunch, and dinner in restaurants, apartments, and offices, I talked, listened, and asked question after question. What made your family look at Brewster? What was school like before coming to Brewster? How has Brewster worked?

Anyone eavesdropping on these serial conversations would have thought I was a broken record and that there was some internal coherence to the superficially-varied responses.

Some pronounced themes were clear among responses to the “Why look at Brewster?” question:

We wanted our daughter/son to realize her/his potential; to be happy; to be a part of a nurturing community; to find challenge missing in prior schooling and to be stretched; to be understood and supported in ways that draw out promise; to have fun; to be known and supported unconditionally by teachers.

Responses to the question “What was school like before coming to Brewster?” were similarly consistent:

struggle from having to conform to systems designed to educate narrowly; not sincerely engaged in learning; wasn’t challenged; didn’t feel successful; I never loved the place.

And to the question “How has Brewster works\ed?” I heard again and again the following:

It has been transformative; it is a community; kids are known and understood as individuals; values and expectations are coherent; Brewster is a place to find success and joy.

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This week: Sunday night’s light snow freshened campus, and the brisk wind blowing off the lake didn’t seem to dampen spirits in any corner of campus Monday morning. We made our way to the Academic Building and then streamed to Anderson Hall for the MLK presentation by Brewster’s O.N.E. (One Nationality and Ethnicity) club. Kids and teachers alike spoke, and HOWL sang. The crowd settled in and celebrated together. It all somehow just felt right.

A few hours later, we boarded busses to head to the TD Garden in Boston, where alumni parents John and Lynn Reichenbach (Emily ‘09) hosted more than 550 Brewster students, parents, and alums for dinner prior to our watching our Prep Team play in the ARC of Massachusetts Holiday Challenge against Lawrence Academy and in support of Downs Syndrome research.

The basketball was spectacular. Our boys played wonderfully against a solid Lawrence team and won handily. I had trouble paying full attention to the game (in truth) because the cheers and smiles of students, parents, and graduates were so enchanting. Kids were silly, friends were smiling, and we were all together cheering. What a night! I beamed my way through the game.

——–

I’ve lingered some over my travels from Wolfeboro to New York and then Boston, and in the tail-end of my fiftieth year on this planet, I’ve come to realize that community is not a place. The word evokes a feeling that a place alone can’t. It is the shared values that matter, and community can spring forth as easily in a drafty cafe, as a snow-swept, lakeside campus, or beside a storied, rectangle of parquet. This feeling radiates outward in space and time from students to families to graduates. It shapes our lives.