Opinion editorials, reviews and personal essays
By Dr. Lee
Last year, most mornings, I would arrive on the early staff bus before 7, open the four doors that split the high school from Main Street, open the two more doors dividing the High School Administration offices from the counseling center and the classroom corridor, and then open the door to my own office, secreted behind waiting rooms of airplane departure lounge chairs and high reception counters. Later in the morning, when I would walk through all those doors, it usually wasn’t until I hit the couches past the Activities Office or made it to the library that I could find evidence of student life. Where, I often used to wonder, was the heart of Pudong High School?
I don’t wonder that any more, because now I see students congregating in the High School Commons from the start of each day. I see talking, socializing, messing around, studying, eating, working… almost constantly.
Pudong High School’s Commons is what I believe our school should aim for: bright, spacious, welcoming, inspiring, multipurpose, open to every kind of person and activity. It is a community space: it allows for, nurtures, encourages community. And once we actually get the froyo, it will be even better! (It’s coming; I’m so sorry for the delay!)
Since I arrived at PDHS last year, I suspect the word you’ve heard most often from me is “community”.
Does this word lie behind the changes that have happened at our school over the past year? Yes.
The Commons. Community Meeting. TheEleven. Common Ground. Grade level meetings… These are all explicitly about building community in new ways in our High School.
But at the same time, there’s more to the changes that we’re all going through than just my attempts to bring community to the front and center of the Pudong High School experience. Among the major emphases of our Deputy Heads of School, Ms. Sargent-Beasley and Mr. Bonin, are the efforts to unite the Pudong campus – to build a Pre-Kindergarten through grade 12 community – and to solidify a single, aligned curriculum across grade levels and divisions for both the Pudong and Puxi campuses. You can see one of the results of these movements in our new schedule which allows all HS faculty to participate in Professional Learning Communities with their colleagues every Thursday during Flexi. Wednesday Early Release Days also relate to this, providing time for faculty in all six divisions on both campuses to meet and work together to improve the education we offer.
No matter what you do after graduation, you will all have to live with, work with, get along with, argue with, collaborate with other people when you depart PDHS. That is: you will need to work within and participate in communities. In my view, any school’s most important role – more important than high test scores, good grades, outstanding athletics opportunities, great arts offerings, strong admissions outcomes to colleges and universities -- is to provide and to nurture a supportive community. Hopefully, an inspiring community which empowers students to seek their own best and the betterment of others, provides opportunities for rebellion and resistance, and leaves young adults incapable of accepting anything less in the future.
Thanks to the Pudong Press for inviting me to write something about how I see what’s happening in our school. There’s actually a lot more to say about what is going on, and why certain things have changed. I know, too, that this move toward community means that we are giving some things up. Mr. Wild’s voice over the intercom, for instance. But I believe we will gain more than we lose, and that the benefits are worth the sacrifices. (The froyo is almost here, I promise!)
What do you think? Please stop by my office and talk to me about this stuff, or anything, really. If my door is open, it’s really open. I’d love for you to come in and tell me how things are going for you.