Fueled by Curiosity on First Friday

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Below is an excerpt from Associate Head of School, Brandon Bennett's address to all faculty, staff and students of Waterford School on the First Friday of the year. 


First Friday Image

It’s impressive to see 954 students gathered on this quad, with another 100+ teachers and other Waterford employees, and the glorious mountains rising behind us, both watching over us and beckoning to us, inspiring us to climb toward their heights.

Take a moment to give a round of applause to the entire community—to the students for successfully transitioning back to school from the undeniable pleasures of summer, to the faculty for working faithfully to prepare courses and lessons worthy of the students readiness and commitment, to all the grounds and building staff who have put this campus into such beautiful condition, and to all the many folks who support the mission of the Waterford School

It is my great honor and privilege to be able to stand in for our Head of School, who is himself off working on behalf of the school, in officiating at this special occasion — First Friday — when the entire Waterford student body and faculty — gather together to commemorate the start of another school year, and to glimpse in our imaginations, fueled by curiosity and hope, all the opportunities for learning and growth that we trust we will encounter over the next 9 months.

In a few minutes, we will witness a short ceremony. 15 students, representing each grade level at the school, will one by one come forward to ring the Waterford Bell, this beautiful instrument that was provided for Waterford as a gift of the Class of 2017.

The symbolism of the ceremony is simple but important. The 15 individual sounds remind us that the journey through Waterford to graduation can last 15 years, each year passing in succession, each bringing joys, challenges, and unique opportunities for learning and growth. Hearing the 15 bell strokes all in quick succession reminds us that, though the journey is long in some respects, it passes quickly. Before we know it, these youngest among us, sitting here up close, will be Middle Schoolers, then Upper Schoolers, then graduates and on to other journeys elsewhere around the world. The beginning and the end of the Waterford journey is contained symbolically within the time of the ringing. 

It will be helpful during these few minutes of the ceremony to look around at your fellow students of all ages. If you are a younger student, watch the bigger kids ringing the bell, and imagine what it will be like to be a year or two or ten older. Imagine—and be curious—about the person you will become. If you are an older student, see the younger children ringing the bell, and remember when you were younger too. Remember how you saw the world through different eyes. Remember the many strengths that came with that difference, and let them contribute to the person you are now.

Education is life. To learn is to change, to grow, to be someone new. But it is also to remember, to maintain ties with the past, and with the earlier versions of yourself. In this year, when we have chosen to focus on the core value of curiosity, I suggest that we should look to the youngest of us as examples, and seek especially to remember the way we once embraced learning with a pure sense of joy, unburdened by the confusing notion that work and play are separate things. When we watch the 15 students and the 15 Waterford years pass by with the sound of a bell, let’s commit together to keep the young child’s curiosity alive in our souls, allowing it to animate this year of learning with that pure remembered sense of joy. We know there will be work, but let us remember that we are at our best when we are able to take pleasure in our work, because, lifted by the buoyant force of curiosity, we experience it as ongoing play.

This quad, this gymnasium, the outdoor spaces of the lower school, this entire campus, and these towering mountains—it is all our playground, our learning laboratory, our crucible of curiosity. May we move from this ceremony today to embrace the new year committed to living honorably, loving beauty, and seeking wisdom in all that we do.

I ask now for our 15 students to come forward to begin the ceremony of the bell.