Remarks - New Parent Breakfast
Good morning, and welcome, once again, to Waterford. I hope the first few weeks have gone well for your children and for you. We certainly acknowledge the challenge, given the unusual current COVID landscape, of getting to know your new school. I am sorry we are not all together, but I am grateful that you’ve joined us this morning.
On Monday, we had our annual senior retreat at Snowbird—a modified version of what we have done in the past. I had the good fortune of spending time with the Class of 2021 before they departed. They are a wonderful group of students, and they are so happy to be back to campus learning. Addressing the two cohort groups, I shared the Serenity Prayer with them. I find this secular wisdom so important right now:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
Uncertainty remains, and control, at times, seems fleeting, so we push forward and demonstrate the courage, as I said to the seniors on Monday, to control the things we can with optimism and good cheer. And the grace and humility to accept that our providence, our dominion has limitations.
Working together and cultivating love, compassion and empathy, along with a measure of good old fashioned hard work (that which can be controlled!) is more important than ever, and has always been a formula for success.
This morning is an opportunity to get to know Waterford just a bit better, build our partnership, and nurture our school theme of caring. In the spirit of caring, one of our core values, we want to meet you where you are, knowing that many of you, depending on different factors—your child’s age, division of the school, experience with independent schools—will likely be in different places as you’ve begun the year.
So, let's begin with a brief reminder to ground us in the why, the what, and the how of Waterford.
- The Why of Waterford - To inspire a life of meaning and purpose. This elevated ideal cultivates in your child the aspiration and necessary skill set to seek fulfillment each day and in well into the future.
- The What of Waterford - to provide a world-class liberal arts experience that stimulates intellect, ignites passion, and shapes character. A Waterford liberal arts education will ensure that you child reads critically, writes cogently and thinks broadly. Your children will learn how to think, not what to think , and build both the knowledge and skills to develop the fortitude to think for themselves, to shape their own principles, perspectives, beliefs, and solutions to problems. Ultimately we want your child’s liberal arts education at Waterford to imbue in them the confidence and competence to do anything they want to do, and to be anything they want to be!
- And finally the How - certainly program and curriculum, and our phenomenally talented teachers, but also our core values. These are the fabric that knits us together in common pursuit. It is what defines and animates our culture and climate.
- Integrity - the wholeness of program
- Excellence - the pursuit and a growth mindset
- Curiosity - the intrinsic passion to explore
- Responsibility - to own our learning
- Caring - for each other, for our learning, and for our school community
In short a Waterford education should provide a bright future of endless opportunities for your child!
So, we've covered the why... the what... and the how… But, Andrew you say... how are students doing so far this fall? Well I’m glad you asked ….
I sat down last week with Lower School, Middle School, and Upper School students to hear about how they were doing. In Lower School, I asked a few students what they were excited about. A precocious Kindergarten student jumped in saying, “YES! Being back at school! Thank you Waterford! And Mr. Menke I played in 4 golf tournaments this summer!”. A Class III student noted that they, “loved to be back with all the specialists - art, PE, science.... Mr. Menke, I tried a big science experiment at home. They never work for me, and this time I flooded the kitchen!" This student also professed to know how to drink water through his mask, and I asked that he refrain from doing this. Finally, a poised Class V student said, "I’m really excited to be back, but it’s hard to wear masks, Mr. Menke, because I miss seeing my teachers and classmates faces. And I’m so excited to be learning about plate tectonics!"
In Middle School, a Class VIII - "I love being back at school with friends and amazing teachers, the safety protocols are great, and I really like the blue/gold days schedule—it's less stress and a more manageable workload." A Class VI student agreed, "Our teachers are amazing, I love being back on campus, and the technology is glitchy, but there is only so much control we all have…" I have to say, I love this perspective!
And finally, I had a chance to speak with our Upper School students. One of our Class XII lifers said, "Even though we have to be apart, I want to continue to build connection and spirit in our class and in Upper School." Another student in Class X noted they, "love the blue and gold days as there is now more time to do homework, though I need to adjust to the new passing periods...they're too long. At home learning does not inspire me the way that the dynamic of a classroom does." And finally, a Class XI student wh summed it up perfectly, "I love being back on this beautiful campus with friends and passionate teachers..."
We love hearing student voices...
After a long spring, and an uncertain summer, I can assure you that I speak for all of us at Waterford when I say thank you for sharing your children with us. We are thrilled to have them back on campus and with us, and we are grateful to be on this journey with you. Please reach out to us often—our partnership is central to your child's success.
Thank you for joining us. We are so fortunate to have your wonderful children here with us at Waterford. We look forward to a terrific year.
Andrew has spent his entire career in education. He has served three different independent schools for the last 32 years as a faculty member, coach, advisor, admissions and development director and, for the past 22 years, as a School Head. He first served as Head of the Colorado Rocky Mountain School; and prior to joining Waterford School led New Hampton School in New Hampton, NH.
Andrew holds a B.A. from Towson University and M.A. from Dartmouth College. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, running, fly fishing, climbing, surfing, and road cycling. Andrew’s wife, Jennifer, is a Physical Therapist. The Menkes have two children — Anna, 26, and Auden, 24.