Back to School at Beaver!

Opening Assembly message to students and faculty.

Welcome to our 90th school year.

And a special welcome to our Class of 2012!

Today is exciting for so many reasons:  451 students, minus those over at NuVu, are here today.

We’ve made great improvements to the campus:  you’ll find several of your classrooms outfitted with Idea Paint,  soon to arrive LCD message boards in the front hall and a completely refurbished student lounge to name a few.

And, of course, our new science center.  Rule #1:  Don’t. Go. In. (yet)

We have had absolutely phenomenal contractors working hard all summer and they are putting the finishing touches on this week. Teachers can begin moving in supplies and equipment today, but everyone else has to stay out until Monday when it will be fully up and running.  Beyond Monday you will see continuing work on the greenhouse and the metal fins that will be attached to the exterior glass.

I was thinking about the facility this weekend when I came across a talk by Andrew Zuckerman, a photographer, filmmaker and writer who produced The Wisdom Project. For this project, Zuckerman set out to gather and communicate the lessons his extraordinary subjects (Madeline Albright, Desmond Tutu, Jane Goodall, Clint Eastwood, Nelson Mandela, Willie Nelson to name a few) have learned about love, work, the environment, and conflict resolution.

In doing the project he learned something he did not set out to learn.  He learned about the elements that go into creativity:

Creativity is a confluence of curiosity, rigor and the willingness to learn as you go.

Anyone who knows me knows I HATE the word RIGOR.  HATE IT. Because educators who use the word have no idea what it really is. When a school says it is committed to rigor or that it instills rigor, I have no idea what the school is saying. What is really frightening is that the school saying it does not know what it is saying.  Rigor as a stand alone idea is at best meaningless and at worst suppresses any kind of real learning and creativity.

Zuckerman sees rigor as something sparked by curiosity, as a passionate persistence that makes something you care about come to fruition.

So again: creativity is the combination of curiosity, rigor and the willingness to learn as you go. Not those 3 elements existing independently of each other.

One of his subjects – Pete Waterman – talks about working with the Beatles in their early years when, through their rigor sparked by passion, they produced something like 36 songs a year. And they wrote better songs every year.

Another of his subjects, the musician Bill Withers, talks about learning as you go.  He says “You can’t get to wonderful without passing through just alright.”

This is an important notion for us to consider today, no one is the best at the outset.  In November, at the end of the fall athletic season, our most successful teams will realize that on September 6 they were just alright.

And as happened with Zuckerman in The Wisdom Project, that destination, that wonderful, may not be exactly the wonderful you thought at the outset.

Along the way he surely made lots of those excellent mistakes that I talk about from time to time.

So my hope for the science facility – starting Monday – is the same as it is for every part of the campus.
That it is a place that sparks curiosity, that inspires persistence, and where we all learn about what we are doing while we are doing it.

It’s great to see all of you here today.  Have a wonderful year.

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