Read Head of School Geoff Wagg’s Convocation remarks below, or watch a video of the event.
Welcome to our opening Convocation for the 2021-2022 school year.
I would like to begin with acknowledging that we are gathered today on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Abenaki people of the Wabanaki Confederacy.
At various moments over the last few years, you may have heard people in our community starting a speech by offering this acknowledgment. The practice of Land acknowledgments is a traditional custom that dates back centuries in many Native nations and communities. Today, land acknowledgments are used by Native Peoples and non-Natives to recognize Indigenous Peoples who are the original stewards of the lands on which we now live. Making a land acknowledgment should be motivated by genuine respect and support for Native Peoples. Speaking and hearing words of recognition is an important step in creating collaborative, accountable, continuous, and respectful relationships with Indigenous communities.
Convocation is a ceremony where we recognize the start of the school year and the coming together of our community for the purpose of learning. Except for last year, we have performed this ritual for the past 124 years, ever since our founders Agnes Lowell and Caroline Crisfield first opened the doors to Waynflete on September 21,1898. Thousands of students, teachers, and staff have walked the halls and pathways before you, and today we mark the continuation of that tradition.
Our Convocation theme is about growing connections. The prompt shared with our speakers comes from a quote by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, “Invisible threads are the strongest ties.” We chose this theme this year for the obvious reason that the bonds that connect us all together have frayed over the 19 months of this pandemic. Building and sustaining communities must be an intentional act and I hope you will listen closely to each of our student, faculty, and staff speakers as they share their thoughts on this theme.
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Thank you to our speakers for their reflections on our theme and to the Waynflete Intergenerational Chorus and US Chorus for singing “A Brand New Day.”
As I said in my welcoming remarks, building and sustaining a community is an intentional act. Healthy communities:
where each and every person feels as though they belong
where you feel safe and affirmed for who you are
where you are able to grow and evolve into the best version of yourself
These kinds of communities take work, they don’t just happen by happenstance.
I have taught a course on democracy and political ideology for a number of years and I begin each year exploring the psychology behind what drives human behavior. You may have noticed that our country, even our world, is struggling to get along. Despite the fact that human beings are more similar than different, our differences actually have more power to divide us than to keep us together. In my class, we learn about why this is the case and it comes down to the fact that we are all complicated beings driven mostly by our emotions. We act more out of intuition and impulse than rational thought. How many times in your life have you said something or acted in a way that you later regret? Generally, it is not because you said something after careful consideration, it’s because you said something out of impulse.
So when I say we have to be intentional about building community, it’s about growing bonds with the others and weaving invisible threads to build strong long-lasting ties. Each of us can do this. The community-building steps are straightforward and known to all.
First, get to know others in this community. Approach a new connection with curiosity and as an opportunity to make a new friend, to learn from them, and to grow your circle of connections.
Second, be kind. When kindness fails us and we act out of impulse, quickly apologize and make amends.
Third, when you see someone struggling, help them. You have the power to lift people up every day and in every way.
So take all that has been said this morning and remember that you play a big part in creating and sustaining our community. You have the power to grow connections with other members of our school and to make this year a truly special one.
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We have one more important ritual and that is the ringing of the Gong. The sound of the gong is our ritual sound marking the beginning of the school year. This year we invite Mo Braun from EC4, one of our youngest students, Kip Reynolds from MS, and Jess Connors, a senior “lifer” and one of our oldest students to perform this ritual. Listen for the last echo of the gong to be sounded three times, once for each division, after which we will pause for a moment as a community to focus our awareness on being together.
Head of School Geoff Wagg