Keeping Up With A Dynamic World

By Andy Shaw, Academic Dean

DSC_0060As is the case for many during this time of year, I find myself reflecting during the holiday season on the world we live in, the challenges we face as humans, and the question of what must be done to make our world a better place.  I’m certainly not the only Bay staffulty member engaged in this kind of thought.  It is vacation for the teachers and administrators at Bay just as it is for the students, but there’s a dimension of this reflectiveness that is very much about our jobs as educators at Bay.  As a school dedicated to preparing students for their roles in a dynamic world, to giving young people the tools they will need as adults decades from now, teachers at Bay are explicitly charged with being reflective and world-aware as they build programs that constantly evolve in response to the dynamic nature of our planet and society.  

It’s hard to look around our school or flip through our publications without encountering examples of the way Bay’s team of expert educators has assessed the direction the world is heading and responded in ways large or small in order to align our students’ education with the ever-changing future. It’s part of our ongoing curricular development efforts in math, as the department integrates a deeper focus on the 21st-century literacies of statistics, spreadsheet-based data analysis, and algorithms, each of which is often, alarmingly, given the short shrift in traditional math curricula. In the world language department, our teachers are spending more time analyzing current events and media with students in the target language, and building students’ oral proficiency through new kinds of assessments, with an eye towards the fact that taking up one’s role in the globalized world means that proficient and informed communication is at least as important as the finer points of grammar.  In other parts of the school, our growing set of signature interdisciplinary courses, which include courses on climate change, gentrification, and art as social activism, tackle the evolving issues in our world, even when those issues don’t fall neatly into disciplinary boxes.

Often, addressing big problems means using a variety of the tools available to us as educators. As the world is shaken by the belligerence of ISIS and the Syrian refugee crisis, as our nation slowly chooses to pay attention to the systemic racism called out by the Black Lives Matter movement, we’ve been called as a school to build multi-faceted curricula to help students unpack what they see in the world around them.   With each of these issues, it’s been through multiple vectors: Morning Meeting and Gathering presentations, evocative identity-focused curricula in the Freshman Seminar program, inventive assignments and reading selections in core courses (most notably the Humanities 1, Humanities 2, American Studies sequence), and thoughtfully-designed elective courses like African-American Women’s Literature, Artist as Activist, and U.S. Foreign Policy.

To constantly stay aware of the changing world, to adaptively design curricula to prepare our students for a dynamic world, all while maintaining a personal knowledge of one’s students so as to meet them where – these tasks are hard work, harder by far than those traditionally included in a teacher’s role.  Bay teachers do this work because they are deeply moved by the mission of the school and by the impact they have on our exceptional students. The winter break is a good time for me to reflect upon this not only because of the contemplative nature of this time of year, but also because it’s a time when I hope our teachers get a much-deserved period of rejuvenation. When you next see a Bay teacher, I hope you’ll join me in thanking them for their tireless work in building a school that responsively, thoughtfully, and innovatively prepares students for their roles in a dynamic world.