Finding Our Sea Legs

Dr. Jessie Barrie, Head of School
Over the past two weeks as we have launched the new school year, I have continually found myself asking students and staffulty the question, “Are you finding your sea legs?” It isn’t a term I have really used in the past but, for some reason, it feels especially relevant. 

The reality is that the past three years of Bosque School’s journey have been characterized by consistently rough seas and a lot of turbulence for all of us. The constantly evolving challenges of COVID-19, layered with the accompanying emotional strain and exhaustion, left many of us gripping the handrail, bracing for what felt like a never-ending series of crashing waves.

For the first time in three years, it feels like we have finally entered a safer harbor and there is a noticeable feeling of stabilization on campus, bringing with it a sense that we can exhale, ungrip the railing, and catch our breath. We are finding our sea legs. And with that has come a profound shift in the energy of our whole community—everyone and everything feels lighter and more optimistic. A sense of joy has returned to campus. And it feels really good after such a rough journey.

On top of the challenges of COVID-19, as a school, we also have spent the past three years engaged in the design and implementation of a three-year academic strategic plan. The goal of this plan was to align our curriculum and program with our mission and core values and to respond to extensive feedback that had been received over prior years from students, parents & guardians, and staffulty. I first shared our Academic Strategic Plan in a Bosque Buzz post from January 2020. 

The urgency of the strategic priorities to define our school’s unique differentiators and manifest our mission and core values was not lost, despite the unexpected arrival of COVID-19 in the midst of year one of the plan. Our academic leadership team committed to remaining nimble and being responsive to the potential need to shift plan timelines due to COVID-19 impacts, but we ultimately stayed the course and met the original milestones of our plan. 

Over the past two years, this has resulted in updates to our graduation requirements, the launch of our Immersives, WILLDS, and humanities programs, and a redesigned schedule. We very much appreciate that the experience of these changes, layered on top of the instability of COVID-19, has led many to feel a sense of whiplash at times. I am grateful for our community’s trust in these changes and patience as we have navigated them.  The exciting and hopefully reassuring news is that we have now made our way through the implementation and will now be focused solely on enhancements that are based on community feedback. No more changes are on our horizon.

I spend a significant amount of time each summer reviewing the feedback from our three annual surveys: the student satisfaction survey, the family satisfaction survey, and the staffulty satisfaction survey. The themes from these surveys are incredibly helpful in reflecting on the successes and challenges of the past year and clarifying the leadership team's priorities. 

This year, our priorities include:  
  1. Regaining our sense of stability after three years of change and crisis and rebuilding the meaningful relationships and traditions that are so important to our school and community.
  2. Continuing to refine our explanation of the what, why, and how Challenging Education manifests at Bosque School. It is essential that we can effectively ground our community in the research driving our decisions and the nuances of how we are reimagining rigor to better support today’s students for tomorrow’s world. 
  3. Implementing an effective growth and reflection process for all staffulty and administrators, grounded in the school’s mission, values, and Equity, Community, and Culture Principles & Best Practices

Speaking of our ECC principles and best practices, our ability to continue to respond to feedback and walk our talk is critical to create a community where all members feel seen, heard, and valued for their unique contributions. Our staffulty recently participated in professional development discussing our inherent biases, building our understanding of cultural humility, and learning what it tangibly looks like to be effective anti-oppression and anti-racist allies. 

We are committed to continual skill-building—recognizing and interrupting any language, behaviors, or microaggressions that degrade our ability to cultivate community. In addition to the staffulty, our board of trustees also remains committed to their strategic plan priority relating to equity, community, and culture. This work is never done, is often messy, and will remain a consistent priority for us as a school. 

So, as we look forward into Bosque School’s 28th year, I wish for us smooth sailing and firm footing in our sea legs. Thank you for being on this voyage with us. I am deeply grateful to be in community with each of you.

Jessie Barrie, PhD.
Head of School