As I begin my first year as Head of School at The Derryfield School in Manchester, NH, after twenty-five years at a Boston area independent school, I am struck by both what makes schools universal–teaching and learning, co-curricular and service activities–and what makes each school unique and distinctive.
One of our talented seniors was recently presented with a Derryfield-specific award for her exceptional essay which explores her relationship with her spirituality. In the essay, she recounts various memories and stories of her childhood and how her faith has developed throughout her young life. Near the end of the essay, she reflects “I would like to operate with love and courage; to find the good and be the good.” Simeon Kass, for whom the award is named, is the uncle of two Derryfield alumni; he was a Jewish Parisian who survived the Holocaust—his mother and two young brothers all died at Auschwitz. Although he lost much of his family, what stood out about “Sim” was his resilience and love of life. He was known to carry around a notebook everywhere he went, taking notes and writing down phrases—always learning with a deeply inquisitive nature. Mr. Kass honored the power of education to counteract the darkness of prejudice, fear, and brutality. He believed that knowledge, when combined with a burning curiosity and compassion illuminates the most beautiful things in this world.
At Derryfield, we pride ourselves on engaging and challenging our students to think critically, collaborate broadly, and give generously. Our bold new academic program, developed in 2019, prepares our students for the 21st century. Project-based learning and other innovative teaching strategies provide the framework for our students to become creative problem solvers. Our alumni regularly report that they feel prepared for college and the workplace beyond, ready to contribute and lead discussions, write clearly and compellingly, solve problems collaboratively, and listen respectfully. Even more importantly, however, we also aim to help our students “find the good and be the good,” as our award winner shared. Our Founders felt strongly that “academic achievement without concern and compassion for others is meaningless.” To this day, we don’t just want our students to be good writers, speakers, scientists, and mathematicians; we want them to use their talents and skills to make their communities better, push back against injustice, and make the world a better place.
And they are doing just that! Among the many inspiring initiatives in which Derryfield students and graduates are involved include fourteen of our high school students serving as Breakthrough Manchester “Super Saturday” teachers this academic year, tutoring underrepresented students from the Manchester Public Schools in all-day enrichment classes one Saturday a month throughout the school year; one of our eighth-grade students publishing a children’s book in order to bring greater awareness about orangutans as an endangered species; and a young alumna in her second year of law school focusing on civil litigation in order to address various social justice issues of personal importance. These students and graduates and so many more like them are eager to make the world around them better. Like our award winner, they “operate with love and courage” in order to affect change.
Derryfield’s Core Values of Character, Caring, and Community remind our students that they have a responsibility to give back, and we encourage our students to live up to these Core Values each day. As a school we strive not only to be great, but even more important to be good; to provide an educational experience that allows our students to ask hard questions, wrestle with some of life’s most vexing problems, and emerge resilient and ready to solve a myriad of challenges that lie ahead. In order to do so, we acknowledge that our students will need more than just good critical thinking, problem-solving, and group work skills, they will need “to find the good and be the good.”
–Andy Chappell, Head of School