When asked at our Admissions playgroup sessions about the strengths of our School, I often refer to that broad canvas that is Spence, stretching from age 5 to 18. What opportunities, what developmental gains can be structured over those many years, both intellectually and emotionally, all in partnership with our parents who are most likely experiencing their longest relationship with any single academic institution? In many ways, child, parent and school all grow up together. Mapping the contours of all that scholastic potential becomes our shared work. Witnessing that shape-changing magic from little girl to young woman becomes our shared delight. It is a bit of a miracle, and it happens every year.
This remarkable journey is always present in the writing I ask seniors to do for me in response to a prompt about being on the cusp of their final year, giving them only paper and pencil and about 45 minutes. Every year I am amazed at the quality of what I get. Every year I am affirmed of the capacity for these wonderful scholars to write from their own hearts and heads and with the confidence coming directly from our collective belief in each and every one of them.
This year was no exception, and in response to my request to write a letter to their parents or guardians, the seniors wrote with both story and heart behind them. I’ve spent these past two months reading selections at several school events, and I wanted to share this one compelling example with you. Trust me when I tell you I could have shared many others: so many fine, strong voices. This piece is but one of the many examples of strength and beauty behind our words from our mission—passion, purpose and perspective—and I am grateful that our senior has allowed me to send it to you all. Enjoy. And, oh, did I forget to tell you that these young women can really write?
You told me later that Spence was always your choice for me, though as a 5-year-old I was swayed more by the stuffed bear I received from Sacred Heart. Spence gave me a pencil. What was I supposed to do with that? A pencil wasn’t fluffy or interesting, and I would’ve lost it if you hadn’t taken it from me and saved it, hidden away in a cabinet too high for me to reach.
My first years at Spence are a blur of morning meetings and music circles, hermit crabs and capture the flag. The memories are drawn in sharp, vivid lines, preserved forever in the hundreds of interpretive artworks hanging proudly behind your desk. In Lower School I learned to use pencils to draw.
When you shelved the too-short, green jumpers and bought navy skirts, I rolled them so that they were still appropriately shortened. In Middle School I built Mesopotamian Ziggurats out of Styrofoam and my first essay critiquing the various emperors of Rome. I learned to use a pencil to analyze, debate, to express my opinion on everything from Of Mice and Men to the coloration of metamorphic rocks.
When the skirts turned grey, my pencil started moving faster. There was so much to say—so much inside of me that high school taught me to channel onto paper. I wrote about you, Mom, and about Dad too. I learned to communicate my anger, my passion and my love. Most importantly, I learned to write like myself. High school taught me that a pencil is an extension of myself, and at Spence I grew enough to reach that cabinet and take back that gift I was given 12 years ago.