Regardless of culture or era, sharing a meal together is a wonderful moment of human connection. Over the past two months, Mrs. Patel and I invited, by house, our grade 12 students to a barbecue held at the Head’s Residence. The after-dinner chat has centered around two key questions: What is great about Brentwood? and What can we improve? I asked them to consider big picture elements rather than granular items. Their responses were thoughtful and well-articulated. Across the houses, a few common threads emerged and are noted below.
What is great about Brentwood?
- The Brentwood Family
- The students were effusive in their praise of our dedicated and caring faculty/staff. They commented that these trusted adults continuously go well above normal expectations to support the students. Furthermore, the 2014 graduates appreciated these deep, meaningful, and positive lifelong relationships with both students and faculty/staff.
- Diversity of people
- Our students recognize and appreciate the diverse nature of our campus. While having students from over 30 countries is an obvious plus, they were really referring to a supportive culture where everyone can, simply put, be themselves. Not an easy thing to accomplish.
- Tripartite system
- The combination of academics in the morning with three alternating afternoons of arts and athletics is something the students value. Other schools offer similar programs but it is how we integrate these disciplines that truly differentiates us. They also commented on the inspirational facilities and passionate teachers who clearly love their disciplines.
- The house structure
- Linking back to the first point, the houses are the family within the family. The sister/brotherhood within their houses is the anchor of the Brentwood experience. From day one, loyalty to the house is tribal-like.
What can we improve at Brentwood?
To this question, there was little commonality. Some asked for less prep during the evenings while other students enjoyed the structured study time. Some wanted more connections outside of the house but, at the same time, did not want to interfere with the house culture. The two most common themes were:
- Adding cardigans to our school uniform, and;
- Supplying more chocolate milk in the cafeteria.
Remember, I asked them to think of big picture items. I asked them to consider the most important area of improvement.
So on one hand, they love the family atmosphere, diversity of people, and supportive programs, and on the other hand, they want cardigans and chocolate milk. The 2014 graduates believe that our culture, while not perfect, is overwhelmingly positive and if we take care of the lack of fully buttonable sweaters and cocoa-flavoured dairy products, it will be even better! As a school that values continuous improvement we are already working on cardigan designs and calendaring chocolate milk days.
As someone that likes “to do” lists, I’m pleased to tick off these two items. Thank you Grade 12s.