Every September, the Shore Country Day School community—students, parents, teachers, and staff—comes together to kick off the school year with a festive flag-raising ceremony. This September 5, Shore’s Opening Day, Head of School Clair Ward used the occasion to propose an idea that she said she hoped would permeate the school year, running all the way to next June like a gentle current. Holding a giant sunflower and sporting a symbolic headband sprouting plastic daisies, she explained, “I’m wearing this on my head to remind myself to work on ‘growing’ something really important this year: gratitude.” Ward asked if anyone in the audience knew another way to say gratitude. “Being thankful,” one young student volunteered. “That’s right,” Ward affirmed. “This year I am going to work on reminding myself to feel thankful to others and to tell them how thankful I am. I am going to get started on it right away!”
Gratitude and growth are both themes that Ward has emphasized since she became Head of School in 2017. The sunflower she carried as a visual aid on Opening Day grew over the summer in Shore’s own garden classroom, an expansive new learning space for all ages that was one of the first initiatives Ward saw to completion as Head. Gratitude, the subject of her speech, has been central as Ward has supported teachers working at every grade level to incorporate social and emotional learning in their classrooms. Expressing thanks is a fundamental part of an evolving schoolwide curriculum that aims to nurture skills such as self-awareness, empathy, and relationship-building alongside traditional academic, athletic, and artistic abilities.
Before the large audience of students, teachers, and families on Opening Day, Ward continued on the theme of gratitude by asking each listener to find a moment during their day to express thanks. “Science tells us that gratitude releases positive energy that can get us through almost any challenge. By saying thank you, we’re also building what we like to call ‘grit.’ Teaching gratitude helps us develop self-esteem and the ability to advocate for ourselves. Through gratitude, we learn how to serve others, and how to be independent ourselves. This is one of the most inspiring things about our school community.”
With the help of veteran Assistant Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds John Borden, selected student representatives then raised the United States flag and the Shore school flag high for the Pledge of Allegiance. To conclude the ceremony, vocalists sang "America the Beautiful," and Ward shared her best wishes for a happy and successful school year for all. Families, no doubt grateful for the perfectly sunny conditions and the refreshments served by Chef Scott Flanagan, lingered after the ceremony for a last wave as their children headed back to their classrooms. Students, perhaps equally grateful to be reunited with their Shore classmates after the long summer break, hurried to find their friends to begin the first day of the new school year.