Head of School Priscilla Sands spoke about looking toward the future of education and encouraging a love of learning in students during her “First 100 Days” talk on the evening of Thursday, Jan. 28 to an audience of parents, trustees, administrators and faculty. Sands’s address shared her observations from her first semester as Marlborough’s Head of School.
Sands said she has enjoyed working with Marlborough’s senior leadership team because the administrators on the team have big-picture visions for improving the School. Sands explained the team’s outlook as “let’s make sure Marlborough is not just a nationally recognized school but make sure this is the best school.”
Sands said that in thinking about the future of the School, she hopes to promote a love of learning while addressing stress levels. Warning against a culture of rigor that encourages girls to stay up and lose sleep, Sands wants to address what she calls “heroic wakefulness” when students take pride in sleep deprivation.
“I care about their health, and I care about their mental health,” Sands said. “I want your daughters to sleep at night. We have to make that possible for them.”
STEM Head and mathematics instructor Darren Kessner said, as a teacher and as a parent, he was glad to hear Sands talk about sleep deprivation.
“It’s very difficult to learn when you’re sleep deprived. That’s the main issue. To learn something new, your mind has to be in a place where it can accept new things,” said Kessner, whose daughter Emma Kessner ’19 attends Marlborough. “On the teacher’s side, one thing that teachers could do is be aware that students have more than their class…It’s important for teachers to keep the workloads for each class at a reasonable level and be understanding that it’s really in everyone’s best interest for students to be awake and engaged in class.”
Sands also said she wants the School to evaluate areas for possible honors classes that address students’ passions as an alternate option to loading up on APs.
“I am passionate about the life of the mind. I don’t want them to just jump through hoops. I want them to be engaged,” Sands said.
Sands pointed to the Academic Resource Center (ARC), the School’s library, as a setting for fostering a love of learning.
“Let’s create space for reading,” Sands said. “Let’s create no-cell-phone zones. Let’s have this opportunity to engage, to talk about books.”
Sands also referenced Harvard Graduate School of Education’s “Turning the Tide” report, which argues that community service should matter more in college admissions than APs, test scores or quantity of activities. She cautioned that this shift would not take place overnight but proposed that the community begin to think about it.
Sands said that that, above anything, she loves what she does because her passion is educating girls. She said she enjoys visits from students to her office to discuss their interests.
“What I love is spending time with your daughters,” Sands said. “I am completely blown away by their graciousness, their ability to articulate what is going on in their lives. They are competent. They are forthright.”
Sands also thanked the community for its support following her appendectomy in early January.
“I have never been surrounded by a lovelier community,” Sands said.