More Magical Than Neverland

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I have long believed that an institution’s true character cannot be judged by a solitary action, nor can it be accurately measured over just a short span of time.

I am a proud 2002 graduate of Brimmer and May in Brookline, Mass., and since 4th-grade I have been associated with this amazing school in some form or other.

The journalist inside me screams that my connection to this great place discredits any commentary I may offer on its development. But after speaking and running a blogging workshop there on Tuesday, I have to tell of my most recent assessment.

It’s Tuesday morning, and I’m absolutely freezing. I’ve grown accustomed to the warm Miami weather, and the wind chills my core as I walk to the School’s entrance.

Over the past five years, I have often visited Brimmer and May—but seldom during school hours. After I sign-in, I roam the hallways where I spent much of my youth.

I feel like I have stepped into a time warp.

Wherever I go, I still see smiling, happy faces.

The writing center is still bustling with students, who are eager to improve their craft.

I peek into several classrooms, where kids are still engaged in hands-on activities.

Even in the locker-room, people are still laughing.

I want to be a student here again. Nothing has changed.

I’m surrounded by that famous “Brimmer and May glow.” I can’t walk for several seconds without being cheerfully greeted by somebody new—and even people I don’t know are eager to introduce themselves.

I make my way to the computer lab, where I find Mike Langlois, the school’s director of technology. He gets up from his desk to shake my hand, but I’m too stunned by the awesome Apple computer lab to react immediately.

Langlois never taught me, but I had the pleasure of working with him in 2006 when I helped run the school’s public relations office. Langlois tells me how he just purchased a new fleet of iMac computers, and I notice some still packaged units. I’m in absolute heaven, and I’m sure that the vast majority of students feel similar.

Almost immediately, we begin to discuss educational technology.

I’m intrigued by Langlois’s stance on Google, and I’m keen to learn more about why he doesn’t trust the online media giant. I can’t wait to speak with Langlois in more detail. But the more I hear from him, the more impressed I am by all that Brimmer and May is doing to help shape smart digital citizens. Langlois is definitely the kind of person I would want running my IT department.

I’m excited to see my first workshop quickly fill with students. I feel somewhat awkward, teaching in front of my former history teacher, Ted Barker-Hook. Judy Guild, my former AP English teacher and new head of school, also watches me. I’m nervous and as I teach on my feet, I don’t notice several chairs behind me. I almost trip, but Barker-Hook saves me from embarrassment. He and I chuckle, briefly reminiscing about how even as a student I was somewhat of a klutz.

I rebound and begin by showing students the last print edition of Newsweek. I tell the young crowd that they are now living in an age when everything about them can be found online. It’s up to them to decide how they want their digital narrative to read.

From this foundation, I jump in to discussing Palmer Trinity School’s online news site, The Falconer. I explain that while writing remains as important as ever—and Brimmer and May places a heavy emphasis on that skill—thanks to the Internet, conveying one’s thoughts on paper is no longer the only way to convey and disseminate information, and sometimes not even the best way.

The students seem to really like Animoto, a great online tool that allows users to create cool photo presentations. They also like how my journalism class utilizes the green screen, and I describe various ways to make effective use of that technology.

I also explain the differences between various Web-site builders. After a quick overview of basic “blogging do’s and don’t’s,” the students are off and running with Squarespace 6, a powerful and intuitive platform.

It takes students no more than 15 minutes to get a basic understanding of how to build a Web site. On his own, one sophomore even figures out how to embed and upload audio.

The workshop ends too soon, and I wish I had more time. I have only introduced one piece of the puzzle. They know how to create a blog, but they don’t really know what content to create or how to create it.

I’m humbled when Mrs. Guild asks my thoughts on Brimmer and May’s creating its own online news site. In a nutshell, this query captures Mrs. Guild’s forward-thinking nature.

I leave the workshop thinking that perhaps Brimmer and May isn’t the same school I attended. The heart and soul of Brimmer and May remain the same, but as Guild and Langlois make clear during my visit, the school is adapting vigorously to the times. Both are hip and eager to prepare students to excel in the 21st century.

Brimmer and May isn’t Neverland, after all. It’s some place much better.



As a coach, history and journalism teacher at Brimmer and May, a wonderful independent school in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, I have the absolute best job in the world. I am thrilled to get up every morning to engage with interesting young people, and I'm equally fortunate to have such amazing colleagues and mentors. As the founder of Spin Education, I encourage you to check-in frequently and submit posts and lessons—all in an effort to better our practice as teachers.

2 Comments

  • Reply January 25, 2013

    Jim Carlson

    Wonderful story David!

    • Reply January 25, 2013

      David Cutler

      Dear Mr. Carlson,

      Thanks so much for the comment. How are you associated with Brimmer and May?

      All the best,

      Dave Cutler

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