Nothing Rhymes With Orange

Reflecting on Senior Speeches, Service, and Community at Blake


Isaac Gittleman, Columnist

In my 14 years at Blake, the community is what has supported me through ups and downs, given me perspective, and helped me to start giving back. In listen to Ben Lee’s recent senior speech and reflecting on it, I called into question this community that has supported me for so long, and that’s important.

Through four years of high school, I’ve sat through nearly 500 senior speeches over almost every Tuesday and Thursday. I can’t ignore the fact that I was given an opportunity to share my voice to this upper school community through this process, and I really appreciated the opportunity to improve my speaking skills and share a message with this whole community listening.

I don’t think senior speeches are a terrible thing, but I do think it is our responsibility to look at the framework of the program and assess how it aligns with what we as a community are trying to accomplish. Nearly all of the moments we have together as a school, as a community, are spent with one person talking and everyone else listening with varying degrees of attentiveness. Our time spent coming together, learning from kids of other grade levels, is few and far between. What if we considered using this time, even occasionally to come together and strengthen our community.

We have had several attempts to actually come together as an upper school, and two stand out in my time: the lip sync battle my sophomore year, and the pep rally this year. Both had awkwardness coursing through the programs, which was great, but this year, a mere drizzle left everyone running for shelter. With great intentions, these programs have fallen short of their goals, because we don’t spend enough time all together, embracing our awkwardness, getting up in front of everyone. We wait until senior year to speak for seven minutes, but we’re reading off of a script, we can skate around some of the discomfort.

Even Legacy Day, the quintessential Blake School community building day is great in a lot of ways, but one single day a year. This day is an opportunity for us to interact with kids from all three campuses, but it’s a single day each year. What if we came together once a month or every quarter as an upper school and felt our community more often?

Many other private schools have more ongoing systematic service opportunities, and while there is a lot of that at Blake, it feels like it’s more people at Blake doing service, not as much through Blake efforts always. If we want to take a different approach, consider an opportunity to have discussions on current events and conflicts with 15 or so different discussion options around the school for students of all grades and teachers to engage in and grow from. We need more opportunities to come together, work on our discourse, and truly feel the presence of the community that has supported me along the way. Senior Speeches don’t need to go, but maybe they can change and not dominate all of the community time we have together here.