The Face of Perseverance: A BCD Story!

Each school year, for each of the three terms at BCD, Upper School students participate in Arts Blocks. The students are provided a catalog featuring a selection of various types of courses in the arts—music composition, sculpture, band, painting, drama, or drawing—and students choose two Arts Blocks per term. The options change each term, although some of the Arts Blocks courses, like Yearbook, remain constant.

As a school, we do our best to try to honor students’ first or second choice Arts Blocks selections, however, at times, due to numbers and popularity, we need to spread the students out to have balanced enrollment in the different courses. Therefore, occasionally a student may end up in a third choice Arts Block.

In the fall term of the 2017-2018 year, one of our 7th graders, Jack, was placed in his third choice Arts Block. Very politely, Jack approached me and asked, “Do I have to stay in this Arts Block?”, and I responded, “I’d like you to give it a try.” Jack replied, “OK.”

And, give it a try he did!

Jack immersed himself in his new Arts Block. Vocal Ensemble, something very new for this triple-sport competitive athlete (soccer, tennis, and lacrosse), became something where Jack was soon an active and engaged participant. He was a rock star, practicing various vocal parts, auditioning for solos, and ultimately delighting and entertaining many at both Grandparents Day and the BCD Winter Concert, where Jack sang a solo section of a complicated and beautiful song Rise Up by Andra Day. (Interesting enough, this song is about resilience and perseverance).

Now in our second term of the year, not only has Jack stuck with Vocal Ensemble, this time selecting it as his first choice option for his Arts Blocks, the Vocal Ensemble enrollment has increased from 7 participants in term one to 13 participants in term two. I firmly believe that Jack’s enthusiasm for the block was an inspiration to his peers and that it magnetized some of them to try it, too.

Too often these days, so many of us resist discomfort and the unknown. Frequently, parents advocate for their child to prevent the child from having to potentially experience something of a challenge or temporary struggle. I think Jack’s story shows us all what can happen if we try something new. If we engage in the unknown, if we wade through the period of uncertainty, there is the potential to gain and win on the other side.

Being so impressed with Jack’s willingness to try to the new Arts Block, and equally surprised that his parents had not called and requested that he be moved from this third choice Arts Block, I saw Jack’s mom one day and shared my delight and admiration for Jack’s engagement. Jack’s mom shared that that is how it works in her house: you give effort to new things and you follow through on things you begin.

Let Jack’s readiness to engage in discomfort be an inspirational story for us all. I encourage you to share his story with your children as well. 

What if we found out we like and were good at diving into the unknown?

What if we tried something new and really engaged in it and found we were really good at it?

What if we tried something unknown and through doing, inspired others to take such a risk?


You never know until you try. Bravo, Jack!

By |2018-02-02T16:06:40-05:00February 1st, 2018|

Reflections from BCD’s newest gems!

Berkshire Country Day School started the 2017-2018 school year on an upswing of positivity. We were delighted to welcome forty-one new students to our already vibrant community. We were equally enthused to welcome new members to our talented and dedicated faculty.

Like the new students and families, the new faculty members had lots to learn with regard to settling into their new home here on campus. Each of them worked diligently in an open-minded and caring manner to get to know the culture, the community and at getting down to the business of planning and delivering their areas of expertise to our children.

Recently, I took some time to connect with the new teachers, to ask them some questions about BCD now that they are one of us. Read their thoughts below:

Julia Kreilkamp, Beginner 2s Teacher

When someone asks you about your job, what do you say?

I say that BCD is an extremely friendly and supportive school community and that the families are a dream to work with. I feel so much more at home among this group of colleagues than I have at any other school where I’ve taught. I am among kindred spirits in terms of values, commitment, and sense of humor!  I also say that working with 2-year-olds is as interesting a challenge as I expected it to be.

What is something that surprised you as you settled in BCD over the past term?

At each of the faculty meetings, the content has been worthwhile, and the attitude of collaboration and respect has been consistently present.  I wouldn’t say this surprised me, but it has made a strong impression on me, as it provides a distinct contrast to my past experiences in public school faculty meetings.

What do you most look forward to when you come to work each day?

The surprises that come with hanging out with two-year-olds. Having the freedom to respond to the mood and interests of the children, to wander outside for long periods of time, or to have a spontaneous singing or dancing session. I also look forward to knowing that I will be greeted warmly by many people and that I am surrounded by many colleagues who seem to be completely happy to be here.

Mary Daire, French Teacher and BCD parent

What are some of your perceptions of the sense of community at BCD?

I’m blown away by the sense of community here at BCD and by the feeling of inclusiveness, support, and kindness. I say this from several vantage points; as a teacher, a colleague, and a parent.

Participating in my first ‘Thanksgiving Soup,” the revered and celebrated tradition at BCD, confirmed the present and enduring level of community at BCD. It was amazing to see so many alumni return and to see parents working hard in the kitchen to pull together a meal for the entire school.

What is your favorite place on campus and why?

The Learning Commons. It is such a refreshing space to be in. The natural light is amazing, and the space just exudes a fresh and bright energy! The Distance Lab, the glass room within the Commons, is a close second. The students love to have class in there.

When someone asks you about your job, what do you say?

I say that I have my dream job: teaching the language that I love and sharing my passion for the language and a culture that I care so much about with students in my home county of the Berkshires!

Ashley Junod, Preschool Assistant Teacher and BCD parent

What are some of your perceptions of the sense of community at BCD?

For the last 2 years, I saw the community from a parent’s point of view. Now seeing it from the teachers’ side as well, it is even better. The involvement level of each and every teacher with each and every individual student is so amazing. I knew it was great when I was a “just” a parent who simply dropped my son off. But now being there each day, even just a few days a week, it’s so apparent how much these teachers appreciate what they do, and their freedom to teach the way they feel is best at this great school.

When someone asks you about your job, what do you say?

Three years ago when my husband and I decided to bring our son to BCD, we knew it was going to be one of the best things we ever did for him. Now that I have had the opportunity to be a part of the internal team of teachers, I know even more certainty that we were right. To be able to see firsthand different elements of my son’s day while I am on campus with him is so awesome.

Lia Russel-Self, Theatre Director and Development Associate

What are some of your perceptions of the sense of community at BCD?

BCD is focused on the wellness of each other. The entire community is focused on uplifting each other and supporting one another. The environment reminds me of a book a read as a child, It Takes a Village. Parents and students are attentive to each other, creating this loving extended family. The community of BCD is one that is open and supportive, both on campus and off.

What do you most look forward to when you come to work each day?

The creativity of my students. Every time I step into my classes, I feel as if they have become the teachers, introducing new concepts and perspectives that keep me on my toes. Whether it’s a new music-composing software or just an inspiring moment, the students are teaching me every single day.

What are you looking forward to in the year ahead?

I am really excited about the collaboration among myself, other arts teachers, and the support of the school administration as we go into production for the winter performance. It’s been an all-school effort, and it’s such a rare commodity to work with such enthusiastic and inspiring educators and students.

Carli Imreh-Allgretta, Beginner 2s Assistant Teacher

What do you most look forward to when you come to work each day?

I look forward to the greetings I give to and receive from my colleagues on a daily basis. BCD has opened my eyes to how a school community should operate. Waves and smiles from across the courtyard and friendly hellos on the playground have begun to make my day.

What is your favorite place on campus and why?

My favorite place on campus is the playground! This is where children of all ages come to play and explore. Each day on the playground children emerge with excited faces ready for their next encounter. It is nice to witness the familiarity the students of various ages, including the B2s, have with students in others grade. On the playground, children are aware of their older peers who are looking to lend a helping hand and their younger peers who may need that same hand. This is where long-lasting friendships with their fellow Penguins are created.

What a pleasure it is to see these dedicated new community members in action each day. They bring a sense of joy coupled with professionalism to all that they do. We were so delighted to have welcomed them in August and to continue to witness their successful settling in to all things BCD. True gems!



By |2018-01-22T16:11:44-05:00January 22nd, 2018|

To Puerto Rico with Love…From Puerto Rico with Love

In our vested efforts to grow our commitment to Service Learning at Berkshire Country Day School, as a community, we chose to participate in Make a Difference Day, 2017. One of the largest annual single-days of service national wide, Make a Difference Day seemed like a wonderful way for BCD to come together in action toward a cause.

Initially, we contemplated encouraging our families to collectively volunteer in a local agency/issue. Being that Make a Difference Day is on a Saturday, we even considered the idea of families choosing how to be of service in their own neighborhoods, not necessarily toward one communal cause but toward an effort that they as a family connected with. However, as we began to flesh out our ideas together in a Parents’ Association meeting, our direction for action for Make A Difference Day 2017 was brought to light before our eyes. 

Hurricane Maria had just recently ravaged the island of Puerto Rico and while the island itself may be an ocean away from our physical community, Mayra Rodriguez, parent of Alex in grade 8, had much to share about the impact on many, including her friends and family, since the hurricane hit. Mayra, a Puerto Rican American who trained as a teacher in Puerto Rico, brought Puerto Rico and her plea for their dire need for our service to us in illustrative emotion.

Coincidentally, and simultaneously, our caring and intelligent Upper School Student Council, under the guidance of faculty member Sarah Pitcher, had also been concerned about Puerto Rico and wondered what they could do to help to show that they care and to provide service toward a solution.

So, we rallied! As a community, we decided that rather than go through a large national relief organization we would organize to collect items needed by the people of Puerto Rico. Mayra collated a needs list based on her knowledge of how the people of Puerto Rico live and what they were in the greatest need of.

Items included beans, rice, flashlights, batteries, mosquito repellent, and pillar candles. We created a detailed donation, collected the items, and on Saturday, October 28, 2017, volunteers from our community, which included students, teachers, parents, alumni, neighbors, and administration, came together to create an active and energized assembly line, packing boxes to be sent off to people in Puerto Rico.

Seventy-eight boxes were packed and sent to Puerto Rico from the BCD community! Inside each box, we included lovely cards, letters, drawings, and even tissue paper flowers made by the students of BCD. We also included a self-addressed, stamped envelope with paper inside and a letter inviting the recipients to send us some mail back.

The letters from the people of Puerto Rico have been pouring in! Drawings, poems, photos, letters, videos, and even a handmade doll from our grateful new friends who continue to struggle to live life as they knew it before the hurricane hit. The gratitude, appreciation, and human-to-human connection are palpable from each piece of mail written by children, teenagers, adults and the elderly.

And, our own students have been moved and delighted to read the mail, see the drawings and photos, and feel the full circle of love from the action our community took. Thank you to the BCD community for coming together to show we care.


By |2017-12-19T08:55:06-05:00December 12th, 2017|

Academic Conversations in the Classroom

At our Faculty Meeting on November 8, 2017, Berkshire Country Day School’s Kindergarten through Grade 6 teachers participated in a workshop, here on campus, related to the topic called Academic Conversations explored in the book of the same name by authors Jeff Zwiers and Marie Crawford.

Academic Conversations, a relatively new term in the education field, are purposeful and sustained conversations related to classroom content. Unlike typical classroom discourse, the skills for Academic Conversations are intentionally taught and modeled for students as they learn more about the process. The aim of Academic Conversations in practice is to help students learn from one another through active discourse and to intentionally work to build new understanding through the power of intentional discussion.

Led by local Literacy Consultant Kristin Burke, the workshop   presented at BCD outlined the skills students need to be explicitly taught to best succeed in high-level Academic Conversations:

  1. To elaborate and clarify
  2. To support their ideas with examples
  3. To build on and/or challenge a partner’s ideas
  4. To paraphrase
  5. To synthesize conversation points

Developing these key communication skills aligns strongly with the proficiencies needed for high-level academic reading and writing. Cumulatively, these are the skill sets that help students communicate in a variety of settings, including whole-class discussions and in small groups.

In the workshop, we practiced specific listening and speaking skills to help hit home the importance of varied specific skills. The team also participated in challenge activities that modeled for us the concept of explaining one’s thinking and there being more than one “right answer” in many instances.

Most impressive and illustrative to our group were the videos of real children in real classrooms having real conversations using the tools inherent to Academic Conversations. These videos, captured in Kristin’s former school in Framingham, MA, were truly inspirational and highlighted the fact that, if we believe that with the right tools and with explicit instruction on how to use the tools, kids can succeed, they will prove us right.

As a team, we had fun engaging in the activities. We thought and wondered aloud together. We shared practices and ideas. Additionally, we were excited by some new ideas to try with our own students back in class.

The very next morning after the workshop, I walked into Andrea Patel’s kindergarten class. She was in circle time with her class and she was explaining to them that they were going to have a discussion but that she, the teacher, was not going to run it; the students themselves would be in charge of listening to one another, not interrupting and learning to take cues from the group about when it the next person’s turn. Later, Gill Romano came to tell me was so excited by one the challenge activities, an activity that got kids discussing their ideas and their reasons for their positions that she was thinking of presenting a similar challenge every day to her third graders.

It continues to be a pleasure and an honor to work with the teaching team here at BCD. In the workshop, they demonstrated their curiosity, expertise, and passion for education as well as their open-mindedness to learn and try new ideas. We all agreed to try some of the approaches related to Academic Conversations over the next couple of months and we look forward to return visit from Kristin Burke in late January 2018.

By |2020-01-14T11:31:32-05:00November 13th, 2017|