Vital Words – January 4th, 2016

Dear Friends,

My wife and I started our winter break this year by attending a very different concert, “Goldberg” an interpretation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, presented by the performance artist Marina Abramovic and pianist Igor Levit and billed as a “blend of classical music and performance art.”

Upon arriving, concertgoers were instructed to place all electronic devices in lockers. The audience then entered the hall, given noise-cancelling headphones, and instructed to sit in silence. The waiting period lasted for thirty minutes, then a gong sounded, headphones came off, and the concert began. Why the wait? As Marina Abramovic writes about her method, “it is designed to increase attentiveness and encourage a sense of being present.”

Taking the lead from the Abramovic Method it is appealing with the start of the new year to pause, reflect, and think about the work we do at Berkeley Carroll. What is it that we do best at Berkeley Carroll?

At every level, from PreK through grade 12, we push the responsibility for learning onto our students. We want them to be the active learners, the problem solvers, and the collaborators. We challenge our students to be daring thinkers and to learn from failure. We create an environment where inquisitiveness and intellectual risk taking is encouraged and supported.

The most important skill we equip our kids with is the ability to ask questions. First graders ask what happens to the waste we produce? When studying immigration, third graders ask what does it mean to leave one’s home? Our middle schoolers query how society makes laws. Our high school students argue geometry proofs, debate the meanings of literature, and challenge science research.

The Berkeley Carroll approach to learning is now leading us to make facility enhancements at Lincoln Place.

This new project will result in major improvements: a dedicated library for the Middle School, new study space for the Upper School, additional classrooms, and a total makeover of the existing science labs. The theater at Lincoln Place will be renovated and transformed into a versatile, state-of-the-art space for science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) where middle and upper school students can perform experiments, build prototypes and models, create large sculptures and integrate a wide range of skills.

The goal of our vibrant intellectual community is to support the inventiveness, imagination, and creativity of our students on the path of discovering their passions and individual voices.

Thinking back to the concert, after the time spent sitting and contemplating, the music started and all of us in the audience were carried away by the musician’s spirit playing the piece by Bach. The waiting worked. We now head back from winter break, the halls of each of our buildings have been quiet for two weeks but the silence is ended and we can look forward to a burst of energy from our teachers and students.

On behalf of all of us at Berkeley Carroll I wish you all the best in 2016.


Robert D. Vitalo