The trimester ended at school just before spring break, marked by Culminating Event, in which the students from each classroom present the work done in that term to family and friends in an open-house type setting.
We have been at Gardner now for several of these events, since this is our 3rd year. The rough format of these events usually is that the guests arrive and get seated in the Great Room (gym), with coffee and breakfast snacks, and then the littles usually assemble on the stage and sing a song, accompanied by our head of school Mark, on guitar (you may remember D singing “I Love the Mountains”). Then Mark makes some announcements, and the group split up and visit presentations given in individual classrooms.
This is Mark’s last year at Gardner. This is a painful for us, for a couple reasons. One is that we have not known the school without him, and his personality (easy going but firm on things that matter, British humor, considerate, thoughtful, great teacher, international background, and he plays guitar!) is such a large part of the culture we value so much on campus. Another is that his daughter Lily and D are quite close, and have been together all 3 years. We hope to keep in touch but as we all know this can be challenging and may not happen. I know it’s time for Mark to make a change, and change is never easy for anyone involved (I’m also hearing echoes of Tahoman Kadyn’s–Dashiell’s buddy– speech given at this event, about the challenge of moving to high school), but I am hopeful that all will be well.
Still, it’s a bit heart-wrenching.
Earlier in the term, I had sensed that Mark was kind of done with Gardner, which I understood. As in all things, often once you’re on the other side of a difficult decision you’ve moved on, and are ready to get to the next thing. So I wasn’t expecting to see Mark with his guitar again, I wasn’t expecting that magic that happens when 20 kids sing together on a stage.
So I was quite surprised that what happened was even better. Mark said to us in the audience: this time, you’re going to sing. He taught us a little pop song (made much better by him and us I must say) and we did sing, and then the students joined in. I realize that as I write this it doesn’t sound that special, but there’s something about being in a room, with live music, that really joins you to that event and makes it memorable. Only Mark could pull that off, and I was so glad to get one last dose of it.
Here is a link to what I was able to record well of those few moments.
Mark, we’ll miss you, in so many ways.
Know that a piece of you will always be at Gardner, and you will always hold a special place in our hearts.
May you find peace and happiness in your new life on Vashon Island.