Embracing the Unknown

Anne Swayze, Head of School
On a chilly Saturday morning, when the rest of the world was sleeping, my father, who had awoken hours before, wheeled my red Schwinn bicycle to the driveway and waved me outside.
We had been planning this event for weeks, and today was the day. A man whose well-worn hands could build beautiful homes and thread a needle with precision quickly removed the bike’s training wheels and guided me to sit on the plastic glittery seat. With his fingers crossed and our hearts beating way too fast, he guided me along the sidewalk until he felt confident to release his hold from the back of the bike seat and watch as I pedaled down Forest Avenue. Still shaky, he shouted, “Look up, stay on the sidewalk, I love you, remember to steer, and, most importantly, stop at the road.” Determination.

As long as I can remember, I have loved playing basketball. The sound of the ball making contact with the gym floor or an outdoor court. Shooting baskets was my go-to experience. Even today, when I enter a gym, I look for that random basketball lying on the hardwood floor, and I always pick it up, dribble twice, and take a shot. My shots rarely make it in the basket, but the physics behind taking that perfect jump shot remains with me. I grew up with three older brothers, all natural athletes, each well over six feet tall. The only way I could be remotely competitive was to nail the jump shot. Square to the basket, feet shoulder-width apart and a bit diagonal, hands placed at 2:00 and 4:00, bounce, bounce, knees bent, power jump, arms extended, release, breaking my wrist following the shot, and swoosh. What a feeling. Practice.

Summer at summer camp was marked by songs that echoed across the water, special "sugar-fueled feeds" after taps, plates of pancakes and corn fritters, a bugle call to welcome and close the day, friendships that to this day continue to grow, and the elusive Wabansee dive. The dive was a physical feat of patience and practice. When executing correctly, it meant standing at the edge of the swimming dock, toes hanging just over the edge, arms raised in the air with thumbs intertwined, and slowly bending your knobby teenage knees, gathering just enough spring, lifting your body straight up and straight down, creating the slightest possible ripple in the water. The Wabansee dive was the ultimate goal of every camper at summer’s end. You wore the success of passing your Wabansee dive like a badge of honor, topped off by a celebratory song and a sweet award at Grand Council Fire. Achievement.

Today, as I pondered this written piece, I reflected on the hundreds of times during the school year when your sons worked on mastering something they saw as impossible BEFORE attending Greenwood.

It could have been memorizing their class schedule or remembering to pack sneakers for their trip to the river. Or it was setting their alarms on their phones for morning circle, advisory, and evening class. Was it creating a "pros and cons" list with their advisor when deciding weekend activities? Or that overwhelming feeling of accomplishment when they presented the Gettysburg Address to a packed audience at the Latchis Theater?

These moments occur during a year and represent the intersection between doubt and hesitation, certainty and resolution. They are the moments when the faculty's care, mentoring, patience, and guidance have allowed your sons to be independent and carve out their pathway. We focus on providing a solid social-emotional and executive function foundation supported by academic classes, residential programming, and experiential learning. Therefore, through these experiences, we instill in your sons the belief that "anything is possible."

We all have stories of "climbing our personal  Mount Everest": learning to ride a two-wheeler, perfecting a jump shot, or executing the Wabansee dive flawlessly. Building confidence, sharing success, and realizing our life journey is about trusting our hearts and following our north star. It also means there are fits and starts, heading back to the drawing board and embracing the process as much as the finished product.

The world asks and expects much from each of us. There is uncertainty about the health of our planet, the future of education, and the respect that each person is due. We are balancing on a fragile access point, making a Greenwood education much more poignant.

As rain continues to fall and the sky takes on a murky gray color, a by-product of the Canadian wildfires, I urge you to marvel at how your son navigates the world around him. He is talented, funny, and unique. He is also complex, neurodivergent, and incredibly astute while questioning the world around him.  

Let's please remember to embrace the flaws, rough edges, uneven surfaces, and unpredictable moments. We all make mistakes. We all need to grow. And we need the understanding and patience of each other. We are all human.