Posts Tagged ‘Connecticut’

By Nat Worley

The Spire, 1962 yearbook of Greenwich Country Day School.
Image of John Webster, Former Headmaster of Greenwich Country Day School. Source: The Spire, 1962 yearbook of Greenwich Country Day School.

Greenwich Country Day School. Old Church Road, Greenwich, Connecticut. My mother taught second grade at Greenwich Country Day for three years before I was born in 1965. In those years, John Webster was the headmaster, and the title meant something. Students, faculty, and parents alike revered him. By the time he retired, he had been the headmaster at Country Day for more than 30 years.

Many private schools have this history of being led by a single, towering figure for decades. The school becomes a living extension of his vision—for a community, a pedagogy, and a life philosophy. Mr. Webster believed in responsibility, effort, virtue. He hired teachers who illustrated those ideals with their own lives and character.

When I was in my 30s, my mother showed me the letter that Mr. Webster wrote her when I was born. He congratulated her on my birth and promised her that I had a place waiting at the school when I turned four. In an important way, that letter writes my first destiny.

The Spire, 1962 yearbook of Greenwich Country Day SchoolI went to Greenwich Country Day in 1969 as a four year-old preschooler, and I graduated from its Upper School at the end of ninth grade in 1980. The years there were the happiest of my life, for many reasons, but chief among them was the sense that I belonged utterly among my classmates, in those classrooms, on those fields. How odd to see that the great man himself, who retired in my second year there, had pre-ordained at my birth that I should belong.

The school itself occupied two former country estates, one of which contained all the school buildings, and the other of which housed faculty apartments. The academic buildings in that era were white clapboard, rambling wooden structures made to look like large colonial family homes. Their wood floors were varnished to high gloss and chair rails lined some of the walls. Administrative offices were large and just comfortable enough not to be imposing, suggesting large private libraries for great men and women.

Towering pines, green meadows and playing fields surrounded the buildings. We walked down a long hill and over a covered footbridge to arrive at the athletic fields and hockey rink. I can hear exactly the clatter of cleats as 30 boys hustled over the wood boards toward practice below. On game days, we marched in formation as a team, two by two, our cadenced cleats clattering on the bridge in unison, martial and precise. We marched in silence. Our uniforms were orange and black, with tigers growling on the front of them.

Male teachers wore coats and ties, and female teachers wore dresses or skirts with starched blouses or sweaters. Boys wore blazers and ties even while playing football at recess. We were idyllically and comically imprinted with Connecticut prep style and ideals.

What I remember of that time in my life was the almost entire lack of irony and cynicism. Teachers taught that we were preparing for lives as business and political leaders and that we had a moral duty to learn service to others.

Issues of class, money, and social rejection must have loomed large for some of the parents and for some of the teachers, though we were treated as insiders, as the elect. I was unaware of class for many years.

What I remember instead are friends whom I knew and loved for the most unguarded dozen years of my life. I remember teachers and what mattered to them. I remember practical jokes and confident, laughing girls, and the feeling that even with all the money required to build the school and pay the tuitions, principles towered above us and counted more than anything else in life.

To this day, I credit that phase of my life with all of my loves: books (especially poetry), debate, singing, team sports, public speaking, writing, and wearing a tie to work. Those teachers—including my mother, who stopped teaching there when I was born—trained us to take ourselves seriously and to treat our fellow human beings with the respect we wanted for ourselves.

Nat works in marketing for a technology and services company in Rhode Island. He has been a student of Natalie Goldberg since 2003 and learned about writing practice from her book, Writing Down the Bones. In addition to writing essays and poems, Nat writes the blog www.cloud9000.com/nat and is a principal of Cloud 9000, an organization devoted to the discovery and development of happiness, well being, and personal growth.


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