Opening Day 2021-2022: A Return to Tradition

On August 31, 2021, The Winsor School ushered in a new school year and held an opening day marked by a welcome return to time-honored traditions and celebrations. 

Students arriving on campus were greeted by Winsor’s own version of a “scream tunnel” with costumed seniors lining the hallways and handing out high fives. The seniors unveiled their carnival-themed home room by wearing sequins and feather boas, and dressing as ring leaders, inflatable animals, and fair foods. After spending some time in homeroom, the entire school gathered for the opening convocation with Class IV-VIII in the theater and Class I–III watching via livestream from the dining hall. 

The first speaker at the opening convocation was Allison Kaneb Pellegrino ’89, P’21, ’22, president of the Winsor Corporation, who welcomed everyone back to school. “Do your very best, this year especially. Take advantage of being here with your classmates, teachers, and teammates.” She went on to wish everyone a “productive, healthy, and safe year.”

President of COLLECT Evie Wells ’22 said, “I want to touch on the resilience of this community. For the last year and a half, we at Winsor have been confronted with change, ambiguity, and uncertainty. Virtual classes, distanced desks, and alarmingly too few hugs.”

But the class theme of carnival is allowing students to reframe that narrative. “Part of why I love our theme is that when I think of a carnival, I think of the most fun type of chaos,” shared Wells. “The carnival theme perfectly expresses a Winsor student’s aptitude for facing chaos with energy and excitement.” She added, “For those of you returning to Winsor, but particularly for those of you who are new, take this year as an opportunity to do exactly what Winsor students do best, and confront uncertainty with confidence. Enjoy the carnival.”

Senior class president Mary Kate Hart ’22 took the podium and reflected on her first day of school as a Class I student. “On my first day of school, like most, I got lost in the science wing, was late to every single class, and was the first person of the year to shatter a dining hall plate.” It is a Winsor tradition that everyone stands up and claps when someone drops a plate in the dining hall. Back in 2014 as a Class I student, Hart was the first person of the school year to drop a plate. “I nearly turned purple out of embarrassment,” she said. “My first day of school, and many other days, was definitely crazy, but I promise, it’s only gone up from there.”

Reflecting on the class of 2022’s choice of homeroom theme, Hart shared “A carnival is where individual people come together to share their talents, their interests or hobbies, in order to make a singular thing great, and my class is full of these people.” Comparing her years at Winsor to a carnival ferris wheel ride, she concluded with “Whether you’re in the beginning of your Winsor ferris wheel or closer to the end, remember the courage it took to get on this ride, to take in the highs and laugh through the lows, and of course, to appreciate the views as you go.”

Lower School Council heads Talia Dwyer ’26 and Lauren Folker ’26 also spoke to the assembled group. For the 2021-2022 school year, they have decided to end every speech with a quote, and today’s quote echoed Hart’s ferris wheel metaphor, “take the risk, or lose the chance.”

In her 2020-2021 opening address, Head of School Sarah Pelmas reminded us that this school year marks Winsor’s 135th birthday. In 1886, Miss Winsor started a school in the Back Bay for girls who would grow up to be intellectual powerhouses and significant contributors to the world. Today, in Longwood, Ms. Pelmas shared that Winsor is still all of those things, and more. “We don’t all come from the same class or social circles...We are more diverse, more varied, we embrace people from many more backgrounds, and we graduate students who will follow a much greater variety of life paths.” 

She went on to share, “And because of that diversity, we are more likely to disagree, see things from different perspectives, prioritize different things. And that’s great. It is perhaps the most important goal a school can have…It’s not always easy to disagree, but it is very important to do so.”

Inspired by Dumbledore’s opening speech in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling (“Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!”), Ms. Pelmas shared four words: mistakes, kindness, curiosity, eye-contact. 

Referencing a KQED’s Mind/Shift article about mistakes, Ms. Pelmas explored the four types of mistakes: stretch, aha moment, sloppy, and high-stakes. “Because we love you and we are here to help you grow and learn and become the people you most want to be, we do expect a lot of mistakes, usually of the ‘aha-moment’ or ‘stretch’ variety. My experience is that you will think something is a very high-stakes mistake, when in fact it will be a sloppy mistake and/or an aha-moment mistake. But almost none of these mistakes are bad. All of them help you learn.”

Ms. Pelmas encouraged all of us to start small by making mistakes, practicing kindness, and being curious. In closing, she shared, “It is a huge blessing to be with you here, learning together. May you have a wonderful, exciting year.”

Completing the tradition-filled morning, SASS leaders Sarah Jane Gavin ’22, Abby Groom ’22, Karina Peak ’22, and Tia Sheth ’22, led two school cheers complete with shouts of “red hot,” clapping, and stomping. Lower School Council co-leaders Talia Dwyer ’26 and Lauren Folker ’26 rang Miss Winsor's bell to signify the official start to the school year. And finally, music faculty Andrew Marshall and the Senior Small members Ani Banerjee ’22, Katherine Torres ’22, Leila Glotzer Martin ’22, Emily Krueckeberg ’22, Angelina Li ’22, Isabella Liu ’22, Maita Mungah ’22, Uche Ogbue ’22, Jessica Wei ’22 took the stage. They led the singing of "Jerusalem,” a hymn full of allegories and popular in the late 19th and early 20th century in the fight for universal suffrage.