by Tucker Foehl, Head of School
Within the lifecycle of schools, May is notorious as the month where excitement and exhaustion combine into an emotion that challenges us while also propelling us to graduation. It marks a year of dedication and development and culminates with year-end projects and exams, spring concerts, final athletic events and contests, theatrical performances, and of course, our lead-up to graduation. It’s the time of our academic year when everything comes together, and when we celebrate and experience all of our collective hard work. While some bemoan the “hundred days of May,” we celebrate them as our students put themselves, individually and collectively, in the arena for all of us to witness their talents, passions, and all that they bring to make SA such a dynamic and vibrant community.
In this year like no other, of course, this is undoubtedly a month that exceeds any typical May for us. While all of the usual capstones and celebrations are happening, we are making up for lost time now that we can finally be together again. Some of our cherished traditions and signature programs that we had to postpone are now happening in rapid-fire succession. It feels simultaneously like the start of the year and the close of the year at once or, as one teacher said to me the other day, “it’s like August and May found a way to combine forces in one surreal month of school.” Beginnings and endings are bumping up against one another in one joyful, wild, and busy month; and the final ten days of May look like a full month on their own.
Last Saturday, we welcomed our New Coyotes to SA. This is such a meaningful day as our Admissions All-Stars orient our incoming students to campus. I was so impressed (but not surprised) by the thoughtfulness and care of our students as they guided our new students through their first real moments together. This year, it felt particularly momentous for many of our new students because they were unable to visit us for in-person Visit Days and Open Houses. We have students joining us from cities and towns throughout the North Bay; each bringing their unique talents, passions, and interests to our community. It was such a festive and fun way to kick off their official Sonoma Academy experience.
In the coming days, we will finally bring our grade levels together for retreats. These opportunities for each class to connect and build rapport—which usually kick-off our school year—are even more meaningful and important now. Spending time outside, engaged in fun activities and getting to know one another in a whole new context is a highlight of the academic year, and we are so grateful and excited to have planned outdoor adventures for all of our classes so they can bond in this unique and special way. The seniors will raft down the American River, and all other grades will stay a bit closer to home and float along the Russian River.
We will also cap off the year with our Intersession program. Usually held in the winter days of January, this year our students will explore new topics and dive into immersive workshops under the spring sunshine. With shorter three-day sessions, we are offering a wide range of options for exploration. Students will create art and craft projects, take part in community service and social justice work, learn to play new sports, and study subjects ranging from Python programming and organic chemistry to “life skills” (like changing a tire and doing laundry!) and leadership.
All of our end-of-year, on-campus action is invigorating, incredibly exciting and, of course, a bit poignant and bittersweet. We witness our seniors finally able to really claim their rightful place as leaders of our student body. We celebrate our freshman finally coalescing as a class after so many months without really meeting together. Watching our athletes compete on Ziemer Field, our musicians sharing and rocking the Spring Concert stage, and our actors rehearsing for what will be a momentous performance of Little Shop of Horrors, we are incredibly proud of where we are and what we have overcome as one community. So, yes, May is crazy and its typical balance of celebration and exhaustion; but it’s supposed to be that way. And that return to our regular, dare I say normal, rhythm of school life seems unthinkable a few months ago and feels pretty fantastic with graduation two weeks away.