No Place I’d Rather Be

RachelConnell_USE

There are articles being recycled all the time now describing how the professional journey has changed, how entire industries have yet to take shape, and how people rarely work for one employer for an entire career. The ability to shift from opportunity to opportunity will be increasingly important and, therefore, understanding how you might shape your education and a career with that in mind is paramount. Friends, as educators, as parents of girls, and as girls, this is all very, very true.

And it is also true that women have been doing this from the beginning. We have been doing this because of our partners, our children, and our parents. This is not new to us at all. I watch with awe the women in my life who have carved paths across decades, driven by their talents and their curiosities foremost, but also by their families and other realities of life. I myself have encountered these big and small surprises, and my life has taken a number of academic, personal, and professional turns for many reasons. Through it all, it is my membership in all-girls communities that carries me. I was once a student at an all-girls school, the National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C. Afterwards, I studied and lived life with my female classmates at the women’s college Wellesley. But it was at Emma Willard School, under the mentorship of my Head of School and former NCGS Board President Trudy Hall that I was given multiple opportunities to lead, to understand the necessity and power of girls’ education, and to see how one woman modeled female leadership to an entire community.

It took a little while to both find that next-best-fit girls’ school opportunity and be ready to embrace it, but arrive it did. Now I find myself in Virginia, daily inspired by the girls, the programs, and the people of Chatham Hall. I cherish the sisterhood. I find a kindred spirit with girls’ schools everywhere who do the work, who demonstrate the impact, and who prove the value of what it means to give space for a girl toward her highest and healthiest levels of thinking and being.

Chatham Hall recently welcomed historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin as our sixteenth Leader in Residence, a signature program to engage high-profile female leaders with our girls in deep, lasting ways. I swelled with pride to hear her reflect on her time with us:

“You’re very lucky to have found this place,” she said to the girls. “You all seem alive at a time when teenagers can be quite cynical—this place has enlivened your curiosity, and you can take that with you throughout your days.”

Sure, girls’ schools have been doing the girl-first work that so many others have not been brave enough to do—some of us for 125 years or more. And even still, in this time, we can feel a new wave in learning, in discourse, in work, and in parenting. And I know that girls’ schools will continue to be ahead of the curve, embracing this new wave, because we have always known we must work with the girl and with her world in order for her to be her best self. The girls we teach today and tomorrow will value the competencies we instill in them in ways we can’t even grasp yet. I know this because I live it now twice over, both as a product and provider of girls’ education, and I am ever grateful for what my all-girls education continues to teach me. There’s no place I’d rather be.


Rachel Avery Connell, Rector and Head of School, Chatham Hall


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