On Thursday Oct. 10, the Kingswood Oxford Upper School hosted the community’s grandparents for the first time in over a decade. The school started the day with an assembly that gave the visitors a chance to see some of the school’s musical groups perform and hear speeches from two of the school’s student leaders. After the assembly, students brought their grandparents or special friends to two of their classes.
In the past, Grandparents’ Day has mainly been an event held in the Middle School that has not been as successful in the Upper School. “I think we have tried to do it but haven’t had a great response,” Head of the Upper School Daniel Gleason said. “So it was shelved for a while, but we thought it might be a good idea to try again this year as Grandparent’s Day was landing right after Yom Kippur, and before Columbus Day weekend so family could be visiting.”
Besides logistics, the school had another motivator to bringing Grandparents’ Day back to the Upper School. “The primary motivation was the fact that Middle School Grandparents’ Day was such a success,” Head of School Thomas Dillow said. “We saw how everyone enjoyed seeing their grandchildren or special friends, and heard positive feedback. So, we made the decision to try it in the Upper School too.”
The success of the Upper School Grandparents’ Day was not assured, but Kingswood Oxford had a great response from grandparents and special friends with a high attendance rate. “In general, Grandparents’ Days are not always as well attended at the high school age,” Mr. Dillow said. “But we had over 200 families in attendance.”
While positive feedback on Middle School Grandparents’ Day was a motivator for the school, an Upper School Grandparents’ Day was a great chance to extend the KO community beyond KO parents and acknowledge the grandparents supporting KO students. “We are a day school that values the partnership we have with parents,” Mr. Dillow said. “But support of our students extends often times beyond [parents] to grandparents. [The Upper School Grandparents’ Day] allowed us to extend the circle of partnership and community.”
Kingswood Oxford is a long established school that is celebrating 110 year of education and 50 years of coeducation this year. While this is an incredible feat, it also means that a lot of current students are attending their family member’s alma mater. “We have a number of grandparents who are alums to the school, which makes [Grandparents’ Day] extra special,” Mr. Dillow said.
Grandparents’ Day in the Upper School started out with an assembly. “The performances were great,” Mr. Dillow said. “I was thrilled to see the high level of talent that was on display. It was genuinely beautiful music, and a real testament to our kids.” Besides musical performances, two senior prefects senior Alyssa Pilecki and senior Jackson Wolff gave speeches for the grandparents. “I thought the speeches were wonderful,” Mr. Dillow said. “What they were saying wasn’t contrived; it was from the heart.”
After the assembly, grandparents attended two of the students classes. “When I walked around in classes I saw some cases where grandparents were integrated into class,” Dr. Gleason said. “In some classes teachers had designed a particular activity. In other cases I saw grandparents sort of watching class. I think this was a really great experience because I have kids and when you ask how their day was, they won’t tell you much. It truly means a lot to be able to sit there in class and experience it first hand.”
During Grandparents’ Day, every grandparent and special friend seemed to be loving the experience. “I think I referred of [Grandparents’ Day] to the parents as a love fest,” Mr. Dillow said. “Grandparents just love seeing their grandkids, and the chance to see them in action at school in class is wonderful. I had so many grandparents tell me how happy they were that we were doing this. There is an enormous level of support from our community.”
Overall this year’s Upper School Grandparents’ Day was a success, and a learning experience for the school. “We decided we couldn’t do a lunch for the grandparents because of the numbers,” Mr. Dillow said. “The middle school lunch with the grandparents was very crowded on their Grandparents’ Day. So to do that in the Upper School where there are even more students seemed impossible. We made the decision that we just couldn’t make it work.”
In the future, the school will try to find a way to accommodate all of the grandparents for lunch. “It is something we will try to troubleshoot because it is nice when everyone can eat together,” Mr. Dillow said, “but that is the only regret about a wonderful day.”
We can thank the success of the Upper School Grandparents’ Day on the hard work of organizers, in particular Institutional Advancement Associate Frances Morris. We also owe the success of the day to the support of the grandparents and the accommodation from teachers and students who welcomed the grandparents and special friends. “[Grandparent’s Day] was organized by members of the advancement office and also some people who chipped in from admissions,” said Mr. Dillow. “My hats are off to the good people that organized everything.”