The Bay School, San Francisco, CA April 20, 2017

by George J Elbaum

Founded in 2004, The Bay School (Bay) is an independent, coeducational college preparatory high school in the Presidio of San Francisco.  With more than 350 students in grades 9 through 12, Bay balances challenging academics and innovative thinking with a mindful approach to learning and life – its goal is to see students unlock their individual and collective potential so they begin to realize their roles in a dynamic world.  Emphasizing depth of content, the school’s curriculum focuses on problem solving, promotes critical thinking and encourages students to connect academic study with their extracurricular lives. Bay’s 9th and 10th grade courses build a broad foundation of basic skills, focusing on the relationships among traditional academic disciplines. Students’ interests and talents increasingly drive the academic program in 11th and 12th grade.

Bay believes that a broad range of perspectives and experiences play a crucial role in achieving its educational mission, thus it intentionally recruits students and teachers from diverse cultural, racial, economic and geographic backgrounds. Students of color represent approximately 30 percent of the student body. Bay students come from more than 84 middle schools—77% from independent schools, 19% from public schools, and 4% from parochial schools and homeschool. Bay’s student-to-faculty ratio is 9:1, and 74% of its teaching faculty have advanced degrees.

Students attend classes in a beautifully renovated, national historic landmark building. The 62,000-square-foot campus features 30 classrooms, three state-of-the-art science laboratories, a 3,000-square-foot library, an art studio, a media lab and a spacious student commons and dining room.  The Project Center, established in 2011, boasts dedicated facilities for engineering, design and robotics, as well as additional fine arts studio space for sculpture and printmaking. The Project Center also serves as the home of Bay’s distinctive Senior Signature Projects program.

My presentation to 10th grade Humanities class was organized by teacher Caitlin King with support from teacher Hannah Wagner, and was arranged by Nikki Bambauer of Jewish Family and Children’s Services.

Letters from Students

A week after receiving a packet of letters from The Bay School students my wife Mimi & I finally made the time to read them, and it was a real pleasure doing so.  The letters were especially thoughtful and perceptive, resulting in many excerpts shown below, and there was also one letter about personal growth that so impressed us in its entirety that I forwarded it to teacher Caitlin King as worthy of her attention.

  • You were thoughtful and kind, and the way you live by the Golden Rule was apparent and contagious.  As a young person learning new things everyday, and forming the opinions that will carry me through adulthood, I wanted to say thank you!
  • From your presentation I take away the importance of being tolerant, compassionate, accepting and just, as well as sticking up for the minority.
  • When you put the number of people whose lives were taken during the Holocaust in the context the total population of San Francisco, the magnitude of the event was clear and very impactful.
  • Hearing your story gave me the realization that children in the war had to grow up quickly and learn how to handle their surroundings. From your story I gained a large amount of gratitude for the people in my life, the opportunities and the support I am given daily.  Thank you for giving me a new perspective on the war and how it impacted families and children.
  • Hearing about your memories and stories really reached my heart and some of the feelings you described remind me of feelings my grandpa described from that time.
  • Thank you for opening your heart and showing us parts of your yesterdays.
  • Your story helped me find the emotional feelings behind how horrible the Holocaust was.
  • Something that I will take away from your talk today is that people such as myself should be thankful for the blessings they have because they never had to undergo the incredible suffering that Holocaust victims did, nor the incredible suffering that some people still face in the world today. Thank you so much, it was a pleasure to hear your story.
  • Your presentation really made me think about how, especially with so much hatred happening in our country these past few months, it is more important than ever that everyone is accepting of others. Thank you so much for coming to speak to our class and opening my eyes to what the real effects of hatred can amount to.
  • Hearing your story makes a number on a page feel like millions of stories rather than a tally.
  • Beyond your story, I think that your beliefs of leading life without anger and spite will stick with me.
  • As you were recounting the events that occurred to you during the war and afterwards, it was interesting to see what you remembered vividly and what you didn’t. It seemed to me that almost everything you remembered was somehow related either to happiness or to luck.
  • I thought it was interesting to compare your story with that of Elie Wiesel’s in “Night” and how his main focuses were on survival and grief instead of happiness and luck.
  • I learned a lot, not only about the Holocaust but also about my own values.
  • I just kept coming back to the fact that the Nazis destroyed so many homes and killed so many people – it was impossible for me to wrap my head around.
  • Even though my story does not fully relate to yours, you reminded me and taught me the power of storytelling and how it is more powerful than reading statistics in a history book.
  • Your talk was very inspiring to me and reminded me to always strive for inclusiveness and tolerance.

About gelbaum

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