Former Head Bruce Shaw Reflects on Parenting, Schools, and His Tenure

“As the 20th Century progressed, parenting changed,” Bruce opened. “And when parenting changed, childhood changed.”
At last week's event, co-sponsored by the Parents Council and Alumni Board, Bruce Shaw, SHS Head of School from 1994–2010, spoke about the trends in the second half of the 20th Century that altered parenting and the educational landscape.
In honor of the School’s centennial, Bruce authored a history of Shady Hill’s second fifty years, picking up where Ed Yeomans’ history of the School’s first five decades left off. “By its 50th year, Shady Hill was an established school,” Bruce noted. “The question for the community was how to adapt to the times while still staying true to the founding principles.”
“What kind of childhood do we want our children to have?” Bruce framed his remarks with this question that parents and educators regularly ponder. He discussed how the rise of two-working-parent families, commuting, technology, and the increased competition for independent-school admission has affected parenting and today’s educational landscape.
Asked about his most controversial decision, Bruce said, “Dropping Shady Hill’s ninth grade and adding three sixth-grade sections was a wrenching change for many. Yet, the change invited creativity and innovation and strengthened the School.”
A parent asked him to reflect on what he saw as Shady Hill’s strengths. Bruce responded by saying, “The TTC is the single best thing that Shady Hill has ever instituted. When I was a Grade IX gradehead, my apprentices kept me on my toes by asking me why I did things the way I did. The resulting reflection, sense-making, and explaining kept me at the top of my game, benefiting me, the apprentices, and my students. This embedded professional-development engine keeps Shady Hill current, thoughtful, and focused on what is best for students.”
To order Bruce’s history of Shady Hill’s second 50 years and how families and the School responded to the unfolding social and political trends, click here.
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