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Speaking with Mrs. Farrell

Claire Englander

Staff Writer

How long have you been working at Barrack, and how many of those years were you Director of Middle School?

I started working at Barrack in 2001. I was a Core teacher until 2008. When we moved to the Bryn Mawr campus in 2008, I was asked to become the Middle School Director by the then new head of school. While in administration, my roles varied: I was Dean of Students 6-12 when we merged with Saligman, I continued to teach, and when Mrs. Friedman retired, I returned to the role of Middle School Director.

What is something you have learned while being Director of Middle School at Barrack?

I have learned the value of being a good listener. I have learned how much students and teachers care about each other and our community. I have learned how to balance many different tasks and wear a variety of different hats. I am not just a middle school director, or I should say that role has many different parts to it. I learned that you need a team to do this job; it is not something that is a solo effort, and I am grateful and appreciative of all of the support, guidance, and partnership I have had with the senior administration, the department chairs, the teachers, and of course, the students.

Are you excited to teach core again? If so, why?

Super excited to return to the classroom - I miss the student teacher connection. I love the curriculum; it is dynamic and ever evolving and relevant. I think it is important to change things up during my career. I like the challenge of taking on something new or different, and I am excited about planning lessons and writing curriculum.

What is your favorite part of teaching core?

Working with the students- engaging in discussions, working together on projects, enjoying literature and poetry, making connections between the history we learn and events in today’s world- I like everything about teaching Core!

What do you think is going to be the hardest part of stepping away from your role as Director of Middle School?

The hardest part is stepping away, but it is something I really wanted to do so I am excited for the change. I am confident that the new director will bring great energy, creativity and thought to the role and continue to make the middle school a place where students feel welcome, are academically challenged, and enjoy being here each day. And I will miss having my own office:)

What advice would you give to the next Head of Middle School?

My advice would be to listen, to lean on a great team of teachers when needed, to ask for advice and support, to have fun and enjoy each day, be grateful each day for the experience, the relationships built and the time spent doing good work. And to take time for yourself so you can do your job well.

In my office I have a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that I read each day, it says:

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day: begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

Do you still remember a teacher that you had that made an impact on you?

My seventh grade social studies teacher had a tremendous impact on me. She instilled in me a love for history and learning, she made class fun, she had high expectations for her students and she was clear and consistent in her teaching style. I was fortunate to have many teachers who cared about me, who helped me understand the importance of being not just a student but a good person and who made learning feel relevant. Throughout my time as a student, so many of my teachers saw their role as a vocation, a higher calling, and I think this is so important- to acknowledge the role of educators in this way.

How do you envision your next stage at Barrack?

I am excited to return to teaching, to work closely with my colleagues in the middle school, to continue to oversee the Core department. I love the Barrack community- it is a place of welcome, of kehillah and I am proud and grateful to be a part of it.


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