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    • Glendinning Speaks to Hopkins Parents. Photo: Zach Pelletier

Glendinning Listens: Head of School Introduces Listening by Design Program

Anya Mahajan ’25 Assistant News Editor
On December 14, a focus group of Hopkins parents gathered over Zoom to converse with the new Head of School, Matt Glendinning, about the school’s future.
This session marked the first of many installments of his new program, Listening By Design, a series of focus groups aimed at recognizing and assessing the ideas and concerns of the greater Hopkins community. Although it initially sprang from a desire to acquaint himself with the school and its wider community, Glendinning now plans to use Listening By Design to build a foundation for the school’s future.

To aid him in envisioning an ideal future for the school, Glendinning consulted a specific constituency for each Listening by Design session, which thus far has included Board of Trustee members, faculty, parents, and alumni. In the December 14 parent session, Glendinning asked simple questions, one being, “Tell me something you love about Hopkins, and tell me one thing you think could be improved at Hopkins?” As the session progressed, he went further, asking questions such as, “Why would you enroll your child at a private school?” and then “Why Hopkins specifically?” 

Glendinning’s questions elicited a multitude of answers from different parents, he noted. According to Glendinning, the most outstanding reason for enrollment was the academic rigor that Hopkins provides. “However,” Glendinning said, “another clustering of answers had to do with wanting a more supportive, diverse, caring environment]than [students] were getting at other schools.” 

Some of the feedback from parent Listening by Design sessions intrigued Glendinning, including a theme of “maintaining academic rigor and achievement on one hand, but, at the same time, maintaining balance and being careful about student stress and anxiety.” Glendinning noted that consensus between the parents and the faculty is necessary for developing solutions.

He said, “The parents had told me, why did you choose Hopkins? And the faculty have told me, what are we trying to do here at Hopkins? Do the answers match? Because if they don’t match, we have a problem.” However, Glendinning also observed overlap in faculty and parent sentiments within his sessions: “The faculty have told me that they really cherish the top notch academics, but they also like advisory and assemblies, and caring for students in that way.”

Listening by Design sessions fuelled discussion not only about Hopkins, but the City of New Haven as well. Glendinning said that many of his consultees, especially parents and the Board of Trustees, expressed desire to integrate the New Haven community into a student’s educational environment. The goal, Glendinning said, is to “make a Hopkins education not just about book learning, but about real world learning. For example, regularly engaging with and doing service in the community of New Haven,” a subject that Glendinning says he is “passionate about.” 

This program is just one part of a larger effort by Glendinning to immerse himself in the Hopkins community. In addition to holding Listening by Design sessions, Glendinning has been frequently attending classes “to see every teacher teach this year, to familiarize myself with the curriculum, to be exposed to and start to learn about our teachers’ differing styles…and then really get to know the students better by seeing them in action in class.” 
Several Hopkins students have noticed the new head’s visits to their classes. Leila Hyder ’24 expressed her appreciation for Glendinning’s active involvement in her acting class, saying, “[Glendinning] participated in our daily acting games and warmups, which was fun. He was so focused and appreciative of everyone’s performances, and I could tell he really was surprised by how vulnerable and comfortable the performers were with performing in front of the class.” Sophie Denny ’24 shared appreciation for his visit to her AP

Environmental Science class: “We were having a lab period so it was half class and half lab, and [Glendinning] just observed how we were going about things. He really seemed like he wanted to learn how we worked in groups and as a class…[it was like] he was there to learn right alongside us.” Amanda Wang ’23 also noticed Glendinning’s engagement: “[Glendinning] read [the story] before our discussion…he added some really important and good points that the other students in the classroom had not thought of.” 

Wang and Hyder both affirmed the correlation between being engaged and observant as a head of school and being able to establish a positive relationship with the student body. Hyder said, “He’s been to three of my classes so far and I feel like he knows me, as a student, on a better level now.” According to Wang, “I think that, now, we’re all really comfortable talking with him and talking around him.” 

Glendinning emphasized the need to actively bring students into conversations about what lies ahead for Hopkins. Some of his ideas include meetings with student organizations like the Student Diversity Board and Student Council, along with student lunches for open discussion with Glendinning himself. 

Glendinning told the Razor that collective school involvement is a vital part of decision-making to ensure a successful future for Hopkins. With Listening by Design, Glendinning said that he wanted to answer the question, “What are we going to do with the school for the next 10 years? Does the school need to evolve and change?” According to Glendinning, “I would never make that decision by myself… I should be gathering input from the whole community.”
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