Hello!


Hello, Cary Academy!

Last week, we opened school in the same way we have since our founding—with our traditional Handshake Ceremony.

What a great way to start the school year, with a face-to-face greeting between every employee and every student in the school.

CA Handshake CeremonyAs a Minnesotan, I have to admit that I can get a little uncomfortable at these types of events. Where I grew up, a half-nod was an acceptable greeting. If you are feeling really warm, you might get a smile and an eyebrow raise. Handshakes were for formal hellos, like meeting with your tax lawyer or saying hi to dad. And hugs? Well, hugs were for grandma’s house, tolerated because it usually meant cookies afterwards.

At the Cary Academy handshake ceremony, we have it all. Smiles, handshakes, fist bumps, side hugs, and selfies. The ceremony is virtually unchanged from when the school first burst into existence 23 years ago with a gigantic “Hello, World!”—proclaiming itself a learning community dedicated to discovery, innovation, collaboration, and excellence. Founded with boldness and vision, as our school grew the staff and students soon articulated the core values that make this place special: respect, integrity, and compassion.

To be fair, living ten years in Sao Paulo did help prepare me for the specialness that is the Cary Academy Handshake Ceremony. Greetings in Brazil were full-body experiences. A hug, followed by a kiss on each cheek, then another hug. Kind of a Brazilian kiss sandwich.

While I never got used to all the kissing, I did really like another acceptable form of hello—the thumbs-up. I think Brazilians gravitated to the thumbs-up because sometimes you aren’t close enough for kiss sandwich, but can’t imagine not saying “hey”—so you are left with the across the room, or across the street, thumbs-up. I was sold. Anything that doesn’t involve the exchange of sweat or saliva seems a better fit for my midwestern upbringing.

But no matter how it happens—a handshake, a hug, a kiss, or a thumb-up—a hello is upbeat. It announces an intention to communicate, to collaborate. It says: “I see you.”

What a great way to start our year together and to remain connected to the values that make this school such a special place.

As a group of colleagues wrote last week, when I asked them to put the start of the school year into Haiku form:

Welcome to CA
A place where you can be you
We are glad you’re here