Middle School Head Glen Pinder led his first overnight student trip last spring for BFS, but it wasn’t just a typical chaperoning necessity. When the opportunity arouse to join the entire seventh grade class to the City of Brotherly Love, he jumped at the chance. “Being from Philadelphia, it was like coming home again,” he explained. “It was really special to me to be with the seventh graders. I don’t often get to go there since my mom passed away.”
The purpose of the trip was to support the seventh grade’s American history curriculum and “Constitution Works” study. “We went to Philadelphia to learn about the history of the Constitution at the National Constitution Center. When I was a kid, the Center was not great,” he admitted. “I was happy to see that it’s really amazing now.”
Philadelphia, being the city founded by the first Religious Society of Friends members to settle in North America, provided the students with much more to discuss and explore than the Constitution. One of their visits was to the historic Arch Street Meeting House, a National Historic Landmark built by the Quakers in 1803.
“We talked about Quakerism, and the fact that even back then it was segregated. Everyone was not inclusive, not even the Quakers,” said Glen. “I think that was a revelation for the students.” He continued: “I want to emphasize that even at Arch Street there was segregation of women and of people of color. It’s something that resonated with all of us in today’s world and it was kind of striking to us knowing that Quakers, who stress equality and the inner light in everyone, behaved that way so many years ago. We’re big on social justice at BFS, and it’s something to think about.”
Glen also appreciated the chance to get to know the students informally outside the classroom on a more personal level. “They only see me as an administrative head,” he said. “Spending time with them reminded me of why I got into this business: to work with children as they grow and develop. At this stage they really start to develop in their maturity, in their ability to carry on conversations.” He was thrilled to give the students an opportunity to go to a restaurant and sit down and get to know one another better. “It was nice to see them interacting with each other and with their teachers and advisers without their phones,” he quipped.
At Philadelphia’s historic City Hall, which is capped with Calder’s iconic statue of Quaker William Penn, the students visited the city’s newest statue, a 12-foot bronze of Octavius Catto, an iconoclastic 19th century abolitionist, teacher, baseball player, and civil rights activist. The sculpture is barely a year old, having bee unveiled in September of 2017. Entitled “A Quest for Parity,” it is the city’s first public statue honoring an African-American citizen. Catto was murdered in 1871 on Election Day, during which the whole city was marred with violence when white mobs attacked black men in an effort to prevent them from voting.
“I had an emotional response to the statue,” said Glen. “It wasn’t there when I was a kid.The trip also included plenty of time for fun. Students visited the famed Franklin Institute, a hands-on science museum that’s as entertaining as it is educational. They also had lunch at the famed Reading Terminal Market, an old railroad station now full of vendors featuring cuisines from around the world. “I hadn’t been there in 15 years,” said Glen. “It’s a huge space, it’s international with all these diverse shops, people and foods – the kids spread out and tried different things.” He contrasted the authenticity of the Reading market with a multinational food court one might find in a modern shopping mall. “Those ready-made places come off as over-commercialized. Reading Terminal Market has evolved. It feels real.”
Overall, the Philadelphia trip was a potent way for Glen to complete his third year as Middle School head. “It was no doubt my best year,” he concluded. In fact, he’s fully intent on making the trip to Philly an annual event and he plans on leading it himself. “It’s going to be a new tradition for me.”
The nostalgic and educational trip to Philadelphia wasn’t the only highlight of Glen’s tenure at BFS. In May of 2017, he successfully defended his dissertation and earned an Ed.D. degree from Seton Hall University. “It took me five years but I got it done” he said with a mixture of relief and gratitude. Glen’s research and dissertation examined school leadership through three lenses: improving instructional practices, setting high expectations and creating a positive learning environment. It’s easy to see that he’s done just that at BFS.