A Conversation with Dr. Brad

How has it been switching from middle years to upper years and what were your first thoughts?

My career started in Upper Years, as a teacher. I then became a director of a K-8 school, so I was head of Middle and Early Years. Now, as an upper years head, I’m back home on so many levels. I love upper years. I see so much of myself in students and in some ways, I feel I never really grew up fully. Not that I’m silly, but I feel UY students are struggling with so many factors that are important for their whole lives. There are all these expectations and they try to do their best on so many levels to meet demands – socially, academically, with their parents, and their futures. I feel like I get that. It’s good to be with people who are going through that. In UY you’re too young to realize it’s not just a phase and it’s a great time to learn how to cope. You’re young, your heart is pure, and you listen to your teachers and parents. It’s a great opportunity. I love UY and I miss teaching them. I love Middle Years too – don’t get me wrong – but UY is just different.

What is one of the main changes you wanted to implement this semester?

The attendance, which is a boring answer since I only thought about that because of distancing learning.

The main thing though is I think we need to bring love back to discipline. That’s probably the biggest thing I’ve been thinking about since last semester. We have to lead students to shoot straight and be people of integrity and lead the world, be good to each other, and be respectful of others and elders, but we have to do it in a loving and caring manner. Students need to be able to make mistakes and be in an environment where we can strip away the hard exterior and have a real conversation. That’s something I want to see more of. Maybe I’m wrong cause I was in MY but I felt like that would be something to bring into UY. The one phrase I grew up with was tough love which is something I’d love to implement.

What is something strange you find about WS kids?

I’ll tell you what. The fact that they wear shirts with bands I grew up with, and they’ve never listened to a single one of their songs. I’m ready to make that a demeritable offense. If you can’t name 3 songs of a band whose shirt you’re wearing, you get an EMD. 

I’m just kidding, but maybe it’s a generational thing. I saw someone wearing a Grateful Dead shirt and they thought it was country music!

Last semester was very chaotic in terms of disciplinary issues so is there something you want to do differently this semester?

It’s complicated. Dr. Shukla got a lot of the blame last semester but the DAC functions as a group and it would be wrong for me to try and speak for them now. He couldn’t do it and nor can I. Not to pass blame or buck, I’m part of it too but the Dean of Residential life has always been in charge of that process and we are gonna see a shift in leadership to him this semester. I can tell you that what I said in the beginning is a thread I want to pick up and talk about.

If people break the rules of an organization they have applied to attend voluntarily and they do so without raising the issues they disagree with in a manner that can be dealt with and they just want to do irresponsible things repeatedly, then I put it to you. How would you handle that? How would anyone handle that? It’s complicated. Especially because it has ripple effects in the community. If someone is bullying someone, they know they’re not supposed to do that. But if despite knowing they go back and bully the person again, then you have to do something to help that person and prevent a culture of bullying. At a high level, it seems like we are just suspending students but it’s not that simple. I wish we had a tool other than suspension but under Indian law, you’re restricted. When I was a kid we had to clean up the school if we got in trouble but that’s not as effective. I instead want to find a way to connect with students on issues that matter. So if you think you should be allowed to vape on campus, aybe we can talk about that. But does anyone think that’s responsible?  Did you sign up for a school that allowed you to vape and drink on campus?

We want Woodstock to be a great school, but in your day to day, things get boring and so that big picture gets lost to the boredom. People try to build connections in the wrong ways. I just want a community that is compassionate to each other. Connection takes energy and time and care which is hard to do on a mass scale. What we probably need is to continue building a WS student culture where students uplift one another. 

What is your doctorate in?

Academic cheating. I got my Ph.D. in the psychology of academic cheating. An intersection of moral and educational psychology. I’m interested in the question of cheating. My Ph.D. took a solid 5 years. It was focused on K-12 and I learned that it’s a complex issue. One of the strands in academic cheating that is often missed is the relational quality. By that I mean if students have teachers they respect, teachers who they think are clear, competent, and allies in the process of learning, they are very unlikely to cheat on that person. When people rightly or wrongly feel alienated from their teachers then they are far more likely to cheat. That’s what my work was all about, building that relationship and statistically figuring out an ideal setup to prevent cheating through building relationships.

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

Chocolate. 100%. No nuts, no chocolate chips, just chocolate.

How tall are you?


What has been the best thing about UY so far?

Getting into classes has been great. I wish could teach again but the best thing so far has just being in the UY building and feeling the vibe because we had JSB and I couldn’t be there unfortunately but I’m just getting started. I have 3 jobs, head of Early Years, Vice Principal, and Head of Upper Years interim. One of the things to do as interim is to try not to make too deep of a mark because you are supposed to be a space holder, keep everyone sane, and wait for the next leader. 

I was in a DP1 class the other day and they were talking about Pablo Neruda with Mr. Farnham. It was really a great class. As I was leaving he asked me what my favorite poem was and I couldn’t remember the name on the spot. I was trying to explain but I came back and looked it up then put it in an email to all the students in that class. I can’t do things like this with EY or MY but I can with UY. Being able to share things like this has definitely been a highlight. 

Any final advice?

Hang in there. 

Kyra is editor-in-chief.

Edited by Asha.

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