dispelling the rumors, and building the tension
With the fall trimester coming to a close, it seems appropriate to interview Mr. Schafer, Head of School, about the well-known and duly anticipated Head’s Holiday.
Head’s Holiday is a day off for all students and faculty, declared by the Head of School once or twice a year. According to Mr. Schafer, it is “mainly geared at creating excitement around a break that all the faculty and students deserve for all their hard work over the course of the trimester.” In order to make the day meaningful, the decision makers “try to do it at a time when we’re just at the point of exhaustion which always happens towards the end of the trimester.”
Most private schools in the country have their own version of Head’s Holiday, but Kimball Union’s version is old – it at least predates our current head of school. To his best recollection, his predecessor, Mr. Knox, started KUA’s very own tradition, the red tie. Every year, to announce the Head’s Holiday, a red tie is unveiled in a special way.
Mr. Schafer’s personal favorite red tie unveiling was last year’s visit by Ling, the man who delivers Chinese food to campus each night.
“Ling was probably the biggest highlight… he came on, to an all school meeting and said he had a delivery for me, and it was a red tie.”
Although it is a secret who actually comes up with the creative reveal, Mr. Schafer was able to give some information on who decides the actual date. Usually, the board consists of a person who has intel on how the faculty members are feeling, and the two co-all- school presidents (who have an inside view on how the students are doing). Additionally, a senior faculty member is usually consulted.
However, there are some telltale signs and guidelines for when the holiday should occur. As Mr. Schafer put it, “generally in our case, I get a sense because I’m kinda hovering around. [I get to] know how the kids are, what their fatigue level is, what the faculty issues are. I try to peg it to that time when we all need a little bit of happy news.”
Because of this, the holiday is sometimes held off until winter, when the students need a break. At the same time, the holiday will be saved for a different time if there are other natural breaks.
Another instance of when a Head’s Holiday might occur is if there’s an “extraordinary event.” One year, the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in many years. Everyone stayed up late to watch the game, so the next day was declared a holiday.
Last year’s Head’s Holiday was a special occasion, as it was announced after the miraculous win by the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. “One year the Red Sox won the world series, and they hadn’t won it in, you know, many years. Everybody stayed up late to watch the game. And one year the Patriots won. Or one year we had a power outage and we just called it a Head’s Holiday…There’s always a little drama associated with it.”
One thing Mr. Schafer made clear was that although it is fun to anticipate the holiday, students should not expect it:“ the key… is that you should never plan for it, because if you over anticipate it, thinking it’s going to be this day or that day, you may not be prepared for class, thinking that you’ve got a break. So you should totally use it like a gift, not as an excuse.”
Head’s Holiday has been used in the past to provide a much needed sleep-in. Schafer made an observation about the newly implemented schedule change: “It’s interesting, since we changed the school schedule so that class will start at 8:30, I’ve noticed that the kids seem better rested. So, I haven’t sensed the same kind of high pressure.. Or fatigue [among the students and faculty that was present with the old school schedule].. Which also [is usually a sign that] means that’s usually the right time to do it. But on the other hand, it’s still a nice thing to be able to do.” While the need for the break is lessened, it’s clear that Mr. Schafer values this KUA tradition.
When asked when Head’s Holiday might occur this year, Mr. Schafer had only a vague answer, saying, “at this point right now, there are only so many days left in the fall, so, I’m not sure we are going to do it this fall.” With no real date mentioned, the anticipation is only bound to grow.