Ashley Hall Lower School Director Polly R. Kronsberg recently shared why she loves her job directing an all-girls lower school. From living in community to helping girls use their voices and harness their creativity, she finds joy in placing girls at the center of everything.

I have an incredible job and am privileged to work in a place where girls are the center of every thought, every decision, and every action that takes place. Everything that we do in the Lower School begins with one question: Is this what’s best for our girls? I love being the Director of an all-girls lower school for the following five of many reasons:

I love teaching our girls to live in Community.

Community is about belonging; it is about having a place. The Lower School, from individual classrooms to large common spaces like the LoDome, is a place where we constantly live in community. We teach our girls how to be positive members of the community: our second grade Green Team collects recycling on Tuesdays, helping to keep our space clean. Each classroom has student jobs: electricians, door holders, paramedics, weather forecasters, and line leaders all help keep the classroom an orderly, productive place. Research shows that things as small as a classroom job give girls the sense that they belong. At Ashley Hall, each girl is a necessary and pivotal part of the Lower School experience. Family style dining brings girls and teachers together for social time around a meal to focus on positive table manners, connect through conversation, and share news about the day. 

I love all of the opportunities we give our girls.

Throughout the year, fifth graders work in teams to build three-person row boats. The girls learn to use power tools, hand saws, levels, and other tools needed to build the boats. The culminating activity for this project is a day on the water testing their craftsmanship. Our students join other schools who have been a part of the same project and put their boats in the water. So why is this so significant? Because it is one of the best ways to see our girls taking advantage of an opportunity that may not have been theirs at another school. Our boat building teams are comprised of 100 percent girls. The majority of all other teams are mostly or 100 percent boys. At Ashley Hall, our girls can be boat builders. They also make up the robotics team members and the mathletes who compete in local competitions. Our girls are violinists, readers, writers, dancers, scientists, bee keepers, problem solvers, mathematicians, and even boat builders! Our girls can be anything.

I love teaching our girls to use their voice.

Girls in the Lower School learn to speak up. They know that their opinions will be heard through written expression and by using their own voice. Beginning as young as kindergarten our girls are writing persuasive essays. They are telling the world what is important to them. I love receiving letters asking for new recess equipment or a no-homework policy from five and six year olds!  As the girls get older, they learn to use their voice for good. They speak up for environmental issues and causes that are important to them. Lower School girls organize bake sales and non-uniform days to support charitable endeavors. They are familiar faces at the SC Aquarium and Sea Turtle Hospital, the Ronald McDonald House, and many other local non-profits. I love showing our girls that their voice is one of the most powerful tools they have, and one that they will use for a lifetime. 

I love teaching our girls to be creative innovators.

Our girls are taught to think and be problem solvers. Through engaging curriculum and purposeful multi-curricular projects our girls are active participants in their own learning. Our classrooms provide space and opportunity for girls to experience the successes and failures that allow them to grow as learners. I love walking into a classroom and seeing the action happening. You might see several girls working independently, while others are collaborating in a small group. You will hear girls talking through math problems, questioning ideas, or wondering what an author was thinking. You will hear girls arguing their opinions and then laughing out loud the next moment. You will feel the learning happening. When girls are engaged and take ownership of their learning, that is when the magic happens. I love our magical classrooms.

I love the energy, emotions, and joy that Lower School students spread each day.

The best part of being the Lower School Director of an all girls school is simply the joy that our students bring to everything they do. I love the excitement they show when they win a basketball game, or better yet, the grace they show when they lose. I love the compassion they show to a friend who may be down. I love the pure joy they exude when they share a project or master a new skill on the violin, or learn a new song in French. Our girls are proud to be smart, athletic, and artistic. They are especially proud to wear their Ashley Hall purple and white. For all of this, and so much more, I am most grateful.