Beyond the Books: a highly anticipated day of no classes and intriguing activities. To students, this is just one day out of a long school year, but to guidance counselor Lisa Gray and assistant principal Bobby Pollicino, Beyond the Books Day is a six-month long process.
The planning that goes into Beyond the Books starts at the beginning of the school year. The first thing that goes into the preparation is identifying and securing a speaker. According to Gray, the biggest challenge of the planning is finding this key speaker. The goal is to find someone who has a great track record of success and gets across a good message, often with a sense of humor.
The search to find a speaker that fits these qualifications is national, and often difficult. In years past, Gray and Pollicino have gone to professional speaker bureaus, which are agencies that book speakers for schools across the country. This year, the search was made easy; Gray’s son, a student at The Potomac School, recommended speaker John Marello. Marello put on a one-man show for the community, and had both students and faculty members hysterically laughing. As the show went on, his messages went deeper, and by the end of the performance, everyone was moved. Gray and Pollicino succeeded in finding a speaker who could attract and - more importantly - keep students’ full attention.
The key speaker for Beyond the Books usually takes up an hour of the seven-hour day. After the speaker is booked, the next step of planning is to find activities, workshops, and movies that will fill out the rest of the day. Bullis is fortunate that the parents association helps fund Beyond the Books, which provides them with a comfortable budget.
The key speaker typically charges between $2-6 thousand for the hour, which does not leave Bullis a lot of money to use for the rest of the day. With the rest of the money, Gray and Pollicino try to find activities or workshops for students to participate in, as well as movies for students to watch. They try to find movies that are thought provoking, and have a message relevant to students’ lives. This year the freshman and sophomores watched a documentary called The American Teen, and upper classmen watched the movie Pay it Forward. Other activities in the day included a “mindfulness” workshop led by Inward Bound Mindfulness Education, and speaker John Booty, a former National Football League player.
Beyond the Books is intended to be in the middle of the winter, “when there is no break between winter and spring, when people are tired of being in school,” Gray explained, and “the biggest issue, of course, is keeping it a secret. Throughout the second trimester, students put a lot of effort into guessing when this day will be. To prevent the secret from being revealed, next year’s teachers may not be informed of when this day is going to be. That will “take pressure off of them and have it be a surprise for the whole community,” Gray said. Gray also gave credit to Harriet Polun, who runs The Blair Arts Center. When planning Beyond the Books, Gray and Pollicino have to coordinate with many organizations, including the lower and middle school in order to secure space in Blair.
“Beyond the Books could not happen without the hard work and generosity of our facilities crew and Mrs. Polun, the Queen of Blair Arts Center,” Gray stated, “I think the gentlemen from Facilities must have moved 200 chairs before 8:00AM. And Mrs. Polun makes asking for help seem like you are giving her a gift. Same with Ms. Doan...we are so lucky to have such kind and caring people working behind the scenes for this special day."
The entire Bullis community looks forward to Beyond the Books Day each year. It is a day for all to reflect and think deeper than we usually have time to do. This year’s Beyond the Books was a huge success thanks to diligent behind-the-scenes work led by Gray and Pollicino.
John Marello: iamdirt.com
Inward Bound Mindfulness Education: iBme.info