The Tatler Interview: A Conversation With Dr. Kai Bynum


On Tuesday, September 13, incoming Head of School Dr. Kai Bynum graciously met with Aaron Z. ’23 to talk about life, Lakeside, and literature. The following is an edited excerpt of their conversation.

AZ: In high school, you played three instruments and four varsity sports and had passions for theater and poetry. What advice do you have for Lakesiders hoping to make the most of high school?

KB: Throughout high school, because of athletics and other things, I was forced to make choices in a way I didn’t want to. But I love music, athletics, and certainly love poetry, so my advice is to create your own path of what isn’t there. If you’re your own compass assisting you in a direction, regardless of whether anybody’s gone there or not, you can figure it out. Life’s to be digested in those ways. You ought to enjoy as much as you possibly can and learn about yourself, even when people may not give you the space to do so. Don’t be afraid to be avant-garde, to be countercultural. Work hard. Be kind. Have fun.

AZ: You’ve talked about wanting to get a feel for the student body before your arrival in 2022. How do you plan to get to know students?

Whether you’re 18 or 43, you’re just doing your best to be happy, to take care of people, to be kind, and to love those around you.

— Dr. Kai Bynum

KB: Well, I think I’ll start by asking you and others that question: what are some ideas that you have for me to get to know the student body better?

But in general, it’s just being present. I think kids know me; you see what you get. I’m going to be present at both the Middle School and the Upper School and around the games and events to listen to your hopes, fears, ambitions, desires, things you like to do, and things you’re afraid of. It’s a collection of all those things that will hopefully give me a good sense of all the faces of Lakeside.

AZ: I personally was quite excited to hear that you taught English. Do you plan to teach any classes at Lakeside?

KB: I hope so. I love English, I love philosophy. My undergraduate degree from UW is in history, and then there’s other stuff in literature, philosophy, and poetry, so any chance I get, I’m going to try to teach. I do know that sometimes the demands of the job pull me away, but the desire is there. I love, love, love, love teaching. Any chance I can do that, I’m going to try to do it.

AZ: And that’s all my questions. Do you have anything to add?

KB: The thing is, at the end of the day, we are doing our best to be happy in this world, right? Whether you’re 18 or 43, you’re just doing your best to be happy, to take care of people, to be kind, and to love those around you. Schools are a perfect place for that because we care so much about similar things, and we’re in the same culture at school. It’s a place where I felt a strong sense of connection. I had a call last night with a former advisee; he’s 25 now, and we haven’t talked in years. It was just a reminder of the connections you make in school – advisor and advisee or teacher and student or coach-player or director-actor – there’s a connection that you make. In the moment, you may not realize how special it is, but as you evolve, you realize that’s a very special thing. So we’re lucky to be at a place that allows us to make those connections.

Dr. Bynum’s poetry book recommendations include Devotions by Mary Oliver and To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue.