NY Times columnist David Brooks just wrote an interesting article called Communities of Character in which he commented on our individual-focused culture and society. Brooks argues that even schools, places that celebrate community, are threatened by a movement that focuses on individual values and achievement over something as simple as kindness. Brooks believes that schools can actually “nurture achievement by building tight communities.” At Dublin, we strive to create a culture of growth around our students and faculty. We support each other to try new things and to go deeper into the things we already know. The bonds we form and the trust we develop are integral to the educational mission of the school.
Last year, we started a new tradition around the Thanksgiving Holiday and we continued it last week. After a delicious formal, family style dinner in the Lehmann Dining Room we moved the whole school to the Shonk Recital Hall. I asked for volunteers to stand up and share something that they were grateful for within the community. Thirty minutes later I was forced to a stop to the cascade of gratitude so that our students could make it to their exam review sessions. Roommates thanked roommates for being there for them, advisees thanked advisors for inviting them over for meals, athletes thanked coaches for pushing them to their limits and supporting them when they fell, and students thanked teachers for making difficult material understandable and accessible. The adults in the room wanted to join in but we silently agreed to let the student keep talking. There was fall out of our seats laughter (the students got me to laugh so hard I literally cried) and tears when students thanked their parents for making Dublin a reality for them.
When Thanksgiving vacation started, I took thirteen of our cross country skiers north to Craftsbury, Vermont for a preseason ski camp. We had one guest camper with us on the trip and when she got home she told her mother about how kind the Dublin students were to one another. At one point she indicated that someone said something that could have been seen as mean and the other students shut it right down. While I do not pretend that all of our students are kind to one another all of the time (I know for a fact that they are not always such!), I believe it is important to teach kindness, to model kindness and to work toward creating a community of kindness. As we wrap up our Thanksgiving vacation, I am thoroughly thankful to be a part of a school continually striving toward that goal.
Brooks, David. “Communities of Character.” New York Times. 27 Nov 2015. Web.