I am currently riding in a bus on the Maine Interstate with forty-seven juniors, math teacher Denis Maguire, and Director of College Counseling Holly Macy as we return from three days of leadership training and white water rafting. I met the class in Maine after driving the NH state champion boys’ and girls’ crew teams from their races in Hanover, NH to Millinockett, Maine where we all stayed at the stunningly beautiful New England Outdoor Center (NEOC is owned and operated by a Dublin alumnus). While the drive is long, we have found the NEOC to be the perfect place for class bonding, discussions of school culture, and some good adventure. The majority of the class stopped in Freeport, Maine on the way up to get lunch and check out L.L. Bean's famous outlet store.
After waking up Monday morning we suited up in wetsuits and headed out onto the Penobscot River with our six boats and six guides. Red Bull recently rated this section of river the third best in the nation for whitewater rafting! The water is big and the views of Mount Katahdin are awe inspiring. I teamed up with seven fairly scared juniors and a great guide as we launched our rubber raft into the cold water to practice our various maneuvers. The leaders did a great job of scaring us during the training so we were all ears as we practiced various emergency procedures.
We started out with some mellow class one and two rapids before we hit some long stretches of class 3 and 4 water, enough to get the adrenaline going and get the attention of the students. One of the most intense stretches of water was closed this year so we made the most of a section called Abol Rapids. It was fun to see the students overcome their fears and bond with one another over the course of the adventure. We returned to camp and had a delicious lunch before breaking into groups to talk about school culture.
Our goal was to start a conversation about the kind of culture the rising seniors want to create for the school in 2018-19. A senior class at a school like Dublin has a strong influence over the culture one finds in the classroom, in Morning Meeting, in the studios, on the courts and playing fields, in the dining hall, and in the dormitories. We planned to talk for 20-30 minutes but the students didn't stop and all three groups spoke for two hours before we came back together as a full class to share their respective group's findings. The Class of 2019 indicated that they want the school to feel safe in all aspects of the word, they want to maintain the culture of trying new things, they want to model the responsible and disciplined use of cell phones, social media, and headphones, and they want to work hard to make sure everyone gets to know one another. It was a powerful and meaningful conversation that will give us some great goals for us to evaluate at our meetings next year.
One tradition I have with the juniors is that I "force" them all to play a giant game of volleyball with me. I beg them to play for just twenty minutes and you would not believe the comments I get about how it will never work. However, after an hour of playing the students begged me to let them keep playing! We had an absolute blast and could not stop laughing throughout the chaotic game. The NEOC then treated us to a taco bar in their beautiful lodge before we allowed the students to go swimming in the frigid lake, make fires in the fire pits, and play basketball and frisbee while listening to the sounds of the loons on the lakes.
We had one more group session that evening where we used a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) leadership exercise to help students gain a better understand of their own leadership styles. The purpose was to show them how we need all of them to lead in their own way and I think they found the exercise both fun and informative. They returned to their cabins to play games and sleep before our early departure the next morning.
College Counselor Holly Macy picked a great rest stop for the long trip home--Colby College. She arranged for the whole class to attend a school information session to learn both about Colby and about the college admission process as a whole. The students asked great questions and the Colby representative was fantastic in carefully addressing each one of our curious students. We then took an hour to eat a picnic lunch and tour the campus. I took a group of students to Colby's famous Art Museum where we saw some amazing displays. Nemo Chen was surprised to find some ancient Chinese art and did a great job of explaining its provenance to me!
We headed back to campus in time for dinner and wrapped up a great trip. We are excited to work with the Class of 2019 as they work to establish their imprint on the culture of the school next year. You can see more photos and a fun video from the NEOC here: