Mount Monadnock on Dublin Lake.
TGIF! I am exhausted! But please do not take pity on me, this is not from overwork. I am exhausted from observing everything that takes place in the course of a week at Dublin. Sometimes I like to take stock on a Friday and look backwards at what happened over 7 days at Dublin School.
Last Friday we scheduled a hypnotist to entertain the students, or to hypnotize the students so that they would entertain us. Mid-January can be a tough time of year in New England and many people start thinking of being just about anywhere but on the side of a mountain in New Hampshire! Laughing is good medicine and I literally could not stop laughing as I watched our kids pretend to drive cars, dance, play hide and seek, and lay on the beach during the show. By design, I do not have any pictures to share with you…
Saturday morning, Mr. Johnson and I led a Work Gang group as they cleaned up our trails for some upcoming races in 5 degree weather. I also had the students help me make a little tyke woods trail for our youngest skiers and snow-shoers (faculty children) out at the Nordic Center. Sophomore Nora Rogers is painting the favorite animated winter characters for the youngsters to discover as they explore the woods. We moved the giant character from Smallfoot to its hiding place before heading back to campus for a warm lunch.
I spent Sunday like many of our students, resting, doing laundry, reading for fun, and doing some work to get ready for the week ahead. On Monday, senior Arthur Garcia delivered a powerful senior presentation about his family and how his father left Peru as a young man to find opportunity in the United States. Arthur wanted to give a human face to immigration and he succeeded in showing how the American dream is still alive for many immigrant families. Emma Williams followed the next day with a very personal look into what it is like to grow up biracial in America. The audience was fascinated by Emma’s stories of how she has grown into her identity through both struggles and moments of great strength. Today, Olivia White talked about her youth obsession with tv shows about high school and how she has overcome the differences between her Hollywood expectations of school and the realities of navigating her educational career at different schools.
While we always try to focus on process, failure, and growth, it was hard to ignore the concept of success this week! We had singers participating in the all-state chorus, visual artists dominating the NH Scholastic Art Awards, and athletic teams shining in their competitions on Wednesday. Amazing what the students at our small school can do when they invest the time in effort in their work.
So much more to write about, but I have to run so I can coach our wonderful cross-country skiers. They love adventure and thrive in the out of doors. We are excited about the coming storm!
Kids these days!
How many times have you heard this statement in your lifetime? I remember adults talking about my own generation, Generation X, when I was growing up and going to high school in the 1980’s. All we did was watch MTV and play Atari video games. We were doomed, we were good for nothing, we stared at screens all day and were not developing the all important work ethic. I would like to think we turned out okay…
Lately I have been talking about kids these days at Dublin School. If you look anywhere in the media you will see images of kids staring at their phones, taking selfies, and looking bored or anxious (see the staged cover photo for this blog). The reality I am finding here is that kids at Dublin these days amaze me. Now, to be fair, some of our kids are just starting out and they are only beginning to experience and contribute to the culture of the school. It can sometimes take more than a year for the light bulbs to go off, but wow, when they do it seems like the high beams come on in full force!
At two of our recent receptions I talked about what a typical day can look like for a Dublin student. Things often start out at 7:30 with a run to Lehmann House for a quick breakfast before heading to Morning Meeting in the new Louise Shonk Kelly Recital Hall. They may get up to make an announcement or listen to a senior presentation before heading out for a full seven-period day of classes. We generously provide about fifteen minutes to completely change gears so they can get ready for robotics, theater, or their afternoon sport. Many drive to the local mountain to ski before getting back to dinner around 6 pm. Almost a third of our students have after dinner arts blocks for dance or choir before getting to study hall at 7:30 to hit their big pile of homework.
This schedule does not even include Work Gang, time for club meetings, field trips, outside speakers, student government, weekend activities, away games, affinity group meetings, saving the world, and on and on. I do not know about you, but by the time I get home for dinner after a 10-12 hour day I am exhausted and ready to watch MTV…I mean Netflix! I do not know how these kids do it. They also find time to take care of one another and build life-long friendships. They are artists, intellectuals, athletes, friends, children, activists, leaders, supporters, and citizens of the world.
If this is what all kids are like these days we are in for a good ride!
Last night we met for a Community Dinner to celebrate Thanksgiving as a school. Chef Sven and his team provided a delicious meal of turkey, stuffing, green beans and sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, pasta—followed by three different kinds of pies! We sat at assigned tables and had fun talking about the fall trimester, the winter to come, and about what has challenged the students the most up to this point in the year.
After dinner we followed tradition and headed to the Louise Shonk Kelly Recital Hall to share our collective gratitude with one another. I started by expressing my gratitude to all the students for their courage in striving to be their authentic selves this year, and thanking the senior class for working so hard to create a positive, safe and inclusive culture on campus this year. At that point I opened up the sharing opportunity to the audience. I was not sure what to expect, but after about twenty minutes I had to ask the students to wrap it up since I had to release them to study hall to get ready for their last day of exams. Students thanked their teachers, roommates, teams, classes, coaches, parents, tutors, advisors, faculty toddlers, college counselor, the buildings and grounds staff, and just about anyone else in the school! After each acknowledgement the whole school gives two claps before the next speaker raises their hand. Momentum builds over the course of the meeting and more and more students develop the courage to speak up. This tradition is one of my favorites of the year and I hope that the students carry the spirit of Thanksgiving home with them for the holiday break!
Our community has been shaken by the series of hate-fueled crimes and murders committed around our nation over the last week. This morning I spoke with the students, faculty, and staff about my thoughts about these incidents and asked for a moment of silence.
Last Wednesday, October 24th, Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones, both black, were shot to death in a supermarket in Kentucky by a white man who had just tried unsuccessfully to enter a predominantly black church in the same town.
Last week a Florida man sent pipe bombs to the homes and offices of a number of Democratic leaders who have been outspoken critics of the current administration.
On Saturday, a gunman clearly motivated by extreme anti-Semitism opened fire in The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, and Irving Younger were killed and six others were seriously wounded.
In all three crises there were individuals who acted bravely to prevent further violence and aid the victims. Law enforcement officers were shot trying to enter the Tree of Life Synagogue and civilians attempted to stop the Kroger shooter. Many others attended to the wounded and comforted the families and friends of the victims. We are experiencing a rise in hatred throughout the world and leaders are winning elections and leading in the polls running campaigns meant to divide and polarize.
What can we do? How do we as a community stand against hate? How do we start by making everyone in this room feel safe and validated?
First, we must do no harm. We must remember that little things like jokes can lead to bigger things.
Second, it is important that we understand that this is not normal and that we must not normalize these events or the motivations behind them. Normalizing events leads to passivity and an acceptance of a new, more distressing, normal.
Third, we must continue to educate ourselves about racism, anti-Semitism and all forms of religious hatred, misogyny, and hatred directed against the LGBTQ+ community; just to name a few forms of unacceptable hatred.
Fourth, we must have intellectual and emotional empathy for people who are different from ourselves. We cannot assume we know how other people are feeling or assume that they should feel safe. We should seek to understand someone else's experience. Try it; try learning without judging, try not to get defensive--I think you will find it to be a powerful experience. Just listen.
We can be allies, advocates, and activists. According to the Anti-Defamation League:
An ally is someone who speaks out on behalf of someone else or takes actions that are supportive of someone else. Example: Hearing someone use an anti-Semitic slur and reaching out to that person and telling them you think that was wrong.
An advocate is someone who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. Example: Writing a letter to your Congressperson to urge them to support legislation about anti-Semitism.
An activist is someone who gets involved in activities that are meant to achieve political or social change; this also includes being a member of an organization which is working on change. Example: Participating in a demonstration that is focusing on anti-Semitic hate crimes.
Fortunately, there are people who are doing big and small things to address the hate we are seeing. Last winter an individual boarded a train in Manhattan and saw hate-fueled graffiti on the walls and windows of the train. He started trying to wipe the graffiti off when someone told him that hand sanitizer worked for cleaning Sharpie ink. People on the train followed his lead, took out their hand sanitizers and got to work. They cleaned the entire train car. Sometimes it takes just one individual to spark a small act of humanity.
Just in the last two weeks, I have spoken to three seniors on separate occasions who reflected on how much they have grown at Dublin and how much their minds have opened up over the last few years. They pointed out how enriching it has been to live, study, and play with people with such different life stories from their own. We are all coming from different backgrounds, some of you are just beginning to learn about hatred and its historical roots, and others have studied and/or experienced these hatreds for years. I challenge the Dublin community to be decent human beings and to bring love, understanding, and compassion out into the world.
Truth and Courage,