Another fresh coating of snow covered campus last night as we reach the midway point in this quick three week stretch between Thanksgiving and Winter Break. Student Leaders Cope Makechnie ‘17 and Nick Ho ‘17 sent out a campus wide Secret Santa list last night, wreaths are hung around campus, and a general excitement about the upcoming holiday season prevails on campus. As students work through projects, readings, and begin to delve into the Winter Term, we are reminded of our unique role as adults living and working in a boarding school community.
We have written about Brene Brown in the past (see this post on vulnerability and learning), and an excerpt from her most recent book, Rising Strong, seemed appropriate to share at this point in the year. Brown writes the following about wholehearted parenting:
Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting. In terms of teaching our children to dare greatly in the ‘never enough’ culture, the question isn’t so much, “Are you parenting the right way?” as it is “Are you the adult that you want your child to grow up to be?” Our stories of worthiness - of being enough - begin in our first families. The narrative certainly doesn’t end there, but what we learn about ourselves and how we learn to engage with the world as children set a course that either will require us to spend a significant part of our lives fighting to reclaim our self-worth or will give us hope, courage, and resilience for our journey.
We may mark our profession as ‘educator’ on a questionnaire, but our responsibility to our students extends well beyond the walls of our classroom and the pages of our textbook. We serve as examples for our students: in the dining hall, in assembly, when we play with our own children, when we interact with our peers, and when we volunteer our time in the local community. Our students arrive at Proctor having been shaped and molded by their own parents, but our role as a boarding school is to build upon the foundation their parents provided.
One of the greatest intrinsic educational benefits of a boarding school experience will never be quantified by the Dean of Academics; it happens informally by simply living life within a community. Brown’s advice to parents “to be the adult you want your children to be” applies just as much to each of us, as adults, working in a boarding school environment. Our lives are imperfect - our children throw tantrums in the dining hall, we occasionally forget an advisee’s birthday, and we get visibly frustrated by the sheer volume of emails in our inbox. Our ability to approach these imperfections with grace is perhaps the greatest lesson we will give to our students.
As we jump with two feet into all the Winter Term has in store for us, we do so knowing we have a responsibility to mentor our students, as well as our own children, wholeheartedly. When we live our lives as we would hope our children would live their lives - with hope, courage, and resilience - we unlock the true power of living in a boarding school community.