Every incoming 9th grade student is scheduled into Freshman Seminar. It’s a class meant to help them with the transition into high school, being away from home, and navigating this so, so different landscape. Its focus is helping students thread safe passage through the siren calls of distracting technology and the bewildering social landscape. It’s about the role sleep and nutrition play. It’s about taking care of oneself. It’s also a place to slow down, a quiet space away from the jangle of classrooms and dorms, a place to catch one’s breath.
Invited to speak to each section over the last ten days, I shared a little of who I am and my role in the school. I kept it simple and short. I dispensed my perspective - hopefully not like Polonius in Hamlet - on navigating the teenage years and life.
Know what it is you love and honor it.
Nobody knows you like you do. You already have a pretty decent sense of what it is you love to do. Maybe it’s music, painting, physics, basketball, writing, woodworking, photography, video production – whatever it is, listen to that side of yourself. There will be much to distract you from what sustains and delights your spirit. Remember that within those passions are your gifts and your strengths. Honor them.
Learn to laugh at yourself.
There is plenty in life that is serious, depressing, and challenging. (Just read the news.) It’s easy to slip into the vortex of despair and lose sight of the wonders of the world. Laughter plays a critical role in staying optimistic and having a positive mindset. It’s a tonic. That doesn’t mean to take everything as silliness, but it does mean developing the capacity to step back, look around, and see the humor in life. It means being able to chuckle at yourself from time to time. It’s about sustaining perspective and balance.
Find three things at the end of every day that you are grateful for – simple things. It can be having a conversation with Edna at breakfast, a well-written sentence, a maple tree shifting to fall colors. It can be listening to the wind. It can be laughter. If you can write down – or even just think about - the positives in a day, it changes your mindset. It makes you more optimistic and resilient.
It’s easy to dispense advice. Don’t we all do it as parents? It is harder to live the advice you dispense. My time with the ninth grade class has hopefully been helpful to them, and I know it has been important to me. I like the connection, like getting to know them. They have also helped me remember and reground in some important principles.
Mike Henriques P'11, P'15
Proctor Academy Head of School