From the Interim Rector: Venturing Onto the Ice
Last month, I was headed to the Old Chapel when I heard a noise I didn’t immediately recognize. I listened closely as I drew closer and, once within 50 yards of the source, realized I was hearing students skating and playing hockey on the newly frozen Lower School Pond. While standing there and taking in the sight, a young man drew alongside of me. We observed the skaters together and made small talk. We discovered that neither of us knew how to skate and nervously agreed that it would take many more subzero nights for either of us to venture out onto the pond’s dark ice for fear of falling in.
As the winter has taken full hold here, however, I have revisited that observation. The ice on the ponds is beginning to beckon. My year here as Interim Rector is fleeting, and I am increasingly aware of a desire to throw myself fully into the SPS experience, including skating on the pond. St. Paul’s has a way of helping its denizens find the courage and will to try something new, different, or never before attempted. We are an institution that constantly seeks to support its students on their journeys to becoming adults, becoming informed citizens, becoming artists and thinkers, and becoming servant-leaders. We are an institution composed of adults who support students as they extend themselves beyond what was previously comfortable or familiar and, in doing so, we spark their personal and intellectual growth. I have seen this support most notably in classrooms, where our students offer opinions, make conjectures, and display their creativity.
I also have seen this phenomenon whenever our teachers make available opportunities for our students to give back. Last fall, for example, six SPS students volunteered to mentor robotics students at the local middle school. Hearing the SPS students talk about their experiences as mentors caused me to realize that the faculty sponsors’ encouragement was instrumental in their decision to offer assistance. St. Paul’s also triggers student growth by peer-to-peer encouragement. In the weeks leading up to our annual blood drive, for example, I heard students bolstering the courage of first-time donors, saying, “I’ll go with you and hold your hand.” Our students respond with great enthusiasm whenever a classmate speaks in Chapel, thereby enticing other students to share their voices. Our recent Fiske Cup competition prompted many within the houses to nudge housemates onto “the stage,” taking on roles in their house productions. I recently spoke with a young woman who, despite never having cross country skied before, donned a pair of skis at the encouragement of a close friend.
Buoyed by the courage they find in attempting new endeavors, and drawing upon the resilience they build as a result, our students also extend their experiences through independent Study Projects. Recently, a new student came to talk to me about a proposed research project that investigates the links between identity, race, and economics. Another student approached the Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees to persuade the committee to set aside a small percentage of the School’s endowment for environmental, social, and corporate governance investing (she was successful). Others have started new clubs and affinity groups, have volunteered to speak to the faculty about their experiences at SPS, and still more have sought opportunities to offer suggestions to administrators for making the School a better place. In every instance, our students have used their past SPS experiences and the encouragement of their trusted adults and peers to stretch themselves further than they thought possible. St. Paul’s invites us all to get out on the ice, out of our comfort zones, and into experiences where learning and growth abound.