Just moments before sitting down to write this blog, a current Canterbury parent asked how I was feeling thus far about my first year as head of school. I noted how good it is to reach the pace and pattern of February and to begin to feel as if there is a rhythm to my days as I learn a little more with each conversation and experience.
Though I am happily immersed in February, boarding schools typically see the mid-winter point in the academic year as the “hardest”: cold, dark days, a longing for spring air, and an acceptance of knowing that there is still plenty of work to tackle. Yet, the energy and presence of our students remain steadfast on our hilltop, as they cheer on the Saints across all athletic venues, audition for the musical, bond in the dorms, beg their head of school for a Head’s Holiday (!) and rejoice when the dress code is relaxed due to inclement weather. Of course, they have moments of fatigue and stress, but I have been impressed with our students’ endurance and persistence, even in the face of the long stretch between the December and March breaks.
So back to how I’m feeling now that we are more than halfway through Year One of the Stones’ arrival at Canterbury. I’ve decided to take a moment to reflect on things I’ve learned in these first months, an approach I will likely take every now and then over the course of each year. Here we go:
Lesson 1: Canterbury students may give me a hard time for phrasing it this way, but I see and feel a sense of joy woven into the ethos of our community. The anecdotes are countless and ongoing: the giggles I hear in the student center; the way we cheer after Nikhil’s school meeting announcements; how it feels to chat with Opong!; listening to Mrs. McCarthy’s Motivational Monday introductions; watching my boys chat up the PG’s in the dining hall. On and on. Joy!
Lesson 2: On this hilltop, we celebrate one another as individuals, not as a matter of embracing an external or politicized view of diversity but rather as a matter of acknowledging what we share in common -- Canterbury -- and of intuitively understanding that the more we know about one another, the more likely we are to avoid bias, misunderstanding, and dangerous assumptions. The world around is swirling with fear, division, a tendency to separate ourselves from the different or unknown, and an unwillingness to tackle these fears. In my experience, a true commitment to diversity and inclusion is founded on understanding one another’s stories more than on a definition based on statistics. A community must be willing to ask about the paths that lead each of us here and the experiences that shape our opinions and then embrace differences and seek common ground. Every day.
(If you haven’t seen it already, please take a moment to read about Sherley’s creation of Saints on the Hill: http://www.cbury.org/about/canterbury-news/~post/getting-to-know-you-20170127)
Lesson 3: Come to campus and you will know that this joy and inclusion are at the foundation of a welcoming community. We are family. We understand that taking care of one another is the most important thing we can do. Together.
These are the first of many lessons. And, by the way, today I learned that there is nothing quite as exhilarating as the announcement of a Head of School’s Holiday. #GoSaints!
Rachel E. Stone
Head of School