For each of the past eight years, the ninth grade has gathered at Chewonki’s wilderness outpost on Fourth Debsconeag Lake, just southwest of Baxter Park. In its previous incarnation, the facility was a hunting and fishing camp called Pleasant Point. Pleasant Point Camps became a special place for my family through a series of visits there over a succession of summers and winters. While I was sad when the camp was sold in 2008, thus ending a happy phase of family life, I felt consolation in the assumption that because Chewonki had purchased it, Pleasant Point would come back into my life through Outdoor Experience.
Welcome back after so many miles hiked, biked, and paddled, services rendered, new connections made, old relationships deepened, and our collective appreciation for the natural environment heightened. It is a lot to ask of faculty to spend four days and three nights away from their lives be with you on these trips, but every leader I have spoken with so far has reported great things about being in your company such that the experience has fired them up about the school year. I certainly feel that way about my time with the 9th graders. That says a lot about you as a student body. So, when you see your trip leaders around campus – especially Blake who as OE coordinator has been breathing in for weeks now and is just now getting to exhale – thank them for all they do and then pat yourselves on your backs for a job well done. Continue reading “Opening Remarks from Upper School Director Lowell W. Libby”
The lights dimmed on the theater stage as the actors from The Defamation Play entered and took their places on the set. As I sat amongst the students of the Upper School, I felt the anticipation in the room. We were sharing a common experience of performance, and in the next 90 minutes, would listen and learn together. I relished the intensity of the moment in this profound example of community.
During the last round of class meetings, Associate Director for Student Life Jimmy Manyuru and I invited Waynflete juniors and seniors to apply for an opportunity to take on perhaps the most pressing challenge of our time—civic dysfunction.
While our nation faces many urgent challenges right now—including promoting economic opportunity, environmental sustainability, and social justice while avoiding nuclear war—none arguably is as urgent as the need to strengthen our democratic institutions so that we can as a society meet those pressing challenges thoughtfully, effectively, and fairly for the benefit of all.
For the past eight months, a planning team that includes Jimmy, Assistant Head for Student Life Lydia Maier, and me has been developing a cross-community response to this challenge. At the root of the dysfunction are the deep divisions among US citizens along lines of identity and viewpoint, paralyzing divisions that have raised an essential question on which our future as a society depends:
Can we harness the wisdom and power inherent in the great diversity of the American people to revitalize our democracy, mend the social fabric, and live out the true meaning of our nation’s promise of liberty and justice for all?
When you boil it down, what is the distilled essence of the Waynflete experience?
Who are we, what do we value, and how do we live out our values on a daily basis?
What is our core identity as a learning community?
The Waynflete faculty and administration has undertaken the task of answering those questions. While abstract to some, they are vital to those of us who work at the school and to the families who entrust their children to our care. As an independent school, Waynflete gets to choose its approach to education. Families in Southern Maine get to choose whether or not the experience we offer is right for their children.
Being a “chosen” community gives us a powerful advantage in our efforts to educate the young people in our charge. In the context of a challenging and fast-changing world, being a it also gives us special challenges. Since we offer a distinctive experience based on our beliefs of how best to educate youth, we need to understand what they are and how they translate into best practices. And since we offer a distinctive experience, we need to be able to communicate it to current and future families. Continue reading “It’s not all about me!”