I visited my dentist today. I know, a pretty typical use of a holiday for a teacher or any other working adult with a fixed schedule. Though my dentist has always impressed me as intelligent and thoughtful, a visit is not normally cause for reflection, but today was different.
During my visit today, the dentist worked closely with an intern. The intern was a young woman who was a practicing dentist in her home country. Having recently immigrated to the US, she was working with my doctor to gain experience as she studied to take her dental school entrance exams. Throughout the procedure, the dentist took time, not simply to explain the steps, but to ask questions. “Why would I use my finger here rather than a tool?” “What’s the purpose of using this technique as opposed to another?” Not only was it good teaching, at every step, there was also great patience and a true desire to help someone just starting her journey. The dialogue clearly engaged the intern, who related stories of techniques developed in her home country, and said with a smile, “The experience of working with someone who has been successful is something that you can’t find in a textbook.”
It was honestly touching.
It’s also something I’ve been fortunate enough to see time and time again at Dana Hall School. Our students have a desire to give back. They value the experience they’ve had enough that they want to enrich that experience for others.
There’s the alum in the class of 2002 who’s gone out of her way to welcome senior project participants into her cancer research lab at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, giving kids an invaluable mirror to help picture themselves at the forefront of biomedical research.
There’s my former AP Bio student who was so inspired by a college course on science in society that she returned to Dana and helped guide the creation of a similar course in our science curriculum – one that’s now our most popular science elective. After years in the field of public health and HIV outreach, she now visits with our students on a regular basis to discuss her path, and to help inspire others to see that science doesn’t end at the edge of the laboratory.
There’s the one-time JV basketball player who didn’t take a well-earned vacation from her biomedical engineering studies. Instead she volunteered to come back to JV basketball practice each day, working one on one with players, supporting and pushing them in equal measure, even traveling with the team to away games. This is how she spent every afternoon of her winter break… for five years. She was even joined this past season by another “graduate assistant,” someone she had coached (and inspired) for the past four years.
The list goes on.
These are not alumnae who can’t let go. These are young women who had a meaningful experience at Dana Hall and want to share it with others. They want to help inspire and empower other young women. They want to give back. I’m fortunate to be part of a community where giving back is the norm, and where those who have walked the path before take it upon themselves to pass along those lessons that just aren’t found in the textbooks.