“Of course I introduced myself to the professor after the first lecture- I’m a Dana girl!” A former Dana Hall parent loves to tell this story when discussing her daughter’s first year at the University of Pennsylvania. This hallmark of college, connections with professors, is a highlight of higher education for so many, as was the case for me.
Dana Hall students have a distinct edge as they enter college: they’ve already had the good fortune to become deeply connected to a variety of adults in the Dana Hall community. In fact, this is the time of year when Dana juniors ask teachers to write college recommendations on their behalf. 91 juniors will ask for 182 separate letters by the end of this year, and the asking process requires students to reflect on their relationships with their instructors.
In the College Counseling world, we often point out that the teacher who knows you best may not teach the class where you’ve earned an easy “A.” Perhaps the instructor with the best perspective about you as a learner leads a class where the material doesn’t come easily, so you’ve spent extra time with that teacher during conference, lunches, after school, or in math or writing lab. And, during that time, teachers and students start to know each other not just as teachers and students, but as people. They talk about family and friends, about politics and math, about music and art. These relationships are the core of what I’ve come to love about Dana Hall: faculty and staff work here because of the connections they make with their students. They take genuine pleasure in watching them grow, learn, and make connections not just within a particular subject area, but with the larger world.
When Dana students go on to college, they’ve already come to understand the value of forging relationships in an educational setting. It feels intuitive to seek out a professor, to sign up for office hours, to knock on the RA’s door to introduce themselves. And this time of year, the seeking of recommendations, is the perfect reminder of just how far they’ve already come.