One of the things I love about my job as Director of the Upper School at Dana Hall is that I get to be all over campus — in classrooms, in performance spaces, in the gym, in the Student Center. But when I do sit at my desk in my office, I face my bulletin board. On that board, I have two postcards that center me and offer some important reminders.
One card, given to me by a parent of a student who graduated (by the skin of her teeth) 4 or 5 years ago, is black with white font and reads: “Never, never, never give up.” The quotation is attributed to Winston Churchill, prime minister of England during World War II. Truth be told, it isn’t an accurate quote – over time, it has morphed into what appears on my bulletin board. And although Churchill was reflecting on the British people and their strength during the early days of World War II, I take his message to heart. There are times when we do have to give up — because sleep is more important, because we have tried everything and still can’t find the answer, because we need to compromise. But here’s how I interpret the card — never give up on a student. Students will make mistakes — we all do! But here at Dana Hall, we want to help students learn from those mistakes. We want to help students get back up again and give it another try. Dana Hall students know that their teachers, coaches, theater directors, and house faculty won’t give up on them. We work with students to make sure they ask for help, try a different method of solving the problem, and offer support to others. Lots has been written about the importance of resilience and grit in education; Winston Churchill’s oft-quoted line sums all of that up quite nicely.
The second card I bought at Hancock Shaker Village a few years ago. It reads, “RULES FOR DOING GOOD. Do all the good you can. In all the ways you can. To all the people you can. In every place you can. All the times you can. As long as you can.”
These are simple rules, but important ones for a community like ours. We strive to make Dana Hall a model community — by demonstrating respect for all, inclusion of all, love for all, and kindness toward all. At Dana Hall, our students meet, interact with, learn from, and (in the case of our boarding students) live with students who are very different from each other. They might have more or less money. They might speak a language(s) in addition to English. They might have different hair or skin. They might have a different family structure. Although it is entirely normal — and quite comforting — for students to stick with people who are “just like them,” we know that the learning really happens when one branches out, embraces difference, and learns to lean into new situations, even if they are uncomfortable. Dana Hall School is an amazing place to stretch beyond one’s comfort zone, knowing that the community is eager to support all of its students.
And so, whether I am walking around campus or sitting in my office, I keep the messages of never giving up and of doing good close to my heart. I encourage my students to do the same.