Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter

September 2010

Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter September 2010

Important Conversations by Bill Bussey, Provost

A number of years ago, I was meeting with a 10th-grade advisee who was mapping out his next two years at Nobles. He had grown more intellectually curious and focused during his sophomore year and, above all, he had wanted to build on his recent classroom accomplishments. He also had found some success as a point guard for the J.V. basketball team despite being one of the smallest players in the league. His superb hand/eye coordination, knowledge of the game, and quickness allowed him to outmaneuver the opposition. Yet, the odds were that his lack of strength and height would keep him from finding that same success at the next level.

The million dollar question was how best to broach this subject with him and his folks, if at all. For understandable reasons, a fair number of parents initially balk when an alternative approach, one that runs contrary to a specific plan or world view, is introduced as a viable solution by someone outside the family. It's an understandable reaction. Yet, sometimes parents and their children will put off engaging the school in an open, heartfelt conversation regarding a sensitive matter until reality or unexpected circumstances have forced the issue. As painful as some conversations might be, most of our students truly believe deep down that the adults in their life always have their best interests at heart; they weigh our every word and reaction despite often keeping us at arm’s length. While every situation with every student and family is unique, one thing is almost always true: most kids find it heartbreaking to fall short in the eyes of their parents.

Although timing is everything, being direct is often the best way to go. To my relief, my advisee eagerly explored other options, putting his eggs in a number of baskets. He loved playing basketball; the realization that he would not play as often, if at all, allowed reason to trump emotion. He dropped basketball and opted for squash where his hand/eye coordination would serve him well. It was also a sport, like golf and tennis, which he could play and enjoy for the rest of his life. The idea of getting to know a wider variety of classmates appealed to him, too, and during his junior year, he volunteered to write brief articles for the Nobleman. The following year he was selected to be an editor.

Yet, if this is about being honest and realistic, there were more than a few kids that year who also wanted to be an editor and didn’t get it. That’s just the reality of being at a school with many exceptionally talented students. How students and parents choose to respond to situations that fall short of their expectations not only can affect a community but it can also define it. In that respect, if no other, parents and students must accept the responsibility that fact requires of all of us. As adults, what we say to our children privately, how we approach their setbacks, how we frame the success of others resonates in ways that has a tremendous impact on the tone and culture of this community. When our children look back at their time here at Nobles, they won’t remember with much certainty many of the things that seem so important to them now. What they received in Algebra, or their win/loss record in tennis, or when exactly they completed their community service requirement will fade over time. Like those that came before them, your children will return long after they graduate to seek out the faculty members whose encouragement gave them both the comfort and confidence to approach their lives with a balanced, resilient perspective. Yet my hope is that many of them will also reach out to you, the parents of classmates who, many years before, also extended to them a level of kindness and respect that resonated in all the right ways.

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Dedham, Massachusetts
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