A New Year’s Resolution by Head of Upper School Ben Snyder
When I was a boy, my parents were sticklers for thank-you notes. I had to write a thank- you note for Jamie’s birthday party. I had to write a thank-you note for the ugly tie my Dutch uncle sent from Holland. I had to write a thank-you note to my Sunday school teacher each year.
It almost didn’t matter what the occasion was – the next day, my mother would sit me down, put pen and paper into my hands, and nothing else would happen that day until the note was written to her satisfaction.
I’ve come to believe that those habits of gratitude are critical to the healthy development of young people. In recent years, whether I’ve taught a good class or not, a few students extend their own “thank-yous” as they walk out the door. Recently, there has been an increasing body of research that shows how important it is for us to cultivate gratitude in our own lives.
In his article, "Why Gratitude is Good," Robert Emmons outlines a series of physical, psychological and social benefits of regular expressions of gratitude.
As someone who has spent most of his career in the world of high school students and teachers, I have noticed that those who don’t take the wonders of Nobles for granted – and who are actively grateful for the opportunities that Nobles provides – are those who ultimately make the most positive impact on the school and the school’s culture.
These shapers of positive Nobles community norms are those who notice the hard work done by our buildings and grounds crew to get the fields ready for game days or the parking lots cleared after a snow storm. They are the ones who always thank our friends in the Castle who provide us with incredible meals. It is often through the sometimes unnoticed daily hard work of others that our lives are made better.
There are times at Nobles when all of us, teachers, students, parents alike, can get so focused on ‘outcomes’ that we ignore the things that make the opportunities of Nobles so extraordinary. While achievement and outcome goals are important, the habits and patterns of life we establish in adolescence are important too. In fact, many could argue (and having done this for a long time I would concur) that those habits and patterns of life are actually more impactful.
As we enter into the new calendar year, I hope we can all step away from the daily challenges of life at Nobles – the homework, the assessments, the practices and rehearsals – to appreciate what this place offers.
Nobles works because so many people – the trustees who take responsibility for what we do, the accountants in the Business Office who respond positively to any inquiry, the faculty preparing interesting lessons, the student who picks up a random piece of trash or takes a risk on stage in assembly, the parent who works a second job to help meet their Nobles obligations – all make up a community for which we should all be very grateful.