This Past Year by Interim Dean of Students Kate Ramsdell
Last night I dreamt that I spent an entire school day asking kids to take off their denim jackets and doling out detentions. Perhaps I should be thankful that this newsletter – along with the imminent arrival of my second born – marks the end of my tenure as the Interim Dean of Students. Whatever you might read into my reverie, and all joking aside, I do want to thank all of the students and families with whom I’ve had the chance to work in this role over the course of the last year – even if it meant getting to know a student or two through an initial encounter over something as seemingly trivial as a denim jacket.
In this last opportunity I have to share newsletter musings, I thought I’d reflect on the sentiments John Amaechi shared when he visited Nobles in mid-April. For those who are not familiar with John Amaechi, he cuts a formidable presence in so many ways. Now a practicing psychologist, executive coach and organizational consultant, Mr. Amaechi is also known for the years he spent playing in the NBA, his bestselling memoir, Man in the Middle, and his appointment to the Order of the British Empire.
He did not spend much time during his visit discussing how he was the first former NBA player to come out as gay, Mr. Amaechi has also been a leading advocate for human rights across the globe. Not to mention the fact that he was raised in England (and therefore has an accompanying accent, the sound of which somehow makes kids sit up and listen), is 6’ 10” and close to 300 pounds (his admission), and uses his presence to great effect on stage.
Students, from sixies to seniors, were rapt by his stories in assembly, at the crux of which sat the notion of how one develops, and maintains, his or her integrity. Three sentiments shared that morning have remained with me and, having talked to quite few students, with many of them as well:
"I spend more time thinking about who I am going to be than what I am going to do."
"You are disproportionately powerful, and there is something important in that."
"You are all axes, and what you must remember is that the wood never forgets."
Nobles students hear that they’re expected to be “leaders for the public good,” and yet this charge can seem cumbersome and decidedly abstract at this point in their lives. Each of Amaechi’s sentiments acts as an entry point to that idea. It’s my hope that they might also act as an entry point into a conversation with your child about what it means to be a person of integrity.
The last weeks of the school year will bring with them myriad pressures, ample opportunities for risk and growth, moments of elation and even disappointment – each one often inherent in the others. Sometimes it’s important to focus on the minutiae of a Nobles existence as our kids work hard to finish well. But, if the opportunity arises, it might also be the perfect time to help them find chances for critical self-reflection.
If I have done my job even the tiniest bit well this year, I hope I have conveyed some of the same ideas to our students about developing one’s character and sense of self as John Amaechi did when he visited us. What I do know for certain is this: it was done far less eloquently, with a less impressive accent, and punctuated by a dress code detention or two.