Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter

November 2015

Nobles Parents' Newsletter November 2015

The October Transition in 2015 by Head of School Bob Henderson

You can feel the change in the tone and mood of the school as we turn the corner from September into October. In the rhythms of this place, Grandparents Day marks the “end of the beginning” of the year, the final syncopation among the irregularities and interruptions in the calendar over the first several weeks. Thereafter we usually settle in, with more full five-day weeks and a more predictable cycle of expectations and commitments for students and faculty alike. There are other realities by October as well, as grades begin to appear, academic pressures escalate and all the other pressures of adolescent life, from athletics to performances to social relationships, are evinced as well. At the end of October the first quarter comes to an end and most of the members of Class I are completing early applications for college. As November begins, the days are shorter, the weather becomes more biting and the patterns of school life are familiar, regular and anticipated.

Except for this year. The passing of Casey Dunne changed the patterns beyond recognition. On the most basic level, the emotional life of the school was thrown completely off kilter. A scary and unfamiliar situation caused anxiety and loss of sleep, and students, many for the first time, felt the deep pangs of grief. Even for some students who did not know Casey, the reactions of peers and perhaps the connection of this event to experiences they have had in the past could be difficult to understand and navigate. Schedules were altered, class expectations were adjusted and time was given, both in the formal schedule and informally all around campus and beyond, to support and foster conversations about coping and loss.

Maria Trozzi, the family resilience expert who has worked with the school through this experience, emphasized two precepts that have guided my thinking and that of the adults in this community. First, she said, “We must grieve even as we live.” Although things had to stop or slow down for awhile, it has been important to restore the core sense of purpose to the school, and to get back to routine. That doesn’t mean that some people don’t remain sad or that we in any way forget. It does mean that we have to put one foot steadily in front of the other and there is no insensitivity to that necessity, which is in the fundamental best interest of both the students and the faculty. Second, she said that the best people to help the community to deal with the situation are not outside grief counselors with some imagined sort of expertise; rather, it is the faculty themselves who the kids need; their connection, compassion, empathy and wisdom. Maria boosted the faculty’s confidence that they were, even in their own grief, the best people (along with parents) to help our students both to grieve and to move forward. We have been at this conscientiously, and the effort will persist in the days ahead.

Commemoration of Casey Dunne will continue, and she will always be a beloved member of the Class of 2017. We will seek, however, ways to do that well and appropriately, and in the spirit of joy and living fully in the moment, that so characterized and motivated Casey. We will also work with students and help them to embrace this as an opportunity to celebrate life and not wallow in tragedy, and to do so at moments and in formats that most aptly honor Casey’s life and legacy. We will seek to help students to pull Casey’s finest qualities into their own consciousness and behavior, and to emphasize that this experience, despite its trauma, does provide them with the chance to embrace what most matters in their lives and relationships while diminishing the petty and venal. I want to thank parents for their steadfast and united support in this community endeavor, and for the love they have shown for Casey, the Dunne family, and their own children through this unusual and especially challenging October.

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