Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter

May 2016

Nobles Parents' Newsletter May 2016

"Challenges – Big and Small" by Dean of Students Marcela Maldonado

On the inside of my office door, a very small, faded piece of newspaper is taped precisely at eye level, inescapable to notice as you reach the handle to walk out. On it are found the words of John Andrew Holmes: “It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.” I wish I could take credit for having cleverly thought to tape such a prescient thought on the door in a way that’s impossible to notice.  That credit belongs to my predecessor, Erika Guy, and for all the changes naturally made by a new occupant of any space, it’s one of those things I knew instinctively on the first day I moved into this office that needed to remain exactly where it was. I never fail to notice those words as I go about my daily business, and they help (though admittedly not always successfully!) to ground me in just about every interaction I have on a given day. 

These words have taken on a humbling poignancy of late, as I have been consumed by the news of a devastating earthquake that hit Ecuador recently, the country where I born and where my parents still live. While the horrible details of what transpired there is easily accessible to anyone interested with just a simple search of the internet or a few minutes watching the evening news, like all such world tragedies, those bits of information fail to capture the real toil it takes on anyone who has experienced it firsthand. My parents are fine and their personal living space was unaffected, but in their immediate vicinity and for extended family and friends, the devastation and personal loss has been unfathomable.  And so in the days since this tragedy hit, and as I have gone about my daily life here at Nobles, Holmes’ verse has taken on a far more personal and profound meaning. I have been humbled more than ever by the luck of the draw that is my life, the decisions made by others early on, and by those I’ve made along the way (good and bad) that have brought me to this place and time. Simply put, I have been overwhelmed by my point of privilege.

From the assembly stage, in classes, and amongst each other, we often speak about the concept of “privilege” here at Nobles, a simply inescapable reality if we are honest with ourselves about our surroundings. For many of our students, privilege is hard to grasp, especially with fairly little to compare it to in their young lives. Indeed many will often initially misunderstand the term itself or the point of a discussion as a veiled attempt to inflict guilt or humility upon them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Quite frankly, Nobles exists as a result of that very privilege, and so to eschew it would be highly disingenuous. When this topic arises in my own classes, I will often say to students that they should never feel guilty for what they have, but understand why and how they got to this point in their lives, and the consequences of choices made by others along the way.

But I also will remind students that it is a privilege to decide what you will care about. We work hard to open the world to them and have them consider things they have the privilege to ignore. We use our time with them, often from the assembly stage, to teach about issues and ideas that are unfamiliar. We don’t always get it right and sometimes the message might even feel incomplete to some, but at this point in their lives, when their “me” centered existence is in full force and developmentally appropriate, small challenges made along the way can hold particular resonance. They can respond to or reject what’s in front of them, but if your child comes home with a strong reaction to something they heard that day, it has probably less to do with the actual message delivered than with the challenge to think about it.  While adults have history and long memories that give us perspective to our own small place in the universe, they simply don’t.  And at the end of the day, our job as educators is to strike the chord that gets them to consider the place of that “one trifling exception” that Holmes speaks of, and to provide the space to decide what will matter to them. 

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Dedham, Massachusetts
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