"Influencing an Adolescent's Core" by Dean of Students Mark Spence
A lot has happened within the country and the world over the last three months. In many ways, it has been a difficult summer. Many issues have been in the spotlight. Whether it be gun control, race, terrorism, political correctness, immigration, human rights, police/community relations, employment or religion; these complex issues have taken their place in the forefront of our lives. These issues are complex. There are arguments on all sides. Moreover, these discussions and arguments are fueled with emotion. You usually stand where you sit.
It can be difficult to see other points of view when you are squarely on one side or the other. I have emerged from the summer asking myself, what have we learned and where are we heading? Tensions are high and if another challenging incident occurs, the same emotions are likely to return to the discussion. Healing takes a long time, especially if the scab continuously rips off. Hopefully, as we move forward we can tackle these issues with clear minds and hearts.
I reflected on the roots of the events of the summer and the elements of those roots. How were these roots developed? Could they have been developed by the surrounding environment? How they were taught? Who influenced them? No matter how you look at it, the incidents that have occurred throughout the summer were caused by people who made decisions. That’s the one element that all of these major incidents have in common. They occurred because a person or a group of people made decisions. These decisions were consciously made regardless of the background of the individuals.
As adults, I feel that one of our most important responsibilities is to positively influence the ethical core of young people. I think that it is one of the main reasons why we, as educators, work in a school. We want to influence kids in positive ways. A faculty member at my alma mater, Middlebury College, once said, “I’ll know that I did good job when my students return as alums 20 years from now and they are somehow contributing to someone’s life (significant other, kids, family/friends, colleagues) in a positive way.”
On a larger scale, we hope to shape people who will beneficially shape and lead our society down a positive path. Grades and results are important and students should strive towards doing well. However, it’s not only about the measureable results. It’s about playing a role in the development a young person’s life. One of our challenges is to help create and formulate a student’s core so that he or she can make decisions stemming from that strong core. That’s on us. Whether you are a parent or a trusted adult in a young adult’s life, you need to stand strong, commit and own this responsibility.
The events of this summer have only enhanced this conviction for me. I hope it has for you. It is something that we need to take seriously. Kids are always watching and listening and they take their cues from us. Yet as mentioned before, it goes deeper than that. An adolescent’s core is still developing and can be influenced. We need to embrace this challenge. It’s not about us. In fact, it’s about them.
We are all excited to have the opportunity to work with your kids this coming year. We all love the summer holidays but coming back to work with such talented kids is something that we eagerly anticipate.