Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter

October 2016

Nobles Parents' Newsletter October 2016

"Paying Attention" by Dean of Faculty Maura Sullivan

One of the things that I enjoy most about working at Nobles is that I am constantly learning. I know that many of my colleagues would echo this feeling. As teachers, we are charged with educating the students. We can be confident that a Nobles graduate will be well versed in how to write a good essay, support a thesis with evidence, communicate in another language, perform in front of an audience, analyze data and appreciate art. But the real learning that happens at Nobles is not about content or skills. I am constantly humbled by what I see around me and the “teaching” that occurs in the everyday moments. These are the things that happen in the ordinariness of our days that we need to train ourselves to look for and appreciate.

As Dean of Faculty, part of my job is to run faculty evaluations. I get to spend time sitting in my colleagues’ classes, watching them teach. Throughout my years of doing this, I have learned to pay attention to the subtleties in the classroom. It is always these subtleties that frame the evaluation experience. While the class content is important, the delivery and the classroom experience are more significant. It is amazing how much can be learned when we slow down and listen. I do not need to understand a word of what is being said in an Aya Anderson Japanese class to have a clear sense of her creativity and innovation. Bill Kehlenbeck’s passion and Kim Libby’s dedication are obvious, even if you aren’t a mathematician or a poet. By cultivating necessary attention skills, the school experience becomes increasingly richer. The times of greatest learning for me come in the quietest moments, when I am least expecting it. Perhaps this is true of all of us. In fact, in just the first month of school, I have observed endless teachable moments. 

The secret that most adults in the Nobles community quickly realize is that the students do as much of this type of “teaching” as the faculty. Since the start of this school year, I have learned about dedication from listening to Talia Kee’s impressive violin performance. The students in the Peer Help group modeled a great willingness to laugh at themselves with the pictures they shared of when they were in the middle school. New class IV student Hailey Brown taught me about courage through her assembly speech about alopecia. Each morning, as I walk up to the schoolhouse from my parking spot at the MAC, I observe siblings being gentle and loving with each other as they start their day. Each afternoon, my field hockey players teach me about compassion and support by the ways they interact with each other.

Nobles is a rich academic learning environment, but the real education happens outside of the classroom. In our very fast-paced culture this is not immediately obvious to kids. As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry so poignantly wrote, “what is essential is invisible to the eye,” and I would argue that it is the responsibility of the adults in the community, teachers and parents alike, to help them recognize this truth. While content and skills are certainly valuable and necessary, the intangibles that are gleaned from the “in-between spaces” are what we need to train ourselves and our students to see and hear, and most importantly, prize. 

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