"A Second Home" by Dean of Students Mark Spence
I love the winter holidays. It’s a time where I return home to Montréal to spend time with my family and friends. There is no better feeling than crossing the Champlain Bridge into downtown Montréal. The view of the Montréal skyline from the bridge is stunning, invariably stirring within me memories of family, friends and holidays past.
My values, my sense of self, my resilience—all of these aspects of my identity were developed within a Caribbean home (my parents are from Jamaica) in a multicultural city in the company of (and under the watchful eyes) of great friends and mentors. The landmarks of Montréal and their meaning to me are linked with people, the many friends, teachers, coaches and family members who have supported me through my trials and triumphs. When challenging events have occurred in my life, there is a group of folks, beginning with my parents, upon whom I know I can lean. Known as my “web” because of how they are deeply woven into my life, these are the people who I know I can count on to hold, encourage, comfort, support and balance me regardless of where I am in my life.
In recent years, the Nobles community has absorbed a great deal. We have lost young graduates, current students, a faculty member and relatively young parents of current students. These losses have certainly challenged this community; they are tragic events not representative of the way life and death are supposed to occur. Children should not die before their parents. Young people should be able to fulfill their dreams and live a long life.
Our community has had to show its strength within the past three years in ways that, one might suggest, we should not have had to. I have always felt that we’re a resilient community, but after these challenges, I am positive that we are. This doesn’t mean that we aren’t hurting, or that we don’t have our bad days. It doesn’t mean that the school hasn’t been altered in terms of our emotions and sensitivities. But without moving on from those whom we have lost, we slowly push forward, all the while knowing how difficult it is to do.
Perhaps as much as anything, I am proud of the ways in which members of our community have tried to care for others. Nobles is our second home, and the way we treat each other is key. Whether it’s placing sticky notes throughout the school with supportive messages written on them, sitting beside someone who is having a hard time and putting one’s arm around them, or having a whole grade over at a student’s home after a very difficult day, countless acts of kindness are what I have learned that this community is all about. These are acts of compassion, empathy, resilience—acts that reveal this community’s immense character and soul.
The work of the Nobles community has been remarkable but I know from experience that there is much more to do, in this year and in the years to come. It is in this spirit that I challenge you and our students to think about a new year’s resolution in which you prioritize taking even better care of yourselves physically, emotionally and psychologically—which brings us back to the concept of the web of support. Bob Henderson, Jen Hamilton, Bill Bussey, Mary Batty, Rick Wilson, Michael Denning, I and others have asked students throughout these difficult times: “Do you have people to whom you can go to if you really need help?” As the new year starts, I challenge all of us to work harder to develop our own webs of people upon whom we can depend and rely. Think about the people who make you whole, who add stability to your life—the people you trust.
I hope you all had a great holiday season and I wish you the best for 2017.