Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter

March 2017

Nobles Parents' Newsletter March 2017

"Transition" by Head of School Bob Henderson

One of the most pleasant responsibilities of a Nobles head of school is to get out on the road and visit with graduates doing fascinating things with their lives all around the country. This year so far I have spent time in California, Colorado and New York. The latter location was my most recent trip, in the middle of February. We get a great turnout for receptions in Manhattan, both because there are many Nobles graduates in the area and because it is relatively easy to select a central location. In contrast, there is almost no way to do that conveniently for most graduates in the Los Angeles area. The evening gathering this year in New York was in Midtown and over a hundred graduates showed up. Most of them were young, mostly from my era as head of school. It was a great time, and many stories and memories were exchanged. One conversation, however, struck me with particular power and poignancy.

A young man, now experiencing considerable early success in his nascent career, approached me as I was actually getting ready to leave the event. I was tired, after a long day of bouncing around the city, but there was a look in his eyes that made me stop my progress toward the door and fully engage. I had not had much of a relationship with him while he was a student at Nobles. In the spring of his senior year, I had to confront him in a major disciplinary incident, leading to a lengthy suspension from school. When I called him into my office to have a conversation about that incident, his judgment, and the implications of his choices, it did not go well. He was angry, resistant to my entreaties, unwilling to share much, and clearly in disagreement with my decisions. That discussion was unfortunately brief, and my relationship with him through the time of his graduation was tense and distant, despite my attempts to make it otherwise. I had not seen him for several years since he left Nobles. When at first he stopped me to chat, I rather dreaded where the encounter might go, the thought passing through my head that I had been so close to getting away clean from the reception!

It played out quite otherwise. This young graduate said to me, “I want you to know that the conversation you had with me that afternoon in your office was the inflection point of my entire life. I have never forgotten, and indeed I think I remember every word we exchanged. I didn’t make changes immediately because I had a lot to work out, but I ultimately altered the direction of my life because of you.” Stunned, I responded gratefully and promised to connect with him again at greater length at his upcoming reunion. I walked out of the reception with Bill Bussey, to whom I related the story. Bill said to me, “You have to admit, when you leave Nobles you are going to miss moments like that.” And I will, because they so profoundly affirm the commitment I made to a career working in independent secondary schools.

As I navigate the transition from my Nobles headship this spring to Cathy Hall’s next summer, I have found myself thinking more and more about why I have loved this profession and life. It has everything to do with kids and teachers, classrooms and assemblies, and moments like the one described above. The truth is that as we all navigate our adolescences, we have no idea what the experience means (although we think we do, often with misplaced bravado). I sometimes say that we should not ask any graduates about the impact of their Nobles experiences until they are at least 25 years old, when they have had time to weigh it in the context of their adult identities. There is no question that after this June 30 I will have many days where I miss terribly the Nobles community because I know it changes lives. And yet, there is another side of me that wonders, with great excitement and positive anticipation, if there are other ways that I can continue, in my next incarnation outside of Nobles, to live the mission of the school to inspire leadership for the public good. I think I, too, like the graduating Class of 2017, will need to move beyond Nobles to fully understand what it all meant.

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