Head Reflections: Honoring Traditions in a Non-Traditional Year

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As adults, we are drawn to living and working in a boarding school environment because we believe in community importance and the events that mark our time together and shape our year. There are often times of vulnerability, as community members share personal experiences and hopes that allow us to get to know each other more individually and strengthen our bonds using shared beliefs or understandings. The more serious reflections are balanced moments of levity that remind us of the importance of laughter in our routines and in shaping memories of our time in Husky Nation.

In a COVID-19 year, how do we continue these important traditions when the impact is directly tied to the personal intimacy that this pandemic won’t allow us to share?

traditions new hampton school meeting
School meetings moved outside during the beautiful fall weather for comfort and togetherness.

Finding pathways

School Meeting was a community staple that provided a forum for informal contact between adults and students that built awareness of what was going on in each other’s lives and impromptu moments to discuss work-related content. That was all before or after the student-led agenda to promote topics of shared interest or benefit. This year we have embraced the outdoors and moved Monday’s School Meeting to the lower field for togetherness and made Friday’s meeting virtual to allow for presentations requiring technology.

Foliage Day took on a new look this year because of the need to decrease the number of people on the trails at any one time. Freshmen and sophomores took the lead with a morning hike and delicious lunch prepared by the dining staff. This first group headed back to campus as the juniors and seniors arrived after a needed sleep-in. Many people have suggested we keep this format for post-pandemic school years as it proved to be a more relaxing day all around!

Foliage Day’s experience was extended throughout the day this year.

New twists on newer traditions

A newer tradition that has taken hold over the last four years is monthly birthday celebrations at Smith House. Mrs. Williams and I cherish this opportunity to open our home to feverishly flip pancakes and dole out Monkey Bread to a room full of teenagers jockeying for position in line and socializing with friends. Not wanting to lose the interactive nature of this event with an entirely “drive-thru” event, we are utilizing the Alumni Hall space connected to our house, scheduling arrival times by grade, dishing out treats into “to go” containers, all while allowing a limited time for in-person eating and conversation consistent with dining hall procedures. This has allowed us to continue this important community event safely.

Senior suppers follow a similar approach. No longer the intimate family dinner around our dining room table, a plated meal with distanced seating in Alumni Hall has sufficed so far. We are thankful for the physical space Alumni Hall provides to bring, albeit smaller, groups of people together at much-needed gatherings to “feed the soul” literally and figuratively for all involved.

Senior suppers began as a new tradition last year, interrupted this spring by the pandemic. This year, they continue in small groups in Alumni Hall with the Williams family.

Embracing the year ahead

With much of the school year ahead of us and many time-honored traditions to fulfill, we embrace the opportunity to do things differently, which ironically is making some experiences better.

Husky Nation is prevailing in all the right ways during this Bicentennial year–demonstrating our propensity to experiment and thrive in challenging times.

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