Head Reflections: The Power of Laughter

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Written by Head of School Joe Williams P’22

As I begin my 30th year working in boarding schools and reflect on what energizes me to do this work, I am reminded of the promise and energy that comes with each new year. Faculty and staff huddle through opening meetings to build relationships and focus on the priorities for the year. Like a coaching staff preparing for a big game, we discuss strategy, skill development, and the desire to build culture. We review the strengths and opportunities of our roster, design our approach to adversity, and construct the necessary support systems and accountability measures to achieve our objectives. Then, the players arrive.

Building Community

Huskies from all over the world descend on our bucolic campus in central New Hampshire with eagerness and contagious enthusiasm. Students reuniting with friends and faculty after a summer respite express a visible excitement, occasional shriek of joy, often an embrace, and then comes the laughter. Witnessing these reunions is the fuel that keeps educators going. It’s the reward of work well done, providing the platform for meaningful relationships and experiences to form.

Working with adolescents can keep you young. They help you stay in tune with the latest fashion trends, popular music, and translate the newest teenage lingo that sometimes reminds me of my struggles with learning French.

Laughter and Well-Being

I recognize that life as a teenager in today’s world is not easy. Social media often portrays lifestyles that aren’t entirely real. With eyes toward increasingly selective college admissions, the pressures to perform can create levels of anxiety. For these reasons, we work to create a healthy balance between work and play at New Hampton. Achievement is important, and hard work is emphasized, but all work and no play make for a dull day. A good grade on a homework assignment or test can elicit a smile, but a boisterous school meeting, favorite weekend activity, or raucous fan section at a game can generate bellyaching laughter that erases the day’s stress and confirms for me that this place matters.

New Hampton School provides a platform for achievement in so many vital areas of a child’s development. We value laughter as a window into a person’s true self. It signals comfort with the people around them and the community we provide. Letting down their guard provides the foundation for meaningful relationships and the catalog of memories that confirms their time at New Hampton was meaningful. It keeps alumni returning for reunions, games, and important events on campus and on the road. The laughter gives this place heart and soul, which is the conformation of belonging to this community.

As we begin the 2023-2024 school year, there is essential work to do and plenty of laughter along the way. I invite you to follow our journey, to laugh with us, and feel the power of this community.

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