As our school year begins there is a wonderful renewal of optimism and energy on campus. We have a clean canvas on which we will paint a beautiful picture of our year ahead filled with shared experiences, new achievements, and long-lasting relationships formed between students and with adults.
There have been numerous student and adult voices during the opening of school events which have underscored, in their own voice, the importance of embracing opportunity, engaging in the community, demonstrating inclusivity, and trusting your fellow New Hampton Husky. These are just some of the behaviors that promote the development of meaningful relationships.
For me, it comes down to those quiet one-on-one moments where we have the opportunity to build trust. And, as a result, confidence in the individual that this is the community in which they will experience wonderful growth. John Gottman, acclaimed researcher and author, coined the phrase Sliding Door Moments, as a powerful metaphor for the opportunity one has to develop trusting relationships.
Sliding Door Moments
Gottman’s description of a sliding door moment is when you come across a person you know who appears to be out of sorts. It could be a classmate, friend, or roommate. They might look sad or be deep in thought, and perhaps could benefit from support. It is in these moments when one has the opportunity to build trust by extending themselves to the individual in need. Hey Jimmie, you look like you could use someone to talk to. In our community, where one of the values of our program is the many points of contact we have with each other throughout the day to extend the learning process beyond the classroom, we are committed to sliding the door open and taking advantage of these important moments to support one another.
Sliding the Door Open
During his convocation speech, student body co-president Tulio Tagliaferri referenced precisely one of these moments. He told a story about his house-parent, Mr. Cramer, who was checking in on the students in his house one afternoon and found Tulio in the middle of a tough day. He stopped and chatted with him, offering some advice and encouragement. At that moment, Mr. Cramer slid the door open, fulfilling his role as an educator and parent in loco parentis, and extended himself to support his student. Tulio recalled that though Mr. Cramer probably didn’t know it, his words that day have had a lasting impact on him and his perspective moving forward.
Sliding the Door Closed
The alternative is letting the door slide closed by not acknowledging a community member in need or extending support. I view this as a betrayal of trust and conflict with our core values of respect and responsibility. It is for this reason that we focused our opening of school professional development work with faculty on building awareness for the composition of healthy relationships, leaning into conversations that may be difficult, and increasing awareness for the signals our students might be sending us.
A Healthy Balance
With classes now in full swing, New Hampton is working to fuel that healthy balance of wonder and well-being, which is fostered through trusting relationships and a nurturing community where seizing the opportunity and sliding the door open is the norm.
I think international students really could use these "sliding door" moments. They are far away from home, unfamiliar with the values and ways of this country, struggling with the English language, all the while, experiencing the many typical doubts and fears of any teenager from any part of the world. I salute NHS for keeping this concept of nurturing and awareness alive.