As I close my 36-year chapter as an official member of the New Hampton School community, my heart is full. Early in my career, graduation day meant tears and sad farewells. As my career progressed, these sentiments changed to joy. Perhaps this is because I was able to see my former students as successful, engaged adults, and I knew a small part of my work had come to fruition. My commencement address afforded me the opportunity to teach my final lesson; I concluded with the words of Emerson, “To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. That is to have succeeded.” Roddy Ames, unknowingly, used this same quotation when he spoke about me at the reunion celebration. New Hampton School affords its students and faculty alike the opportunity to become a bit better every day. I see the NHS campus as my “garden patch.”
I was overwhelmed with gratitude when I learned an endowed fund had been established in my name for faculty professional development. The work the faculty are asked to do is multidimensional. Yes, they need to know their content areas and coaching areas and be apprised of the latest brain research and pedagogy; however, they also need to understand and, more importantly, appreciate adolescence. They need to parent in the residence halls and support the emotional well-being of each student in their care. They also need to support community standards and respond in emergency situations. These are tall tasks, and ones requiring training, practice, and support. My hope is this fund will support training in all areas of school life. Jess MacLeod, as Dean of Faculty, has established a professional development model where each of these areas will be covered. The fund will support the continual training of the faculty so they feel ably readied to support the students in their care.
Kelsey, my daughter, also spoke at the reunion event. As an experienced boarding school educator and leader, she spoke of the term “in loco parentis” and how seriously I have embraced this expectation during my career. Kelsey shared, “Thank you for showing me, and others, what it is to have an open home and heart to your students. While the intellectual gifts you cultivated in Lane Hall are lifelong, residential schools are also places where learning transcends the boundaries marked by the whiteboards—no one knows that more than you. You have watched, supported, and cared for so many students as they transitioned from adolescents to adults and moved on to the next chapter of their lives.”
While I will no longer have an office at New Hampton School, I hope my relationships with those I have met at New Hampton School “transcend the whiteboard.” Social media can be a distraction, but it is also a valuable tool to remain connected to people. Please stay connected to me, your New Hampton School classmates, and your former teachers. Relationships bolster us; they define us; they make life full. So, I hope my departure from a formal role at New Hampton School is not “goodbye” but rather “see you soon.”
Jen, Job well done, life well lived!!! We are all so proud of you from afar! Robin Blanchard MacEwan