The young men of Williston’s varsity football team have a lot to be proud of following a one point loss in the Hugh Caldera Bowl championship game played at Sawyer Field last Saturday. Though the Lawrence Spartans hoisted the trophy after a well played and highly competitive game, the Wildcats look back on a one-loss regular season that they will never forget.
For those who didn’t witness the bowl game, Williston was down 27-0 at the half and scored 28 unanswered points in the second half before teams traded touchdowns. Coach Conroy’s young men represented the very best of sportsmanship, competitive spirit, and team unity, and we know that Coach Crockett would have been proud of each of them. I salute this dedicated group of students and their coaching mentors.
Much has been said and written about William Deresiewicz’s recent book Excellent Sheep and the accompanying articles that variously lambaste or defend the Ivy League—which, of course, includes only EIGHT colleges. But having just completed our first two weeks of the school year at Williston, it’s hard for me not to weigh in.
The point of Mr. Deresiewicz’s attack seems to be the lock-step fashion in which ambitious teenagers march in pursuit of Ivy Gold. Clearly, such generalizations, even when applied to the often highly focused students found on the campuses of New England boarding schools, do a real disservice to our educational missions.
Williston students are well known to be authentic individuals, eschewing cookie-cutter molds and easy categories. They take seriously their teachers focus on critical reasoning skills and independent thinking. When they graduate, Williston students spread far and wide geographically, and from all I can see, they retain these values and mindsets throughout their college careers.
The phrase “excellent sheep” connotes an attitude or mindset. There’s nothing at all sheep-like about a Williston student, not now, and certainly not in the past (if the alumni stories which I hear from across the generations are any indication). If anything, Williston students are more like shepherds, a simile that, for me, denotes leadership, reflection, resilience, and a healthy pursuit of clearly defined goals.
Individuality, in fact, is one of Williston’s core values, and our graduates who attend the colleges that Mr. Deresiewicz spotlights will surely never be lost in the flock.
March madness ends on April 10th, at least in the boarding school world. That’s the date that marks the deadline for students holding acceptance letters to choose which school they will attend. Williston, as with our peer schools, has held a number of “Second Visit Days” in an effort to provide admitted students and their families with as much information as possible with which to make an informed choice. Unlike many boarding schools, Williston invites students to spend the night in our dorms, a “sleepover” which undoubtedly makes for more tired eyes on the full day of activities that follows. Why do we do that?
Students and families face a big decision. To make a clear choice, one needs to process myriad facts and details as well as to sort through stereotypes in order to gain a level of insight that’s often hard to accomplish. Williston, literally, provides such a chance for “in-sight”—looking into the inner workings of our school from life in the dormitories to classrooms, to a variety of panels and exchanges representing every aspect of a student’s experience. We open our school to families because we are, authentically, an open school. We believe that each student we’ve admitted will thrive at Williston, contribute meaningfully to our community, and become engaged and transformed by her/his time here.
So as April 10th approaches, I advise families to privilege their “sixth sense,” to pay attention to the insights they have gleaned from school visits, and above all, to have fun in the opportunity that exciting choices present.
Whichever way colleges choose to notify students of admissions decisions, the wait can be agonizing and fraught with anxiety. The season is upon us where Early Decision, Action, and Notification applicants learn their fates. There was a time when this occurred with a physical piece of paper, a time which led to the monikers of “fat” or “thin” envelopes (the former reserved for admitted students containing more celebratory information).
Alas, in the cyber world where our students so comfortably reside, the typical teenager receives an email notification or a log-in link to a college or university website where their fate (and those of countless peers) resides.
How one deals with happy or unhappy news, however, remains timeless. Though the medium has changed, the values of resilience in the face of disappointment and humility as one justifiably shares in good news, remain the same.
Wandering through the Reed Center the other day after classes, I knew I would hear the sounds of pianos, cellos, and other instruments as those students devoted to music practice in the afternoon program time slot.
But I was not fully prepared to see what was happening in the fine arts studios. While it was certainly fun to observe artists building portfolios for RISD or other college programs, it was even more enlightening to hear mentors and students speak a language of art that was unfamiliar to me—questions and responses about the way a line works, or even just the segment of a line; or discussions about ranges and shades of color that I only dimly recall from my own college art history class. These were students well on their way to a level of expertise and confidence well beyond their chronological years and I was awed by the talent and diligence that I witnessed.