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Social Capital
Being Present
I consider myself an organized person, but this organization can be a weakness at times as it inhibits my spontaneity. Observing Chuck Will’s blogging over the past eight years has taught me much, not the least of which is the need to be more spontaneous in my writing. Not always sticking ‘to the plan’ when something moves me to drift off course as I encouraged students to do in this post.

So instead of writing about the specific science course I had planned to cover today, the following is a culmination of perfectly timed emails from family members, articles, and student work that entered my life during a 24 hour period late last week.

Thursday evening, seven sophomores spoke in front of the entire community in the 15th annual Hays Speaking Prize contest. Each gave a poignant speech based on personal experiences (as seen in the compilation video below). Without fail, this contest produces powerful windows into students’ lives, but this year, more so than years past, the words spoken came from voices of individuals who desperately sought to be heard. They shared personal struggles reminding us of the important role we play in our students’ lives.

Following the speeches Thursday evening, my wife shared this blog post with me, leading me to watch the TED Talk below from Glennon Doyle Melton. Hopefully, you’ll take the time to listen to Glennon’s story; it is one that we all should hear, not just listen to, but truly hear. Her message is real, raw, powerful. One that our students must take to heart.

We often celebrate the wonderful accomplishments of our students. We highlight the amazing courses, off-campus programs, and unquestionable sense of community that is Proctor. We focus on the good because it is what attracts students and families to our school. Perhaps too often we forget to acknowledge the brokenness that each of us feels at some point during our lives. For some, like Glennon, this feeling of inadequacy is all-consuming, but it is through the navigation of this brokenness that a community is forged out of a collection of students and teachers.

And because we live in a world where there is hurt, our educational model rooted deeply in relationships becomes even more important. We are there to listen to each other when we need to be heard. David Augsburger writes, “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” We must not underestimate the impact we have on our students by simply being there to listen. As we listen, we must be willing to ask the right questions of them that show we are really hearing what they are saying to us.

While we pause and listen, we are practicing the art of presence that this article discusses. In the article, David Brooks writes, “We have a tendency, especially in an achievement-oriented culture, to want to solve problems and repair brokenness — to propose, plan, fix, interpret, explain and solve. But what seems to be needed here is the art of presence — to perform tasks without trying to control or alter the elemental situation.”

As you enter your week, may you have the opportunity to be heard and to listen.
Thursday's Hays Speaking Prize highlighted seven sophomores for their public speaking abilities.
Each gave a powerful speech providing a window into personal experiences.
Each of the experiences shared Thursday night reminded us of the need for students to be heard.
Congratulations to Sophie on winning this year's Hays Speaking Prize!