This last week the literature department assigned students to write and perform their second round of punctuated personal reflective speeches. This week’s topic: a 60-second speeches using a location on or near campus to tell a story about a pivotal, profound, or meaningful moment in their Island School semesters. These speeches were an opportunity to ground their growth in their sense of place here: A Place of Meaning Speech. Everyday: during lunch, after breakfast, in exploration time, during study hours (with a headlamp spotlight illuminating the performance) I met students in the locations they chose and learned about every emotional inch of this campus. There was not a single speech that did not make me choke with pride, well-up with gratitude, or grow big eyed in awe of the momentous moments that these students are experiencing each day. And I thought to myself this morning, about to embark on my first Parent’s Weekend as a member of the Island School faculty, that there are a few things you should know about this place, before your arrival:
On girls dorm deck, someone talks to God, to the piercing bright glory of each twinkle looking down on her from the starry night skies. On the boathouse dock someone talks to her father, deceased. She heard him there, and realized there, that if he was there, then he will always be everywhere. A young man led me to a little sprouting palm, humble and barely a foot high. The tiny palm taught him about strength, about hard-work and manual labor. He learned from planting a little palm, how to be a big man and work hard each day. A girl learned to dance in the boathouse, to spin in silly abandon, to fall giggling, and not to care what others around her think. She used to stand on the sidelines, laughing at people who danced at home. She can show you the moment that her foot began to tap, her shoulders began to sway, and she took her first courageous step into a life more free to dance. It happened here. Six students stood by the flag pole, and told about the moments where their hands met their goal: slapping the pole after a run-swim, an eight-mile run, and loop run, a morning where someone thought that they could not do something, and did. To many students our flag pole feels like a triumphant trophy when held in the hands. It is a marker of their glory, strength and resiliency. Inside the dining hall is the kitchen to the left, to the right is the sinks, stacks of dishes drying, and memories like shiny scrubbed dish pans. Here a girl found home, hands elbow deep in grease alongside other hands. Hands like homes in soapy water. Each phone on our campus has broken a heart, made someone cry. Each phone has said something someone did not want to hear. Each phone has been clutched hard by a hand as a face fought back tears. There is not a square inch of this campus that has not hosted tears. There is not a single inch of this campus that has not been home to laughs, either. Every place here is a memory, for someone.
Think about this as you come to this place, as you come to know these places. As we welcome you to our campus, we are so excited to have you here, I ask you to open your eyes. Think about the moments of sheer unbridled personal growth and community bonding that cover this land like a quilt. Honor our students and their stories. Because, for them, for us, every conch lined path, every sand-flea covered deck, every dishwater sprinkled kitchen, for us every place here is A Place of Meaning.