Perhaps more than any other quality, presence defines Fairhaven’s students. Sitting in the Chesapeake Room on a sunny Saturday in February as our eight potential graduates declared their intentions to seek diplomas, then fielded questions from assembled parents, staff and fellow students, I could not help but notice this shared trait.
One young woman is preparing to audition for music school with endless practicing on her guitar and hopes one day to open a blues club. A young man wants to live in the Congo, walk across America, and become a nurse. A drummer, he roamed the stage while answering questions. Another male student is thinking about game design and engineering in college.
A young woman who works in the office part-time and chairs School Meeting plans to write poems in college, while the student with the red car is thinking about following in his parents’ footsteps by becoming a doctor. The young man with lots of JC experience wants to design and sell clothes, then become a defense lawyer down the road; this year’s Law Clerk, resplendent at the meeting in her purple hat and coat, hopes to open a vegetarian restaurant. The senior who’s been enrolled here the longest plans to pursue his various artistic paths (including music, sculpture, and drama) while entering the rat race. To a person, they thoughtfully fielded both practical and philosophical questions. What tied these disparate teens together, the rising class of 2009?
Throughout this public vetting of who they are and who they plan to become, none dissembled, none wilted in the glare. Will they enact each and every plan they declared? Probably not. Plans change, but people’s core sensibilities do not. Crucially, we Assembly members could envision these seniors succeeding in life, whether in college or around a fire pit in the Congo, buoyed by their equilibrium, their comfort in their own skins, their genuine presence. What about Fairhaven School engenders this priceless characteristic?
From the moment they arrive, our students’ time is their own. Their lives occur from moment to moment – in the present, if you will. They own both their successes and their failures on campus, and they become very self-aware over the years. They account for themselves with their friends, with the staff, in JC, and in School Meeting. Their Fairhaven days transpire in real-time. Our students’ uncanny ability to present themselves to the world is their greatest strength, and what will carry them forward.
Ask a student of any age a question at school. Listen when they talk in public. Read their theses. Since we do not issue grades or class rank, measuring their very presence may be the ultimate metric of just how well a Fairhaven School education works for our students.
(The eight students mentioned above have all taken the first step to graduating. They are working in committees on their theses. Look for their final drafts as Fairhaven School’s class of 2009 continues working towards graduation.)
Mark McCaig, Staff Member