Orientation Day Comments on the Year of Awareness
At our yearly Orientation Day Luncheon, I had the opportunity to address the upcoming Year of Awareness. I began with a personal anecdote about my family’s visit to Plymouth Plantation several years ago on a particularly warm August day.
Visitors to Plymouth can imagine life in the 1620’s in the settlement quite easily, simply by walking into the fort past the meetinghouse and onto the main street. Add to the experience the insights of period actors and one’s understanding of those difficult times comes into focus much more clearly than by reading about it. How can the written word be more powerful than hearing Governor William Bradford talk about the short growing season in that first harsh winter and the loss of so many loved ones?
That day, several men were hard at work fashioning a beam out of a log to rebuild a cabin destroyed by fire. They were using period tools. I remember thinking how a chain saw would have made short work of what they were doing. Nonetheless, they were making noble progress.
On our walk back to the parking lot, we came upon a Native American campsite along a tributary on the park grounds. In this location, museum staff, Native Americans, were employing 17th century technology in the fashioning of a dugout canoe.
Two men, clearly in charge of the process, were idly chatting with family members. Occasionally, one would go over to the campfire to get a piece of smoldering wood coal to place on the log. The coal was used to char the wood making it easy to chisel out the interior of the canoe. Then, the man would sit and banter quietly and amiably with his companions again. There was no urgency at all to what they were doing.
As I stopped to watch the process, the slow, deliberate pace of the work made me curious and, honestly, a bit anxious. Another visitor was affected in the same way and asked the men if this was really the way it was done? There was an underlying assumption to our question: surely the work progressed much more quickly than what we were observing.
Without missing a beat and with much annoyance, one of them made us aware of certain period-appropriate realities. Within the context of the 17th century, resources, while abundant, required much time, energy, and many individuals to gather and prepare for the community. Moving too quickly in the heat to produce a canoe meant expending calories that then needed to be replaced, thus depleting the resources reserved for the entire community. The use of charcoal was a means to an end in this complex formula: the fire would do the work for the men without unnecessarily taxing precious resources.
In our haste to complete tasks, we are never at peace with ourselves long enough to examine our surroundings, to take note of our resources, to watch and learn through observation, and most importantly to understand the inter-connectedness of our community. To do so, we must learn to live in the moment, even as we plan for the future.
We can learn to grow and move ahead not at the expense of others, but in conjunction with others and the community as a whole. We are definitely stronger as a whole than the sum of our separate parts. Developing an awareness of who we are as individuals, as a class, as a school, as a broader community can only enhance our ability to see various pathways to success and achievement. As I learned on my visit to the riverside in Plymouth, we do not live in a vacuum; we are dependent on, as well as depended upon, by others, and we all can be instrumental in moving our community forward.
During this year, it is my hope that our students will learn to look within to recognize their strengths and to understand what they can give of themselves to those around them. Likewise, our students can learn that our guidance and access to resources can help them to grow beyond their own estimations. In all of this, I hope that they become filled with an insatiable thirst for knowledge and are never at a loss for a question to further their understanding.
As always, I look forward to your comments.