There Is Something at Brewster that the Cold Cannot Freeze Out

There Is Something at Brewster that the Cold Cannot Freeze Out
Kristy Kerin

I’m not going to write about COVID.

While the pandemic is certainly the backdrop to this piece (and to seemingly every aspect of our lives for the past two years), today I’d like to instead offer some observations on our students, and on the resiliency, adaptability, natural positivity, and community-mindedness I have been fortunate to witness. 

Last week I was helping some students move into isolation after testing positive for…well, you know. Imagine their circumstances: These girls had just returned from break, they had done all they were asked in terms of their behaviors, travel protocols, and pre-arrival testing expectations, and still, they found themselves heading into isolation. 

As they settled into the space that would become their home for at least the next five days, I was keenly aware of taking precautions to protect my own health and that of my family. We’ve all become so attuned to making daily calculations about the level of risk in every situation, and how to respond based on our own risk tolerance. I was definitely operating with a heightened awareness and sense of caution. Yet, as I reflected back on this time with the girls, I realized it was one of the highlights of my week. 

It was the spirit of these students that made it so special for me. None of the girls were pleased about being pulled away from classes, activities, and friends. They didn’t relish the idea of being cooped up in an unfamiliar space, unable to move about freely for an extended period of time. I’m certain they found it quite strange to be Facetiming with their Head of School as she poked around their dorm rooms, tracking down toiletries, clothing, and other of life’s necessities. But as I was saying my goodbyes and was turning to leave, I found myself almost wanting to stay! The tone had changed. The girls were now lounging on their new beds, giggling loudly and joking with one another, playing their favorite playlists, comparing the snacks they’d brought, and making grocery lists. The anxiousness and disappointment were gone. These six girls were from different dorms and friend groups, and yet in a short time they had developed a spirit of camaraderie, an almost instant connection. 

Psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, in The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, states that “the ability to deal well with adversity, and create and sustain your own sense of joy are essential skills for developing adult happiness.” Over and over these past two weeks, we have seen our students embrace that which is difficult and aspire to discover the hidden opportunities. Our students are growing from and through these hardships, strengthening the muscles of resiliency that will serve them well as they move forward. 

This past week we have seen this growth amid a particularly bitter bout of New England winter weather. In the face of sub-zero temperatures and gusty winds off the lake, our students could be found gleefully enjoying our new outdoor ice rink, shooting down the sledding hills that dot campus, and laughing with shivering classmates as they hustled to morning classes with frozen, fresh-from-the-shower hair. There is something alive in them that the cold cannot freeze out. It is as the French philosopher Albert Camus wrote, “In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

Students are also bringing their warmth indoors, seizing on new opportunities to combat the sense of social isolation that winters can exacerbate. On Wednesday evening, we opened the new Palmer Cafe in the Rogers Building. The buzz was incredible. I sat at a table by the window and every few minutes, a student or faculty member stopped to share their excitement with the new space. There was a constant whir of a blender as our Cafe managers made smoothies and coffee drinks. Students exchanged views on the best new dishes. The Bobcat (a panini with grilled chicken, bacon, avocado, tomato, and pepper jack cheese) appears to be the early favorite. This new student center, awash with natural light from the two-story windows overlooking Wolfeboro Bay, was designed with intention to be a place of warmth and connection, quite literally a respite from the storm. It is deeply affirming to see our students fulfilling that vision, adopting the space so naturally into their daily lives, and making it the hub of community building for which it was planned.

 


Without question, there have been long hours and late nights over the past two weeks. That thing-that-shall-not-be-named continues to require that we proceed with caution and care. So many adults have worked tirelessly on behalf of our students. But moments like these I’ve shared feed and sustain us as educators. So often, students show us the way with their creativity and adaptability, their humor, their earnest desire to make connections, and the sense of adventure they bring to each experience. 

As we move forward, we do so with faith that this too shall pass. We will rely on each other to move together through this coldest season, knowing that the sun stays aloft longer with each passing day and that soon the leaves, flowers, and warmth will return. And during these, the shortest days of the year, we can count on our students to bring such remarkable light.
 


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