The precipice of a new adventure
Each Opening Day before families arrive our faculty gather in a circle, arms linked, and “welcome” the beginning of the new semester. After many busy weeks of classroom preparation, curriculum planning, and facilities cleaning, we take this quiet moment to reconnect – to each other, to our students who are anxiously making their way to campus, and to our intentions for the next 4 months. Eager smiles, confident nods, and eyebrows raised in excitement are all exchanged around the circle as Ted covers the last minute details of the morning. There is not only anticipation filling the room, but an expression of communal gratitude in those silent exchanges that envelopes the circle in warmth and praise. We have all worked hard to reach this moment – the precipice of a new adventure – and are anxious to begin. Noni leads us in the song Simple Gifts:
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘It will be in the valley of love and delight.
As I look around the circle at the OA faculty I can feel my eyes begin to well. This is not abnormal, as I often cry on Opening Day. Watching children and families say goodbye to one another, some for the longest time they have ever been apart, will get me every time. But, I have never been touched in the same way by our Faculty circle on Opening Day. As I listen to my friends sing the words to Simple Gifts, I am struck by what a unique and special place OA really is. Not because we have a wilderness campus on 180 acres of beautiful forested land; not because we offer engaging experiential classes and a small faculty to student ratio; not because we go on amazing wilderness trips throughout the semester. Any program can offer those components, and in fact, many others do. What makes OA so unique and special is the people who have chosen to live and work here.
It is a school filled with the most passionate, creative, inspiring, and gifted educators I have ever known. They are committed not only to the empowerment and growth of their students, but also to their community in a manner not often realized at any organization. They see greatness in every teenager who steps onto this campus – and will dedicate countless hours of support and challenge in pursuit of their ‘best self.’ They believe in the Cornerstones of this school, and live by its Seven Principles in their daily lives.
I have witnessed the long hours of collaborative lesson planning, the tender conversations with families, and the exhilaration of developing a new program that they just know their students will love. I have seen this faculty challenge their students with compassionate feedback, hike to the summit of Cold Mountain before sunrise, and offer companionship in the scared moments at the base of a rock face. I have heard them cry, rejoice, run, celebrate, and howl with their students through the woods. I have listened to their classroom debates, and their collegiate level conversations with the expectation that their students will hold court. I have seen their immense pride on Closing Day, and their sorrow when saying goodbye to the students who have now become their community.
So, for the 28 families from across the country who have so generously shared their unique and special children with OA for the next 4 months, rest assured: they are in good hands.
Lindsay Martin, Admissions Director