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How Prevalent is Purpose Among Adolescents?

By Colleen O’Boyle, assistant head of school for academic affairs
We live in a time when the world is moving faster than one can keep up, technology is blossoming like a perennial flower in which every season is summer, and bushels of data are at our fingertips like seedlings for future harvest. But, at what cost?
 
The future of education, and society, greatly hinges upon the values, character, growth mindset and abilities of adolescents. It is our responsibility as educators, families and community members to cultivate a learning environment where students develop meaningful lifelong relationships, and apply what they have learned in a new or different setting but do so with great purpose.

A community that embodies and espouses high standards for its members has a sense of direction and a sense of purpose as it positions its students to succeed in college and life. The obstacles, however, that stand between our students and their future are complex, confusing, and at times, misleading. This is why we must cultivate a learning environment that is rich in conversation, relational trust and relevancy. A balance of the humanities and budding innovations is not enough to prepare our students for their future; we must empower them to contribute to society in substantive and meaningful ways. Students are our greatest treasure and the future leaders of our society. Let us model a learning environment that prepares them for this service.
 
My role as a leader on our campus holds great meaning for our students and community. Over the arc of my career, I have been a member of an elite independent school, a nationally renowned charter school and a school start-up. In each setting, I learned that the environment and culture per which students are a part of highly correlate to their long-term success and well-being.

Building a faculty culture of student success is at the forefront of my mind and shapes my vocation and values. The measure of great leadership is found in the quality of its community, but it is also in one's ability to bring out the best in each member. Leadership through service is a lifelong process, and it is personal because it requires the self to examine how one can continually learn, grow and prosper. A world where we lose sight of the importance of empathy, problem-solving, critique and lateral thinking is a one-dimensional world. A student who only studies for the sole purpose of taking an exam and not for the pursuit of knowledge is just that, a student. If one reaches beyond the exam to extend and advance deeper understanding, then she has transferred and transcended knowledge into action.
 
I believe it is imperative to shift our focus as educators beyond the short-term to the lifelong. Who do we wish our students to become once we set them free? What do we wish to enable them to accomplish on their own? And how can we create a learning environment that instills an innate desire and drive on behalf of our students, so they can make a difference in this world? As adults, we can’t dictate what our students need to do, but we can model how they can discover, apply and take action in their adult lives in deep, purposeful and meaningful ways.

Please join us on Friday, March 2 for Coffee & Academics in Community Hall from 8–9 a.m. At this session, faculty members from all divisions will share best practices of teaching and learning.
 
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