Mr. Bland Reflects on Senior Class and the College Process
by Mollie Ames on Friday, June 10th, 2016
How would you describe the qualities of this year’s senior class? Are they leaving big shoes to fill?
I have enjoyed this senior class very much. There’s an element of this that sounds like a parent which is that I love all my children. This class is no different. I would say there are a few points of distinction about this class. It’s very hard to describe a group of 170 something kids all with similar adjectives, but what I’ve come to appreciate about this class is its ability to speak up for topics that the class and/or individuals really believe in. That’s been something that has really impacted me. I’ll think about a number of conversations with groups of students lead by senior leaders that discussed issues around, what I would categorize as, diversity and multiculturalism, and I really appreciated senior leadership in talking about some issues that were at times difficult but important for the community to address. I have appreciated this class’s sense of humor, which is based off of individual connections I have made this year with students. I teach Senior Transitions each year, so I feel like I have a pocket of 12 seniors every year, and they are one of the ways I end up defining the class. They help me translate a little bit about the class as a whole. I began the year talking about mindfulness, and I think some people have appreciated that. My senior transitions class tells me that they have appreciated the ability to be mindful. It’s hard for me not to tip my hat to the senior class for their athletic accomplishments. This senior class was a big part of seven ISL Championships which is pretty amazing. They have lead well in the athletic arena. Like many classes, the range of talents in this class amazes me. The dance concert was incredible, the theatrical performances were amazing, it’s hard for me not to think of the class as astoundingly multi-talented.
What about the rising senior class? How do you picture them rising to the challenge of their final year at Milton and becoming school leaders?
It’s early. As I reflect upon the way the class went about the [SGA] elections and the feedback that I received from students, I can see your class has shown a great sign. It sounded as if the class and the school behind the class took that process seriously, and I think chose the leaders of the school well which is very encouraging. As I think about the class, I was sorry that the leadership weekend, [C2R], was abbreviated as it is a moment in time that you see a class and what it’s capable of. I at least appreciated that the class rolled with the change. I didn’t hear complaining but rather excitement, and I hope that is reflective of the class dynamic, which is the ability to roll with the punches. I would say that I have very high expectations. Again, I like your class a lot, and I think it has a lot of personality to it. I hope for every class that the class is actually thinking about how they would want me to answer this question. I think some classes take very seriously the concept of legacy: how do you want your class to be remembered. Some classes really define characteristics that their class will be remembered for, and I’m hopeful that your class will take up that responsibility. The role of seniors in setting the tone is really important. Let me just say that I am excited to see how your class will choose to be remembered.
How does Milton prepare its students to be good leaders at Milton and beyond?
In thinking about this question, I recognize what we do in high school and in the K-8 community… is how we cultivate an individual’s voice. It does tie into our motto. I think an element of learning how to “Dare to be True” is being given tools and the confidence to find your voice and to speak up about things you feel are important. I think we do that in big and small ways. The whole concept of leadership development is something a lot of teachers and administrators at Milton think about. There is no one answer, but I am a believer that the things you do in smaller settings as opposed to a leadership day have more of an impact. We cultivate that at Milton across the board. I think that there are a lot of opportunities for leadership in clubs, sports, class, and SGA on campus. I also love the range of these opportunities. When I talk to people about Milton, and they ask me what’s unique about the school, one of the first things I say is that students at Milton give each other status for the widest range of achievement or interests or passion more so than any school I’ve been a part of. We help people lead when we connect people with areas they are really passionate about.
What do you think about the new laptop policy on campus?
For me, what I appreciate about this new policy is that it came from an institution-wide new technology plan. We had a really comprehensive look at how we use technology and areas that we wanted to prioritize at Milton. So, naming a device policy in the upper school is something that came out of that analysis, which I am very proud of. Squeaky wheel responses to institutional issues can get you into trouble and be very expensive if it doesn’t fit into a broader context. I feel proud to have been a part of requiring an overarching device plan. It was one of the first things that we needed to decide in the upper school before doing a lot of other things. Largely, the policy was made by the people in the upper school, so I can’t say I was in on the ground floor, more that I was informed about it, and I think it’s the right thing for Milton, so I am supportive of it. I will add that we have a policy instead of just doing a little bit of everything. I think we can help this institution address the needs and issues of the students and teachers now that we have a policy. It was very important to me and the whole school that once we named a bring-your-own device strategy to make sure that there were resources for those that would find the purchasing of their own laptop difficult. So, we needed to address that and make sure that any student in the upper school, regardless of resources, had access to a laptop. No one will go without a laptop and that was very important to us. This type of policy is very common among the schools that I connect with most often. Similarly to your class, we’ll see. We need to study it next year and see if it’s working: I’m optimistic.
What do you think of the college admissions process?
I would say that I have a love/hate relationship with the college admissions process as, I think, do most people. On the one hand, I think that the college counseling that we do here at Milton is quite comprehensive and that it’s very important that what we do is college counseling not college placement. The most important element of the college process is helping seniors find a place that will match them, not to be overly drawn by name or reputation, to open your eyes to places that will be a good fit and that’s what our college counseling aims to do. There are elements of the landscape regarding college admissions that are very unhealthy. That reality is something that we need to confront. For example, when you take a look at shrinking admit rates for some of the most selective schools in the country, schools where many Milton students go to, the acceptance rate in the last four years [has] been cut in half, and those schools were competitive before. There is a piece of that we need to call out which is to say be careful about spending a lot of time and energy trying to fit into the eye of that needle. I think, and I hope, we are sending the right messages on this: that it is more important that you do a very good job of learning, taking advantage of your classes, and navigating the process in a healthy way. My hope is that our counseling program is a very healthy and [a] broad one in helping young people know themselves and a wider range of schools than they had known before entering the process. The process also makes me nervous. I think it can cause toxic stress. Regular stress is in life, nobody can avoid it. However, we hope we can help seniors manage stress. Toxic stress, however, is so much stress that it feels like an overload and the college process can facilitate that. In summary, I think we do a good job helping people navigate the process, but it requires a proactive approach to manage it in a healthy way.
Do you have any words of wisdom for parting seniors?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and I will quote Mr. Banderob. The senior transitions group had the whole class gather about a month ago, and we asked about five adults from the community to talk about their life path and any advice they had for seniors. Seniors loved it. I think what students realized is that very few of those stories were linear. Don’t expect your life path to be linear because it can shift and move in multiple different ways. It’s more common for your path to twist and turn than be linear. It’s fine to set goals for yourself and work towards those goals but don’t think that everything has to be linear towards something. [Mr. Banderob’s] final remark was “don’t settle.” I think that’s great advice. What he was saying was don’t settle for things like happiness. He thought that people should strive to love your work. Taking the lead from Mr. Banderob, happiness is most important, and you deserve to be happy in love, so striving for that is worth the time.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=8154