Parent Newsletter by Franny Shuker-Haines

Dear Buxton Families,

Greetings! It’s your first parent newsletter of the year! My goal is to write these every week. Like many well-intentioned people, I do not always make that goal, but I try, I try!

School is off to a terrific start. After three sweltering days of greeting the seniors, the returning juniors, and the returning sophomores, we got the temperate day of our dreams for the official opening day. The “old” kids could not have been more welcoming, helpful, or excited to welcome the new students, and the new kids were remarkably poised, game, and happy to be here. A few kids mentioned some pangs of homesickness but, by and large, this is an incredibly “ready” group of incoming students: ready to be part of Buxton, ready to dive into their classes, ready to try activities. Just last night, in my creative writing activity, for example, there were several brand-new students joining us in the Billiard Room, and it was so nice to see them taking that chance. Kudos to them!

Backtracking a little, we had our annual opening-weekend picnic on Sunday, and it was the coldest one I can remember. The kids made giant “cuddle piles” to keep warm and, again, lots of new folks were part of those human warmth generators. On the other end of the spectrum, a few kids decided to go swimming, which made the rest of us shiver just to watch them. “Rec committee” (short for “recreation committee,” doncha know!) members manned (womaned? personed?) the grills admirably, so we could warm ourselves with hot veggie burgers, hot dogs, and hamburgers…and then we called the picnic short and went back to campus to warm up and get ready for “faculty teas”—the time when bands of students walk from faculty apartment to faculty apartment being fed and getting to know us and where we live a little better. While Timothy and I doled out cupcakes and chai at our place, we heard good reviews for the cider doughnuts at Kathleen’s apartment, the chocolate fondue at Linda & Lawrence’s place, the Halloween candy at Callie & Kyle’s, and all the other goodies they had sampled as they traveled to and fro.

Dinner on Sunday night was lovely: everyone looked resplendent in their fancy duds, and the seniors closed off the meal with a group “service,” where each offered a quote or some words of wisdom for the new students.

Speaking of the seniors, let me backtrack even more and talk about the amazing conversations we (the faculty) had with them during their first few days back. As some of you may know, we are embarking on a year-long conversation with the student body about technology in general—and smartphones in particular—and its role in a community like Buxton. Many of us, students and teachers alike, had started to feel the growing pernicious effect of smartphones over the past few years, and it has been worrisome to us. What happens to a close-knit community when people are so focused elsewhere? How do we make connections to and with each other if we are all preoccupied elsewhere? What does it mean to be in one room physically (like during a meal) but not mentally or socially?

The conversations we had with the seniors were amazing: subtle, nuanced, thoughtful, respectful, illuminating, powerful. More than anything, the kids want to attack this culture through consciousness-raising, modeling, and reinvigorating the positive aspects and activities of our shared lives. In other words, take a positive approach rather than a finger-wagging, you-can’t-do-this approach. And, amazingly enough, it is already working! I have seen very few phones at meals, people are staying at the tables, talking to each other, and leaving their phones behind. Will it last? I’m hopeful that it will!

There’s so much going on, but I want to sign off for now so that this can get posted and sent to you sooner rather than later. Next week, I’ll focus what’s going on in the classrooms and the evening activities. In the meantime, thanks for lending your kids to us for the year. We are really enjoying their company!

All the best,


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