Parent Newsletter by Franny Shuker-Haines
Dear Buxton Families
Hello! And welcome to your (almost-) weekly parent newsletter about all things Buxton! I say “almost,” because although I really try to write every week, it can get so busy around here that I occasionally run out of time. When that happens, stay patient and have faith! I’ll be back behind the keyboard soon.
But onto the important stuff: How was opening weekend?
In a word: Great. Other words: surprisingly mellow, smooth, friendly, fun.
But let’s backtrack a little bit. As some of you know, we have our returning students come back in stages. The seniors come first, and have dinner with us—the first of two faculty/senior dinners that bookend their year. The next morning, we meet with them to talk about the year ahead. We talk to them about what it means to be a senior, how the seniors and the faculty together represent the oldest people at Buxton, and how their leadership is essential to the healthy functioning of the school. We talk about how they live their lives is the most powerful message they can send. If they are positive, busy, engaged, and committed to making Buxton a better place, then new kids will quickly see that that’s a great way to live here—and they will, over time, follow suit. The seniors were really thoughtful about it, and in subsequent conversations with them, I have been able to hear the ways in which they are challenging themselves to be great role models for and fellow citizens with the rest of the school and the faculty. They are a lovely group of young people with a lot on their collective minds. I’m so glad they are here.
The juniors come back the next day and also meet with the faculty. Again, we talked about the Customs, about how Buxton is meant to be, about what an important role they play, especially as the year rolls forward and the seniors start to look outside Buxton toward college and life beyond this place. They seem really energized and hopeful and idealistic and ready. This is a powerhouse class, and it’s going to be really fun to see how they start to shape the school.
Finally, the “old” sophomores come back just before opening day. They are such a crucial bridge between the new kids and the school, as they are the ones who were most recently brand new to Buxton, to boarding school, to high school, even. So they have a very special role to play in bringing all the new students into the life and culture of the school.
And then . . . Opening Day! Saturday was a whirlwind of schlepping, greeting, making signs and nametags, helping make beds and helping families navigate the campus. It is both moving and humbling to watch how well these kids do all of this. The “old” students are so warm and welcoming and helpful and generous. Teenagers get such a bad rap in our culture, and I just wish the people who think teens are so surly and problematic could get a glimpse of Buxton kids running out to greet perfect strangers and bring them into their homes. Amazing. And the new kids: my god, what a stressful thing they are doing! And yet, they’re all still standing and, in fact, seem like a remarkably poised and ready group of Buxtonites—ready to learn, ready to connect, ready to take part in this adventure of a school that will ask them to stretch in every imaginable way. My hat goes off to all of them, and to their brave and willing parents!
Saturday night was buffet dinner and the surprise movie (Raising Arizona, for those of you who were wondering), followed by brief dorm meetings. On Sunday, the kids all loaded onto buses for a big picnic at Windsor Lake State Park in North Adams. The picnic was lovely: one of those perfect late-summer days, not too hot or cold, pale-yellow sunshine, and the murmur of voices and music brought by breezes through still-leafy trees. The kids played soccer and board games, played on the playground (I can’t tell you how much I love that) and with the three campus toddlers (Jack, Robin, and Wesley). Rec Committee grilled hot dogs and hamburgers and their vegetarian equivalents, and a few brave souls even went swimming. I saw “old” roommates taking care of new ones, I saw new students making fast friendships with each other, I saw teachers reaching out to kids who might have been a little sad or lonely. Mainly, though, I saw a school starting to coalesce in the best possible ways.
Speaking personally, Sunday-afternoon Teas was a particular pleasure. (My husband Timothy and I have lived off-campus for a while, but are going to be having a more robust on-campus presence in the school this year. We are back in the house where we raised our kids, and were able to host teas there for the first time in a while.) Groups of students walk from faculty house to house, being fed all manner of goodies (cider doughnuts, chips and dip, fruit and juice, etc.) and discovering first-hand just how accessible the members of our faculty are. I think they love seeing where and how they live, and also love having the chance to hang with us in such an easy, no-big-deal kind of way. We made cookies and chai and provided both a dog and a baby for entertainment, and a good time was had by all.
Dinner last night was lit by candles and powered by conversations. We will be bringing Bananagrams to our table for the week so that we can all enjoy playing together for the brief interlude between eating and announcements.
After dinner, we went to the “chapel,” which is a not-so-clear clearing in the not-really woods behind the Main House, where the seniors each shared a brief quote or some words of wisdom. They were by turns irreverent, galvanizing, impassioned, and sweet. After that, we all came together for an all-school meeting where all of the extracurricular activities were introduced. And then we all collapsed.
Today, we start the school year in earnest. Classes started at 8:00, and students are criss-crossing the campus as I type. I love hearing their voices across the meadow, seeing their bikes whiz by, watching them pass each other on the path with smiles. It’s another year at Buxton.
SO much more to report, but I’m going to stop for now. I’ll be back in touch next week!
All the best,