Finding Significance for Boys
In April 2012 I travelled to the Allen-Stevenson School in New York City to hear Dr. Adam Cox share the findings of his global research project for the IBSC on how school boys locate significance in their lives. Two years earlier, The Fenn School, the all-boys school in Concord, Massachusetts where I have spent the past eighteen years, was one of the twenty schools worldwide Dr. Cox visited as he conducted the research that would become central to the findings of his study. As a matter of fact, Fenn was the very first school Dr. Cox visited and one of two schools to which he verbally referred in his presentation that spring day on the upper east side.
Dr. Cox talked about how boys like writing, and I began to think about the blogging in Mr. Fitzsimmons's class where boys write every single day and do it with enthusiasm. Dr. Cox talked about how creativity is important to boys, and I thought about our robust program of fine and performing arts. He talked about how boys thrive on competition, and I thought about Fenn's longstanding tradition of interscholastic athletics and how the field is an extension of the classroom. Dr. Cox also talked about how boys like being called to action because it "elevates their sense of duty" and "makes them feel older than they are," and I thought about upper school boys who represent Fenn at admission open houses, participate in our Youth in Philanthropy program, join the student diversity committee, and pursue community service opportunities.
At Fenn we encourage boys to explore their passions and expand their comfort zone. With that exploration and expansion come success and failure, but regardless of the outcome it is our hope that boys feel trusted and supported, not necessarily judged and not necessarily directed toward a preconceived path. We seek to give boys moments to find significance and locate purpose for their own lives throughout their experiences here.
As the new school year begins, I know that Fenn is not perfect--obviously, no school is--however, the energy that propels us into a new academic year is one that allows us all to reflect upon the place we have chosen to embrace as our school, and so in some respect, it has the ability to feel perfect. The congruence between what Dr. Cox learned during his two-year, twenty-school global tour and Fenn's mission and philosophy is remarkably clear. I knew Fenn was a special place for boys long before I attended that presentation in NYC but the affirmation was no less gratifying and it has stuck with me. And it is affirmations like this one from New York that allows me to feel proud to be part of a school with a program and culture that have long helped boys with the important and lasting work of locating significance in their lives.
Read more about Dr. Adam Cox--see his 2006 article, "Single Sex Education and the Achievement Gap"
This blog was written by Derek Boonisar, Associate Headmaster of The Fenn School.
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