The Lamp

A Holderness School journal committed to critical reflection and fostering conversation around issues connected to independent schools and education in general.

Chasing Dragons: Takeaways from the Rocky Mountain Seminar

Peter Durnan, Academic Dean

No one would dispute the merits of travel for high school students.  Visiting other countries develops awareness of culture and language and heightens our ability to empathize with others.  In discussing the experiences of students who immersed themselves in global travel, many of my peers used the term "epiphany" in a manner that struck me as apt and genuine.

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Reflecting on 9/11

John Lin, English Faculty

As I stood near the rear, leaning against a massive column, I could make out some familiar faces, of former students and faculty members from Andover, all of whom had made a longer trip than I.  And it was this multitude of others gathered to grieve, who shamed me to think about my selfishness for me even thinking that I would not be there because it was inconvenient.

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The College of Oz

Bruce Barton, Director of College Counseling

The key to a student's future is the student and not the name of the college they attend.  The critical takeway is that future success is far more tied to one's effort, attidude and accomplisments than it is to the name of the college they graduate from. 

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Why Go To China?

Andrew Sheppe '00, History Faculty

I went to remind myself how few people in the world live according to my idea of normal. For every Holderness teacher, there are about one million people who live in either Beijing or Shanghai. I spend most of the summer sitting at the town beach on Squam Lake watching my kids play. My trip to China reminded me that my reality is unusual. There are more megacities in China (10 million people or more) than there are people on the beach as I write this.

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Skills or Content: My Flawed Dichotomy

Jordan Graham, History Faculty

At a school that has as many extraordinary teachers as Holderness does, I feel like I am likely stating something understood by most of our faculty.  Thus this piece is not meant to convince or reveal some greater truth.  Instead, it is meant to reflect on where I was in this perceived spectrum with skills on one side and content on the other, and where I am now having had the time and space to work through this divide.

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Notes from the Dais: Reflections from a Question Leader at the AP Grading

Peter Durnan, Academic Dean

Training teachers is always tricky work – we are an opinionated, independent, and sometimes recalcitrant bunch, yet here the work was aimed at consensus, at agreeing upon an applicable rubric of nine scoring points.  After a morning of training, we began “live reading,” the work of scoring over half a million student essays.  All of them written by hand.

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Last on the List: Toss Popsicles to the Crowd

Sarah Barton, Director of Senior Thesis

The night before the workshop, I was planning my welcome, and my college-age daughter, aware of the impending heat and my concerns about the day, suggested I "relax and "just toss popsicles to the crowd" (words from a flexible and audience-aware Senior Thesis alum).  Instead, I bullet pointed my opening comments and brought some box fans over to the group work space. 

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Lose Yourself to Find Yourself

Nigel Furlonge, Associate Head of School

Another reason that students find themselves earnestly soul searching during our time together is that they have a rare opportunity to focus on themselves -- although not in a self-centered, solipsistic way.  Self-reflection often proves difficult in our normal daily or weekly schedule. For these ten days, we can all focus on the engaging activities connected to each program in ways that aren’t complicated by the distractions of “normal” life

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The Mockingbird: Reflections on my Chair Program Experiences

Janice Pedrin-Nielson, 2016-17 van Otterloo Chair Program Recipient

I fervently hope that my experiences will enable me to help students begin to understand the complexity of identity and diversity in the world today, and that they will be encouraged through that understanding to explore new ways to live harmoniously on a global scale. I hope to encourage them to live in other places, too, so that they can begin to know what is meaningful and true in understanding culture. And I will always remind them about the mockingbird. 

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From the Archives: Holderness War Letters

Kelsey Berry, History Department Chair

Today we will hear from some of your historical peers.  They were young men, recent graduates of Holderness, who went to fight for their country.  This is a way of remembering their sacrifice, perhaps without glorifying it or the war.  Their words are not edited, but excerpted to focus on their service.  These letters are part of a largely unread collection in our archives. 


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One Down, Many More to Go: Thoughts of a First-Year Teacher

Colleen Finnerty, French Teacher

I could not "win" teaching.  I could not be "first" as a dorm parent.  I could not "win" coaching.  This realization, of course, did not suddenly eliminate my anxiety, but it did give me a new perspective.  I began to see my anxiety as a desire to do and be the best than I can be every day.  This newfound perspective allowed me to turn every bump I faced in my first year as a faculty member into a learning experience rather than a failure or last-place finish.

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Good Housekeeping: ISANNELEADS 2016

Andy Herring, Assistant to the Head of School

It became quickly and abundantly clear that the remainder of our time on Tilton's campus would focus on being uncomfortable, or rather embracing this feeling.  How do you become your best self, your most authentic self?  If, in the Holderness sense of leadership, we are all leaders, then how do you effectively answer this calling?


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Homeland Curiosity

Marilee Chang Lin, English Teacher

To those who see me on the street, I am Chinese -- or maybe more generally Asian –- and at 51, it was time to know more deeply what that meant. So when I was offered the chance to go to China for almost two weeks and to explore some of the country’s most important cities and sites at the gracious invitation of our Chinese families, it felt like the perfect opportunity to connect with family culture, to explore my ethnic identity, to understand in a deeper way what I felt and knew about myself only vaguely.

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Defining Gratefulness

Liz Kendall, Former Assistant Director of the Holderness Fund

Our goal is to teach students why the Holderness Fund exists and how and why all of us play a role in the necessary 12% it brings to the annual operating budget, but the gratitude they express in their notes tells of the impact it really makes.


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