The Lamp

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

Holderness School Fosters Family and Magic

Peter Durnan, Academic Dean

The magic is a little more elusive.  Magic is part serendipity, like when alums cross paths on Everest and exchange enough words to realize their common educational DNA.  Like the moment a soon-to-be-friend notices your Holderness shirt at the University of British Columbia while you are on sabbatical. Part serendipity and often part risk.

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I’m Here For You: Mental Health First Aid

Carol Dopp, School Counselor

Faculty In-Service on Monday, November 26, 2018, was a day-long training on Mental Health First Aid.  When asked to raise our hands if we had taken a CPR course, 99% of our hands went up. When asked to raise our hands if we had taken a Mental Health First Aid course, there were only a few who could answer yes.  

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Teaching for Transference: A Modeling Experiment

Mike Carrigan and Ian Casey, Science Faculty

In fact, most successful high school students have become successful by using the brute-force approach of reducing problem solving to a set of algorithmic steps that can be memorized and then applied unthinkingly. Creating, organizing, and applying such heuristics is a valuable skill in its own right, but it’s an end-run around the real prize: Transference.

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Facts, Analysis, and Nonsense

Andrew Sheppe ‘00 and Jordan Graham, History Faculty

This “analysis over content” theory faced its first real challenge from that same old stubborn annoyance that has bedeviled all theories: the students themselves. As much as we derided trivia, we could not help noticing that the students doing the best analysis were exactly those students who had memorized the most facts.

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Mountain Day Poetry

Dean of Academics Peter Durnan and AP English Literature Students

Those from my class assembled notes, physical and mental, that they would use to create a poem stealing the structure and tone of Snyder’s poem and re-populating it with their own images and sounds and experiences.  As they hiked and climbed and fished and painted and canoed, they carried Snyder’s poem in their minds as one lens through which they viewed their day.

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Learning from Likeness

Alexandra Disney, Science Faculty

Especially in a place of learning, we all deserve to be comfortable and safe. There is so much rich conversation that can happen in affinity groups. As we strive to be better educators in a more inclusive world, the time has come to intentionally create spaces for people to gather around aspects of their identities.

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A Reflection on Happiness

Joe Arsenault, Math Faculty

With the ever-increasing number of foster children in the United States, there is a critical shortage of foster parents and adoptive parents to care for these children. Currently, there are over 50,000 children who have not made it into a foster home and are living in an institution or group home.

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Home Is Where The Love Is: Observing My 1st Anniversary at Holderness

Rev. Joshua A. Hill, Chaplain

I may be new here, but there is something palpable in this place that is old and entirely familiar, something I have known before: Could it be that Jesus himself is present in the people and common life of Holderness School?  I mean if God is love, then maybe love is God.  Consider the ancient hymn: ubi caritas deus ibi est -- wherever there is love, God is there.

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Without Roots, There are No Branches: Understanding Where We Are, from Where We’ve Been

Franz Nicolay, Arts Faculty

We traveled on foot from the verdant valley floor near their growing fields and the water source of the ancients, to the high cliffs at the edge of the mesa offering them protection and sentinel views to the horizon, hundreds of miles away. Everywhere we stepped, the ancients had also traversed, leaving behind artifacts of daily life and culture.

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Promoting Learning in Professional Community: A Reflection on Holderness LEARNS

Nigel Furlonge, Associate Head of School

Whether in plenary sessions, small group meetings, thinking and reflecting individually using journal prompts, or engaging in dinner conversations with our thought partners, I was reminded of how critical it is for adults in any environment to spend time in dialogue about their values, vision, and shared goals outside the business of the technical details of running a school.

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Poetry Super Bowl, DC 2018

Peter Durnan, Academic Dean

With each recitation I heard at the nationals, I was struck by the sense that each student had chosen work that had keen personal importance. Often the experience of hearing a poem recited well feels like being offered a gift. Here, the stakes felt higher: the poem was more valuable than a gift and was offered with a kind of stunning urgency.

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Managing the Tyranny of the Urgent

Phil Peck, Head of School

Education, by its nature, is messy work, but we can always try to keep our workplaces tidy. At Holderness, I see our ability to keep things clean and organized contingent on our ability to think meaningfully and reasonably on what it is we do and what it is we want to do.

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A Different Citizen

Peter Durnan, Academic Dean

In the weeks leading up to Special Programs, my students and I read Claudia Rankine's Citizen, a powerful exploration of prejudice, exclusion, and belonging -- in some ways, a questioning of what it means to possess (or to be denied) the rights and privileges of citizenship. Reading the book together advanced the community of our little class.  We have struggled, persevered, endured, laughed, failed, and grown together, all citizens of the shared space of our classroom. 

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Measuring Success

Bruce Barton, Director of College Counseling

As I listen to offices articulate their review processes, what I am hearing is more measuring and less real reading.  While there can be no doubt that highly competitive colleges need to make sure that a student is rightly aligned (many use the term “mission appropriate”) with the academic demands of their institution, one has to wonder just how much time is being spent on careful reading to find the right match beyond statistical qualification (GPA and test scores).

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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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