Aren’t valleys are wonderful? Cool swimming on a hot summer day. Farming in dark, fertile soil. Messing about in boats. It is no quirk of fate or whim that European immigrants settled Deerfield, MA in one.
Of course that’s the perspective of a Valley Dweller. When you live on a mountain, valleys are obstacles. And we all live on mountains – figuratively speaking.
Our last post connected community and character: you can’t “maximize your character” all by yourself because so much of good character is about how you treat others. This post considers ways to build community – specifically some ways we do it here at Deerfield Academy.
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Back to our mountain metaphor: People tend to regard their own perspective of the world as beautiful, good, and valuable – full of lofty insights – a majestic high ground. It’s a bit like being on a mountain. When we encounter someone quite different from ourselves – from a different culture, perhaps, or with a different personality type, or with different passions – it’s a bit like spotting someone on a neighboring mountain peak. It may be a short distance as the crow flies, but you’re not going to reach them without a precipitous drop-off, a river to ford, and then an uphill climb on the other side.
Each month of the school year, Deerfield students and staff focus on a different cultural competency skill. These are practical principles that help us learn how to connect with others. We call the series “Cross the Valley” – a way of bridging the gaps between us. Here are a few:
- Listen to Understand Instead of Listening to Respond
- Use “I” Statements
- Give Space and Grace
- Have Tough, Candid, Caring Conversations
These Cultural Competency Skills are another way that the Experimentory reflects Deerfield. We use skills like these to make students from across the country and around the world become one learning community.