Connection, Self-Confidence, and Home

Over the weekend during a long, snow-filled journey from Evanston to Columbus, Ohio, with my daughter who has been “home” for break, we had the opportunity to have one of those rare conversations that mothers and daughters aren’t often able to have once children are in college. We were on our way to Columbus, my hometown, to re-connect with my family. During the journey, my daughter shared with me how hard it has been to feel a sense of “home” since we moved to Evanston last year. She didn’t move with us over the summer because she was working at a camp in upstate New York, so this was her first time in Evanston. To compound things, her time over break was divided up between Michigan, Florida, Evanston and Columbus to spend time with family. As she put it, she had her life in her car! She chose to drive the various segments along the way (except Florida) to leave a smaller carbon footprint. (Given two different snow storms that she was caught in along the way, I wondered whether there might be some regret there, but that is another conversation).

This morning I listened to an interview of an amazing woman, Najwa Zebian, who also spoke of the theme of “home” and that because of frequent moves in her life that she felt disconnected and without an anchor of what many of us traditionally think of as home. She moved to Canada from Lebanon at the age of sixteen and had a challenging time making connections to others given that English wasn’t her native language and that she was the only girl in her school to wear a hijab. It took her a number of years to find the inner strength to channel her great empathic tendencies toward self-love. She embraced her heritage and allowed herself to be vulnerable in sharing her story which in turn has helped others to grow. In our modern world the kind of disconnect that Najwa and my daughter experienced are more and more frequent. I spent all of my formative years in the same small suburb of Columbus. I went to school with some of the same friends all the way from elementary through high school. My family still lives in the same geographic area, though not in the same exact location. My friends were people I actually saw every day and spent time with on a regular basis. These seminal experiences are instrumental to who I am. Today’s families tend to be more transient. Young people’s “friends” might be their online gaming buddies that they have never met.

At Roycemore we have a unique experience where children can attend the same school from three years old to twelfth grade. This provides an opportunity for children to have a firm grounding–a place to call “home”–a place where they have a sense of belonging. A visitor who even has a short visit to our campus can gain a sense of the comfort that children have at Roycemore where they hang out in our “living room”–the lobby of the school. They arrive early and stay late–sometimes not wanting to leave at the end of the day. I treasure this aspect of Roycemore as it provides a place where students can feel safe, be valued for the unique individuals that they are, and gain a sense of self-confidence and self-worth as they travel through the journey of adolescence. Our older students partner with the younger ones, whether it is an Upper School student who is working with Middle Schoolers to prepare for a math competition for her January Short Term (JST) project, or a Middle School student who is supporting second graders in their Rube Goldberg-type activity because she herself is building a Rube Goldberg machine for her P3 Project.

This week we have both Middle and Upper School students involved in hands-on experiential learning through JST and P3. To follow them on social media use the hashtags #ExperienceRoycemoreJST & #ExperienceRoycemoreP3.

These shared experiences not only provide the opportunity for deeper and more sustained learning, but they will also be those seminal experiences that they will remember for years to come. They will hopefully learn more about themselves as learners, deepen friendships, and feel a sense of belonging as part of a tradition of similar experiences that Griffins have had for decades.

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