When people find out that I work in a boarding school, they often ask, "Who sends their kid to a boarding school in this day and age?"Or they sigh with some sense of nostalgia, "I would love to do that....." When I tell my friends from "the outside" that no, unfortunately, I won't be able to join them on Saturday night because I have dorm duty, they stare at me blankly. I imagine that they are wondering why (and how) a 52-year-old woman would choose to spend a Saturday evening supervising 35 adolescent males over a movie or dinner at a favorite restaurant with them. After hearing about a late night trip to the ER with a student who needed stitches and my smashed windshield from an overeager basketball player who missed the hoop, another friend remarked, "You're out of your mind."
Quite honestly, I never imagined a career in a boarding school. A product of public schools, I'm not sure I even knew what a boarding school was when I was in high school. Yet here I am well into my second decade teaching at one of the oldest boarding schools in the country. Perhaps the bigger question is "Who works in a boarding school in this day and age?" I do.
A friend recently remarked, "You do it because it is a rich narrative." And indeed it is. No day is the same; no day is boring. The days can be long; February can crawl. A colleague jokes, "Best part of teaching in a boarding school is June, July, and August." In fact, we need three months to recover from the all-consuming 24 hour a day demands of teaching, coaching, advising and dorm parenting. But the narrative is rich. I am surrounded by students from all over the world who make me laugh and sometimes cry. I work alongside smart, funny, complex colleagues with whom I've shared books, meals, classroom space, births of children, deaths of parents, health scares and a whole lot of life. We live on the quintessential New England boarding school campus that we sometimes take for granted for its beauty.
So which is it? A demanding profession that keeps us on campus with teenagers more than off? Or a throwback to an idealized past with students who love to learn on their ivy-covered campus? Like most things, the truth is somewhere in between. No day is the same. Not a day goes by that I don't shake my head and think, "Ah, my life of glamour and enchantment."