Student Teachers

By
Bill Rawson '71; P'08
May 9, 2022
Bill Rawson laughing

I’m often asked if, with my busy schedule, I am able to spend time with students and learn about their experiences at Exeter. The answer is an emphatic yes. The time I spend with our students gives me energy and joy, and importantly informs how I think about the rest of my work. There often is no more important part of my day.

I am a regular at athletic contests, music, theater and dance performances, and art exhibitions throughout the year. I always come away amazed by the talents of our students, and proud of how they show up and support each other. As much as I like to attend games and performances, I also enjoy attending practices and rehearsals, because that gives me more opportunities to engage with students, coaches and teachers. At a recent dance rehearsal, the student choreographer took great pride in explaining her work to me before she supervised the rehearsal — I learned a lot! From my seat in the Goel Center, I realized how the addition of that building has completely transformed student experiences in theater and dance, just as the additions of The Bowld and new field house have done the same for music and athletics.

I often meet with students to hear about issues that concern them and to get their input on initiatives we are working on as an administration. In conversations with the student-led Environmental Action Committee, students shared their ideas about how we might build greater environmental awareness on campus, bring more speakers on environmental topics to assembly, expand curricular offerings, and create new internship opportunities — ideas that will be reflected in our climate action plan that is under development. A recent meeting with leaders of our Muslim Student Association led to a decision to make Eid al-Fitr (the breaking of the fast after Ramadan) a no-class day, on par with how we support other major religious holidays — an important decision for our community, and something we are able to do without reducing the number of classes. Other administrative leaders have joined me in numerous meetings with student leaders this year to discuss our protocols for handling reports of sexual misconduct and supporting students.

I also host events at Saltonstall House or elsewhere on campus to celebrate students’ accomplishments and get to know them better. I host or attend cast parties, captains’ brunches, and meetings with affinity groups and student clubs. These gatherings often lead to wide-ranging discussions on issues important to the students. I hear what gives them joy, see the strength of their friendships and listen to their concerns.

Even in unplanned, casual moments, I learn a lot. I recently had lunch with a student who shared his experience as a leader of a Core Values Project initiative focused on equity and inclu- sion in athletics. Our conversation reminded me that while it is hard to make time in our schedule for new initiatives, it’s important to do so if they are to remain priorities.

These are just a few examples of ways that I interact with students in order to understand how they experience their time at Exeter. I consistently see their joy in being here and how much they care about each other and their school.

As we welcome reunion classes back to campus this spring for the first time in three years, I am excited that many of you will be able to see firsthand all that is happening here, and witness how our students are thriving, in and outside the classroom. Every day I’m reminded of how lucky we all are to be part of such a vibrant community that is so deeply committed to preparing youth from every quarter to lead purposeful lives.

 

Editor's note: This feature first appeared in the spring 2022 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.

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