Lawrence Academy

Head of School Dan Scheibe

Dan Scheibe,  Head of School

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Dan Scheibe on Tradition & Innovation at LA. More...

School Is Out

While some of our independent school brothers and sisters have started their breaks, Lawrence Academy has been at school for the past two weeks. Well, that is not entirely an accurate statement: we have been at school, but we have been at it in about 50 different settings (through 30 different programs) around the area and around the world.

Something for Nothing PlayersAs I have come to learn more about LA's Winterim over my first two years, I'd like to share some growing thoughts on the program. The industry term for our educational practice during this weather-challenged period is "experiential learning."

Here are some formulaic descriptions of what that means:

  • Mariposa Foundation (Dominican Republic): twelve years of continuous engagement= deep connection with social justice and hope on a global scale.
  • ARC of Opportunity (Fitchburg): two weeks of continuous engagement with the developmentally disabled= significantly deepened connection to others and self.
  • Chess (on campus): strategic struggles with masters and peers= massive brain work-out and thriving chess culture in largest boys' dorm on campus.
  • Build Your Own Kayak (10 vessels take over theatre stage): more satisfaction, wider range, better calorie effect than traditional spring break activity: Build Your Own Sundae.
  • Yoga (on mats in MacNeil Lounge, and in various studios within a 2-hour radius): Outer and inner workings and wanderings= balanced, flexible, grounded life-stance.
  • Something For Nothing Players (theatrical nomads based on campus): African folk-tale performed for 3-year-olds= lesson in instant celebrity/humility.
  • Head Start (Lowell): 25 LA students/25 classrooms/500 kids= daily lesson in what makes us the same, what makes us different, and what needs to be done.

There are dozens of these LA-based, world-shifting experiences going on simultaneously in other places with their own powerful equations. Winterim, as a whole, exploits a rare opportunity in an educational setting: to do one thing intensively for two weeks, rather than 30 loosely connected things done daily. 

What we have learned through experience is that it is the sum total of the program that truly holds the difference. Over four years, a Lawrence student will spend nearly two months of life immersed in activities that broaden not only the individual, but the collective experience. In the process, we get the chance to tune ourselves to the world, and even influence it bit by bit.  

Over 40 years of such a program, the net change is deeply internalized and broadly expressed. School will be out in the traditional sense on Friday, the 14th, as we head into spring break. But school has been "out," unleashed, unbound, unlimited, for these last two weeks (and these last four decades), too.  

The campus back in Groton will be, hopefully, a warmer, greener version of itself when we all get back together. But the sense of growth and renewal will be internal as well, and it will extend beyond just this one season, just this one program, just this one school.

Posted by jbishop on Thursday March 13 at 04:35PM
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Halfway There

School time is not like the rest of time. Days can seem like weeks, but hours can seem a minute, and a "career" might be 4 years (for a senior) or it might be 40 (for a senior member of the faculty).

We are halfway through the school year. With our semesters and our midterms and our punctual starts and stops, it is natural to mark time by referring to the midpoint of something. But it’s more like the moment of repose in a pendulum's swing than the middle of a line segment.

The truth about school time is that there is something timeless about it. A school year's halfway point is like the halves traversed in Zeno's paradox...the idea that going halfway is an infinite series leading towards, but never to, the destination.

What is our destination in a given year (or a given life for that matter)? Clearly, to learn a certain quantity, to mature a certain amount, to make progress by degrees, perhaps even to graduate. These might be our achievements, but they are not our purpose.

As seniors realize more and more keenly as they close in on graduation, the sense and urgency of destination often becomes blurred by a series of sentiments and attachments that suggest something greater in the works.

I believe the "something greater" is a sense of personal development--what we describe in our mission as inspiration to take responsibility for who we are becoming. It is a growing sense of who we are and who we might be.

There is no halfway to who we are or who we can become in a school or in life. There is only an infinite series of progressions that bring us closer to living lives of purpose and self-awareness—that bring us closer to others and to ourselves.

Posted by jbishop on Tuesday January 28
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Last Wednesday in the relatively quiet anxiety of exam week I was OD, the LA insider term for the administrator who is “On Duty” on a given night, with the assignment of beneficently keeping an eye on things on campus, mostly on foot, mostly within the main campus buildings and dorms, particularly so as the temperature drops.

Taking the usual path through the gym (“Check that doors leading from locker rooms to rink are locked; turn off interior lights…”), I walked somewhat unconsciously into one of the team locker rooms.

It happened to be the Boys’ Varsity Soccer team room, and it was partially dismantled after the end of the boys magnificent run to the New England championship game just a few days before.

At first, I had the predictable feeling of melancholy that the season was over, that the run was over; that it didn’t end on the triumphant note it might have; that the team wouldn’t compete together again—tenacious, spirited, talented, and likable a bunch as they were. But then, my eye caught two posters on opposite walls: “What We Do” and “What We Don’t Do” respectively.

These posters reveal the lasting record of the season: a record beyond wins and losses and title games and a record shared by many different programs at Lawrence Academy, from varsity to thirds, and from athletics to academics to arts. With the coach’s permission, I share with you the photographs I took that night on my rounds.

After the fact, I was told that members of the team literally signed the backs of the posters as a form of contract and unity. Figuratively speaking, many others sign off on and sign on to their contents in the work we do every season and every day at Lawrence Academy. And for that I am truly thankful.

Posted by jbishop on Monday November 25, 2013
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