Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Do more than your job - and reap the rewards

Ms. Green's job title is Director of Vocal Music - but that doesn't come close to describing all that she does at Peddie - dorm faculty, JV Field Hockey coach, class advisor, Sophomore Bike trip chaperone...the list goes on. In a recent Chapel talk, Green explains that it's when you start doing the things outside of your job description that the fun really begins.

Like many of the other good things in life, the opportunity to stand here and speak to you is at once a little daunting and tremendously exciting. Ever since my first year here, I knew that it was 
not a question of IF I would give a chapel speech, but WHEN. I hope that some of you are already having that same thought, but most of you won’t have six years to finally do something about it. Hurry up. 

So, good morning, Peddie. While we all wear many hats here, I would bet that most of you know me primarily through my job in the music department. So I hope that you won’t be too terribly disappointed that this speech actually isn’t about music at all. 
But in fact – THAT is what makes Peddie so awesome. It’s full of people who do far more than their job titles might suggest.

Like your teacher, who gives up a week of his summer break to go on the sophomore bike trip with you and help you learn to put up a tent and cook on a tiny stove for 40 hungry people.

Like your prefect, who spends hours night after night talking you through a really rough weeks even though you KNOW she has college apps to finish.

Like your friend’s mom and dad, who are always there to organize the reception after a play or concert.

I think it’s really special to be in a place where there are so many people who answer the call to do something for no other reason than that they think it’s important. And if you agree with me, do you know what you can do?

You can join in.

As a Peddie student, your job description includes going to class and showing up for chapel and community meeting and participating in a sport or theatre or PA every term. It does NOT include giving tours or making Blair Day videos or being one of the people who stick around for a few minutes to clean up after dorm food on Saturday night.

But what happens when you start doing those kinds of things – you know, the ones that aren’t really in your job description?

That’s when it gets fun. That’s when you feel like you really belong. You are part of what makes the Peddie experience special and memorable.

So take a moment and figure out how you already make Peddie special. And then figure out how else you want to make Peddie special. And go do it.

And then before long, it’ll be time to graduate. Your relationship to this place will get really different.

Whenever the departing seniors ask me for some words of wisdom, I always tell them the same thing. So I guess I’ll let you in on the secret a little early. I remind them that Peddie is part of you for life.

Come back and visit us, sure. Send your teacher an email when you have to reread a book in college and end up figuring out something totally new about it. But it goes beyond that, beyond just your own personal connections. Go have dinner with a traveling admissions officer when they come through your town. Come to your 5th reunion and make a new friend who’s here for their 25th. Talk to a really special middle schooler you get to know down the road and tell them that there’s this cool place in Hightstown, New Jersey. And of course, you won’t even have to think twice about giving to the Annual Fund because…that’s just a habit that you’ve had since your student days. You’re a doctor, or a lawyer, or a teacher, but at the same time you’re a Peddie alum.

But that’s not all. You’re also an alum of your college. And a board member of your local theatre company. Or a coach of a girls’ soccer team. Or an activist for marriage equality. Or a deacon at your church. Or a volunteer at an animal shelter. Because you’ve learned that some of the most special parts of life happen when people go above and beyond their job descriptions.

As the famous chef Julia Child once said, “Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” Whether that’s the time you can make, the money that you can give, or the way that you can use your skills to help a person or an organization that needs it. At the heart of it, that’s what I think “community service” really means – the things you do simply because they’re important. And that’s why I do what I do, and you can do the same.

Even though we all know that NO ONE at Peddie has any free time, when you move things from the “to do” list to the “must do” list, you’d be amazed at what you can fit in. I make time to do things because I think they’re important. To cook dinner with my advisees. To help plan my college reunions. To train other women to volunteer in the community through the Junior League of Greater Princeton. Even though it originally just sounds like giving up time that you don’t think you have, somehow on the other end you feel even more rewarded, refreshed, and inspired.

I won’t be donating a building to any of my alma maters any time soon – nor will I probably ever be able to pay back all the financial aid I received that allowed me to attend them. But that’s OK. Not only do all the gifts, of any size, truly add up, but also, I know that I’m part of a community where people give back. And I’m already in the habit of giving. It’s a line in my budget just like the cell phone bill.

I try to use the skills that I’m particularly good at wherever they can make a difference. For instance, I can do interviews for local seniors who are applying to Harvard and keep connected to my alma mater that way. But I can also help unemployed women in Mercer County work on THEIR interview skills at a program called Dress for Success.

It’s easy to let your job become your entire life. Particularly when you love it as much as I do. But it’s vitally important that you find a way to live beyond it. As Katie read to us earlier, Martin Luther King said that committing yourself to things because they’re important – whatever those things are for you – “will make you a better doctor, a better lawyer, a better teacher.” And I would add that they’ll also make you a better colleague, a better spouse, a better friend.

I challenge you to ask your teacher, or your classmate, or that kid who lives in your dorm that you haven’t really talked a lot to – what do they care about. What do they do simply because it’s important. How do they serve others.

And ask yourself the same questions. Figure out how to use your time and your money and your talents to cast a ripple in the water that expands out and out and out. Make the world safer. Make your neighborhood vibrant. Make an organization stronger. Make a person’s life different.

Because, in the immortal words of the Lorax by Dr. Seuss,

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It's not.

Ala viva.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Amazing Grace

Anne Marie Gustavson and her husband, Eric are former Peddie teachers who recently helped to chaperone a trip with students visiting from EFZ Shanghai. The group went to Princeton for the day, where they visited Princeton Hospital, toured the University and had lunch in town.

Take a yellow mini-bus, fill it with twelve Chinese teenagers and their two teachers, and you have a recipe for a perfect day of discovery!

My husband Eric and I were asked to be chaperones for the day with Brian Davidson in charge of seeing that things ran smoothly. With Brian at the wheel and at the helm, they did.

The rain was coming down hard as we boarded the bus early that Saturday morning, and we were a bit apprehensive as to how the day would go. But then, greetings were exchanged with fourteen smiling faces, so we felt somewhat relieved. And a few minutes later, as the bus was on its way, one voice, then two then more were raised, and Amazing Grace floated in the air sung beautifully by our young guests!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

EFZ group says farewell

Just yesterday, the group of 12 students and 2 teachers from Peddie's sister school in Shanghai, EFZ, departed for home after a two-week visit.

Director of Asian Studies Yuan Gao, who coordinated the visit, sent this message to Peddie students:

"As our EFZ guests bid farewell this morning to Peddie partners, dorm hosts and host families upon completion of their fourth visit,  I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone in our extended Peddie community for being such wonderful hosts during the past two weeks.  You may not have been directly involved in hosting an EFZ visitor in your room or your home, yet your smile when you saw one in the hallway, your applause in Chapel and your welcoming and thoughtful remarks in class, all left an enduring impression on our guests.

I quote here two EFZ students Lucy and Vicky who enjoyed much their Master North stay - 'the different residential life styles of the two schools actually reflect the differences between the two countries, which both have advantages and disadvantages. Only by getting to know each other’s country deeper can we make ours a better one.' 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Living U.S. History in Philadelphia

Each year, the Junior class heads an hour southwest to Philadelphia, "the Birthplace of America." We asked a few students to share their thoughts and photographs with us.

Grace '16:
The Philadelphia trip was a great experience to put things learned in class together into practice. We visited the Congress Hall and the Senate. It was interesting to see the difference between the interior designs of the two rooms. The senate was more decorated and elaborate than the congress because it represented the elites.

Abby '16:
I think one of the best parts of the trip was being around our history teachers outside of the classroom and in a space where they were just as excited as we were. You could really tell how much each of them loved history, whether it was Mr. Treese explaining the Senate room or Ms. Somers laughing at how ridiculous the Articles of Confederation were, their reactions made us all the more excited to be in a place with such rich history and reminded us that we have some of the best, most passionate historians as teachers.

Uzo '16
I enjoyed delving deeper into American History by visiting historic buildings such as Independence Hall and seeing the Natoinal Constitution Center...Wedge + Fig was also a great lunch spot!

Annabel '16 (new Junior from New South Wales, Australia)
I liked seeing a new city and the museums helped solidify my knowledge of the things I had learned in class. My grilled cheese was also REALLY good...

Photo by Danny '16

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A tale of two authors (and one thesis)

Melanie graduated from Peddie last year, now attends Babson College, and has an amazing story of learning connections. Here it is, told in the form of correspondence with two of her Peddie English teachers, Mr. Roach and Mr. Bennett.

Hey Mr. Roach and Mr. Bennett,

Hope you guys had an awesome summer! I just started college; today was actually my first day of classes! Anyway, I'm emailing you guys because remember how I told you that The Circle was my summer reading? Well, Dave Eggers is coming to my college to give a talk about it!!!!!! I'm so excited!!!!!!!!!!! I feel like such a nerd saying that haha! I really hope I get the chance to talk to him personally. I wish I could give him my senior thesis!!

Anyway, hope you guys have a great year at Peddie, and I hope you're not too jealous!!! 


Monday, September 22, 2014

Inspiration for XC from an Olympian

Katie '16 and the Peddie Cross Country team receive advice and inspiration from an Olympian.

On September 17th, Donn Cabral, and Olympic steeplechaser, visited and spoke to the Peddie cross country team post-workout in Princeton, New Jersey.

Some of Cabral’s accomplishments include 10 All-American honors in cross country and track and field, multiple NCAA titles, setting the American collegiate record for the steeplechase (8:19.14), and 8th place in the 3,000 meter steeplechase in the 2012 Olympics.

Cabral spoke to us about setting and committing to goals, race visualization, overcoming obstacles in one’s sport and life, his experience on the Olympic team, and his race day schedule. He took us through his pre-race routine from the night before to getting on the start line, explaining what to eat and why and how to stay positive before a race. Cabral even challenged us to set and dedicate ourselves to a goal before returning to Peddie. His speech was funny and inspiring.

Meeting Donn Cabral was an amazing experience and he definitely got the team psyched for the season!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Coming back: A big, beautiful circle

Kieren Van Den Blink '90 is an actress and writer. A graduate of Barnard, Van Den Blink debuted on Broadway in The Diary of Anne Frank and went on to become the voice of Rogue in the animated hit series Wolverine & the X-Men. Van Den Blink recently published Sniff, the first in a series of five children's books focusing on the senses. She returned to Peddie this week to guest-teach an acting class.

 Dear Peddie School,

Thank you beyond words for two days of teaching acting class - two days that reminded me of why I loved high school, why I love acting, and why a small, but beautiful part of all of us will always be 17. Because there's an openness, a vulnerability, a curiosity, that makes life so thrilling. So fresh. And sometimes frightening. I am forever grateful to have been able to return to my beloved Peddie. I've always loved this place. And now, it feels like a big beautiful full circle coming back to campus. Wow. The passage of time can be a little heartbreaking and very, very inspiring. Thank you too all of my Peddie friends - new and old - who made this experience so memorable. And thank you to the 11 brave students whose courage made me feel more alive.