On Connection

By Craig Gemmell
Head of School

First community dinner Thursday night was a sight to behold.

Once everyone found their seats, Bret Barnett encouraged kids to put away cell phones and be present. Reverend Gina Finnochario from the Congregational Church bordering campus followed up with an extemporaneous, ecumenical blessing so beautiful that it took our collective breath away.

The dining hall seemed to read the tea leaves perfectly on this cool fall evening and answered with comfort food: chicken pot pie, green beans, lemonade. Perfect.

I sat with a group of senior boys who ate a remarkable amount while talking about all of the little joys and frustrations. From their love of Mr. Campbell, whose bald pate was covered at one point during dessert with a bit of whipped cream, to their perplexity with shaving, to the need to appease the College Office.

They made my day.

After bussing a few dishes and bidding my dining companions a good night, I ambled over to Lord House for the first-ever Harry Potter Club meeting. And, entering the living room, I encountered a buzz of Potter-speak: quidditch, house elves, sorting hats, deathly hallows were all being bantered about in ways that suggested a shared vernacular.

I admit being dismayed for a moment when four other teachers were appointed as house masters – though glad to know that Matt Butcher was the head of Griffindor because I knew that my house was in good hands. And, then, I was appointed Dumbledore – Hogwarts’ headmaster.

They made my day, again.

We spent the better part of an hour messing about in Harry Potter’s universe. Talk of a quiddich tournament, a house cup, and pumpkin carving gave way to a raucous game of trivia. Who knew John Scala ‘17 knew so much? They spilled out of the house intent to gather next Thursday.

After two great student events in so many hours, I dug into the noisome e-mail that mounts when I step away from my computer and found myself uncharacteristically distracted from it. I was, I suppose, itching to spend more real time with students.

As I searched my feelings, I was reminded of Nancy’s blog last week, because she helped me to understand why I was feeling an absence while pecking away at my computer in an otherwise dark house. For these moments with others, I suppose, are what define a life as a teacher and as a student at these odd little places people call boarding schools. It is the ever-rarer connections that different people from different places and of different ages forge that matter. The common experience, the common purpose, the common values we share are, well, not so common in this world.

In the light of Friday after an evening of clarity, I’ve never been more conscious of one of the truths that unite Hogwarts and Brewster alike: all of us are the better living connected with others.