The Student Life Office has organized a series of events around a particular theme for the past three years in order to inspire healthy conversation on campus. These themes, called symposiums, are a focus for one whole year. This year, the symposium theme is gratitude.
In 2017, the symposium was on gender, and Deerfield spent the year discussing the gender divide, recognizing the Deerfield community’s attitude towards gender, and talking about the gender binary. In 2018, the theme was mindfulness, prompting weekly mindfulness sessions and discussion of stress-reducing practices. The focus this year is on gratitude.
Amie Creagh, Assistant Head of School for Student Life, said, “The goal is that gratitude becomes a routine.”
This theme of gratitude was inspired by a practice last year within the Student Life Office where faculty set aside time to say what they were grateful for. Instead of gratitude only being a focus during Thanksgiving or graduation, the hope was that the practice of gratitude could become ingrained in our daily lives.
“I have two hopes for this year’s symposium,” said Ms. Creagh, who led thåis initiative. “The first is that it creates a mindset that pauses, and in those moments, we take stalk of our surroundings. The second is that we go say thank you to the people who really deserve it— actually. We are striving for an active measure of ‘thanks.’”
This practiced effort to be kind enforces Dean of Students Kevin Kelly’s opinion that “kindness is not a benign statement.” Mr. Kelly understands that it’s easy to get caught up in the busy life at Deerfield, but he also emphasized that “it’s negligent to say ‘well, that’s just high school,’” as a valid excuse for one’s forgetfulness to show appreciation.
However, in order for the theme of gratitude to be effective, students must fully buy in to the concept of recognizing individuals for their kindness. As seen in some of the past symposiums, without student support, these initiatives can tend to lose footing and impact.
With the importance of student enthusiasm in mind, the approach to this symposium is meant to weave the theme into the community in a natural way, without forced programming or unenthusiastic discussion. By letting this theme develop organically, the hope is that this theme will grow deeper roots.
Students have already started publicly expressing their gratitude through Dining Hall anouncements, thanking fellow students for anything from helping them to get water or clearing their silverware. There is also a feature on the Bulletin that allows anyone in community to post a thank you note. By participating in these announcements and these public displays of gratitude, the community is following exactly what Ms. Creagh and Mr. Kelly hoped.
“I think we are so busy here at Deerfield that we often forget to thank a lot of the people who help us out in so many different ways,” said Athena Zarmakoupis ’21.
There are plenty of people to be grateful for—whether it’s Darla Motyka and Norm Therrien for always having what we need for our games, Brian Barbato for weekend events, student dish crew for helping with meals, or Bruce MacConnell for always greeting you at breakfast in the kitchen. It’s extremely important to recognize the individuals who make your day go by so much easier.