Reflections on a vibrant three years at Masters

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Reflections on a vibrant three years at Masters

Jacob Strier, News Design Editor

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My first Morning Meeting left me in awe. It was on my first day at Masters as a new sophomore, and my heart was pumping out of my chest as I was ushered into the theatre. The next 30 minutes would forever change my view of education, and what student engagement can look like when actually applied.

We often lose touch of the beauty and importance of specific Masters traditions like Morning Meeting and the Harkness method. In few other schools, do students have the ability to engage with the minds and intellects of their peers for 75 minutes per week, share their talents, and expand each other’s horizons.

In subsequent Morning Meetings since that first day, I have watched as kids my age stood confidently in front of their friends and teachers to speak, present, encourage others and reflect. I have even had the privilege of speaking on certain issues, including in a Matters of Spirit presentation, and highlighting important events in Jewish Culture Club announcements. In few other academic settings is deep community engagement so readily available.

Yet, I am occasionally disheartened to hear some Masters students speak poorly about Morning Meeting, or discredit Masters as taking up too much time with its traditions and requirements such as co-curriculars. It is critical to keep perspective — the vast majority of American high school students do not have time carved out of their school week for the sole purpose of wider intellectual and community engagement. Co-curriculars have exposed me to new paths, such as Tower, which has proven to be such a formative part of my three years at this school.

To those who question the validity of co-curriculars or other school-enforced opportunities for engagement, I say: dive in. In late-night Tower layout sessions, constructing a sukkah on campus or trying (and failing) to learn how play squash, I learned new skills and met people I would not have otherwise. Engagement, with family, activity or friends fills our lives with meaning — and so too can it imbue one’s time at Masters with a sense of purpose.

On another note, as I reflect on these past years, I urge younger students to maintain the open sense of community which pervades our school. Even between groups of friends, there exists an amicable and cordial atmosphere in spaces like the Dining Hall which does not necessarily exist in other schools. So, sit with that person in the Dining Hall who you haven’t spoken with, chat up the quiet person in your advisory, do your part as a community member to be kind to others.

Finally, I’d like to reflect on the importance of Harkness and its effect on education. Two years ago, I was sitting in Hebrew school with my teacher and about ten of my classmates. The instructor asked us to speak about current events in Europe, and the conversation began.

The silence in the classroom was palpable, the second hand on the clock permeated the air with its rhythmic click, and no one spoke. Despite adding some points to the conversation, I could not help but largely sit back and watch how my peers handled Socratic conversation without Harkness experience. The trepidation in their voices was notable, the fear of being struck down or refuted led to shaky voices and shakier logic in their points. The experience led me to reflect on the privilege Masters students have in their daily training in conversation, in debate and in the articulation of their opinions.

Before Masters, I would have been too consumed with worry or nerves to jump readily into the conversation. This school converts academic introverts into articulate extroverts, and I am all for it. So, I would encourage others to take harder classes. Challenge yourself with that AP English or History course, sign up for a new elective. Only by participating and learning in spaces which may feel unfamiliar or academically-strenuous can we grow as learners, speakers and students.

Though I did not deliver a senior speech, I felt that my reflections and remarks on my Masters experience would be best phrased on the platform which has given me so much: Tower. So please, challenge yourself, contribute to community, jump into the conversation and never give up your sense of awe at the power and privilege of education and engagement.

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