Ms. McClung’s Staff Reflection 2021

A Different Kind Of Place

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The interview ended. I left the room to head back to my car. In the hallway I was greeted by a friendly voice. “Were you interviewing?” Yes, it was for the math position. There was a brief conversation, followed by a friendly “Good luck!” I could tell by his style that the friendly character in the hall was clearly an independent thinker, not one to follow a crowd. Like me, this was someone willing to be his own person. That was the day I met Seth Weiss. I knew at that moment that Lincoln-Sudbury would be a good match for me.

 

Differences of opinions, sharing, listening, and challenging were all a normal part of the culture of Lincoln-Sudbury, and I found the environment stimulating.  Early on at faculty meeting we had great discussions, and I learned so much from the bold personalities who were willing to put ideas on the table without fear. It was the norm. It was expected that people would have different perspectives and opinions, and that was a good thing.

 

Eventually, I found my voice and ventured into the great conversations. I often checked in with Seth to make sure I didn’t unintentionally come across as angry. Energized discussions were familiar to me from lively debates with my father. Some family members felt we were arguing, but we actually enjoyed challenging each other. I often presented whatever side would create a debate, regardless of my opinion. It was an opportunity for growth: a chance to present, question, and explore the subtleties of controversial issues. 

 

Twice I worked with Seth on contract negotiations. We almost always started problem-solving from opposite corners of the ring. Inevitably we arrived at the same conclusion. We joked that, given the right opportunity, together we could solve world problems using our different perspectives as a strength, helping us to see together more than one would ever possibly see from a single point of view. We could do this because we trusted and respected each other, and we were sincerely interested in the growth that comes from listening to a different opinion.

A funny thing happened, though. Many years ago, I presented a perspective different from the vocal majority and got shot down in quite a hostile way by a big school voice. I reached out to that person to discuss the tone, and was told, “If you feel politically attacked–or your position and beliefs attacked–why not argue back? You are a seasoned negotiator. Give it back as good as you are getting it–if you feel you are getting it.” The huge voice of the vocal majority was looking at conversation as a battle, not a respectful exchange of ideas. That was when I realized the rules were changing. The counter opinion now was to be shot down. It was a big loss to me that day. The trust I felt was shattered, and my ability to share, learn, and grow suspended.

Lincoln-Sudbury was a “different kind of place,” which was good, because I had always felt I was a bit unconventional. Today, it is important to do the hard work at L-S and our communities to create a safe place that promotes different perspectives. Push back against those who insist on a single view. Push back against those who want conformity. Push back on labels, boxes, all those things that limit your ability to think freely, to be uniquely you. Challenge those who want to define you in their terms. And, be sure you are one who will listen closely to those who have a different point of view, especially those with a more delicate voice.  

 

Working with students at Lincoln-Sudbury has brought me great joy. I leave the L-S classroom with the Class of 2021 to launch into a new business career as the seniors launch into a new stage of life. It is exciting! And a little daunting! Carve out time to learn something unusual. Listen to people and learn from them. Spend time with friends who respect you. You have a path to blaze, but you may not know where you are headed. Just know that life will bring forks in the road, and you have opportunities to change course. Find your unique self, and feed your passion. Best of luck, Class of 2021!

 

Elizabeth McClung