The Gift of Presence

Posted by Dr. Karen Bohlin on May 16, 2018 1:56:18 PM

As the students streamed through the doors on the first day of school, filling the corridors with their laughter and conversation, my heart felt full. At Montrose, we spent the summer building, painting, and transforming classrooms and offices into more purposeful spaces and places for our girls. We also engaged in deep full-faculty conversation about why we do what we do and ways we can amplify our efforts to make a difference in the life of each young woman here.

And all for one moment: when your daughters walk through the doors and honor us with their presence.

Presence, or being present, has a serendipitous homonym. When we are present with another person we offer them a present -- a gift. In fact, our presence is perhaps the richest gift we can offer a friend, a family member, or even the cashier at the store. Everyone wants to be seen, to be heard, and to be acknowledged.

Think about a time when someone sat with you and gave you their complete attention, as if that was the most important thing they could do in that moment. Remember how their words, posture, and tone said, “I see you. I hear you. You matter.” When we are present -- when we give the gift of our time and attention -- we affirm the dignity of the person in front of us.

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In many ways, the capacity to be present has never been more challenging. In this era of distraction, our lives are punctuated by rings, dings, and pings. We’ve all been there, juggling the competing demands for our limited attention.

At Montrose, we know that presence -- bringing our full attention to the people in front of us and the task at hand -- is essential to academic excellence. Girls excel intellectually when they feel a strong connection to the subject matter, their teachers, and their peers.

That’s why we have deliberately encouraged this posture of attention:

It’s why we have a rotating schedule, allowing for fewer, longer classes each day -- more time for the girls to deeply engage with their work.

It’s why we pause each morning for Mass or Enrichment Reading, a time to be present with our thoughts, reflecting and connecting to something larger than ourselves.

It’s why we have set aside regular, dedicated time for one-on-one advising, class meetings, all-school meetings, and Character and Leadership Discussions.

It’s even why we ask girls to turn off their cell phones during school hours!

Montrose School is a place where we celebrate fresh starts, champion victories, and invite students to make small changes that help them become their best selves. This is a place where we remind students that we are all works in progress, a place where we support each other as we continually reassess, begin again, and aim for greatness.

The beauty of presence is that it’s doable for all of us. It’s about small moments -- a device-free meal, a meaningful conversation in the car, a thoughtful note, a genuine smile as someone walks through the door.

I am grateful for your presence, as parents. We are so happy you are here.

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