There is no better reflection of the health of a school than the health of its student culture. What are Tabor students like when adults aren’t around? Do students feel safe to be themselves? What do students tolerate from one another and where do they draw the line? What are those unwritten student codes that guide decision-making on a daily basis on campus? What kinds of things are met with, “We don’t do that here.”? Student culture here at Tabor Academy was the topic of my opening chapel talk this fall. That speech ended with this plea to the senior class:
“The culture is in your hands. Define it. Protect it. Own it.”
Austin Franklin ’16 recently shared with me what he thinks “Owning the culture” means:
What does it mean to own the culture? Sitting in the chapel filled with my classmates at the beginning of the year I glazed over the room imagining what was going through everyone else's heads when Mrs. Bride told us to “own the culture”. To me, owning the culture means getting involved in the community in as many ways as possible and believing in what it is you are doing. Someone didn't pick up their trash? Looks like it’s on you to pick it up. No one is watching? Who cares? Owning the culture is doing the things that the Tabor community believes in all the time and guiding others to do the same.
It means giving it everything you've got on the field, in the classroom or on the stage. It means that you're kind, friendly and always looking out for everyone else in the community. Think that you're "too cool" to do a lip sync or square dance? Guess what? It’s uncool not to try. Owning the culture means being unafraid to try new things, even when you are. Give it everything you've got and you will have support.
Eventually I hope that everyone in the community owns the culture and leaves us with this awesome place where we are working towards becoming the best people we can possibly be while making the community we are in the best possible community. No one ever said owning the culture was going to be easy, but it is most definitely rewarding.
I am sure we can all agree that this year's senior class has defined, protected and owned the student culture this year. In ways both visible (Special Olympics to Healthy Relationship week) and invisible (peer listeners to supportive proctors), underclassmen have benefitted tremendously from the presence and positivity of the senior class in making life at Tabor this year especially engaging, supportive and fun.