What was your inspiration for the senior elective, "25 Things Every Man Must Know?"
It started out as a conversation between faculty members about societal shifts in education that place increased emphasis on standardized testing and college preparation, sometimes at the expense of building life skills.
Life skills come in all varieties, and we began to realize that as a community, we have talents that we can share with the boys to make them better prepared to lead a smart life. Ironing a shirt, splitting wood, cooking a meal, trimming hedges, balancing a checkbook ... these are essential parts of life that can help our boys adapt and thrive.
How does this course fit into Haverford's leadership philosophy?
We believe that in order to serve others, one must first be a leader in their own life. We are driven by the Essential Qualities of a Haverford Graduate and by our mission of preparing boys for life. As part of that, it is critical to equip our young men with the tools to be successful in their chosen vocation, to thrive socially and emotionally, and also to have an understanding of roll-up-your-sleeves, day-to-day life. This course helps prepare our boys to seize leadership moments when they arise, and to thrive in those moments.
It is critical to equip our young men with the tools to be successful in their chosen vocation, to thrive socially and emotionally, and also to have an understanding of roll-up-your-sleeves, day-to-day life.
How has the course evolved over these four years?We are continually introducing new skills based on feedback from the students and faculty. This year, one of our learning specialists presented on executive functioning skills: how do you take your individual strengths and maximize your potential to thrive? One of our communications managers did a case study on email etiquette. We engaged an executive search firm regarding how to build a resume in college, how to protect your identify on social media, and how to build your own brand online and offline.
What is one of the more popular skills?
Wood splitting. History teacher Tim Lengel '07 starts by describing the optimal stance ... where your hand should be placed on the maul, how to shift your to come down into the middle of the stump, etc. They boys practice a bit with the maul – it's more forgiving and not as dangerous – and then learn a bit about how the density and moisture level of the wood impacts the split.
The boys also enjoy the cooking lessons. We start with an outing to Whole Foods, including a tour of the different departments with an eye for nutrition and budgeting. We talk about store brand labels versus brand names, about pantry staples and the different grades of seafood and meat.
Then, the boys spend time with Haverford's Dining Hall staff. They learn how to set the table and fold napkins; how to prep a meal, cook a meal, and serve a meal; and how to clean up and put away the dishes. They also learn about slicing and dicing, seasoning, safe temperatures for meat, how to avoid cross-contamination, and other best practices.
The day culminates with the boys inviting guests to a meal. As a team, they go through the whole process: setting the table, preparing the meal, serving the meal, dining with their guests, and then excusing themselves so they can clean up.
As a team, they go through the whole process: setting the table, preparing the meal, serving the meal, dining with their guests, and then excusing themselves so they can clean up.
Have you had an "aha" moment with a student?
Our Director of Facilities taught students how to patch a wall. Mr. Wisniewski joked with the boys that they might one day be wrestling in their college apartment with friends, slip, and put a hole in the wall. They could pay someone to fix it, they could forfeit their security deposit, or they could fix it themselves with the right tools and know-how. Well, one of our graduates who had taken the course came back over a holiday break to share that this did indeed happen, and that he was able to patch the wall.
Seeing that sense of accomplishment, even for a small thing, was inspiring. He took the skills he learned, he applied them in the right way, and he found self-satisfaction.
What do you hope the boys learn in this course?
More than anything, I want the boys to walk away with a sense of self-reliance. I want them to believe in themselves and to try new things on their own. I hope that they see these tools as a launching pad to start taking control of who they are as individuals. This self-awareness will make the journey ahead easier and more enriching, and hopefully they then can pay it forward.
Bill Brady is Director of Leadership at The Haverford School. He developed and manages a pre-k-12 leadership program with both experiential and curricular components, and oversees the School's annual Joseph T. Cox Servant Leadership Symposium. Brady founded MS Leads, a conference to teach teamwork, communications, and responsibility to middle school students throughout the Philadelphia area. He is also a lead instructor for the Student Global Leadership Institute and a member of the Teacher Advisory Group for Character Lab. Brady coached college soccer for 15 years and currently leads Haverford's varsity soccer program. He holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Wheaton College and master's degree in coaching and athletic administration from Concordia University.
- The Big Room Blog