Matt Green delivered these remarks to parents and students at the new student orientation on August 30, 2018.
Good morning newest members of the Falmouth Academy family. I turned on a computer this morning, presumably one of the newer models, and instead of being greeted by the spinning wheel, my computer cycled me through six reassuring screens while it booted up:
We’re glad you’re here.
Lots of Exciting Features for you to Look Forward To.
Getting Things Ready for You.
This won’t take long.
And I thought, that’s about all what I want to say to you this morning, but as you will learn, I miss no opportunity to deliver a lengthy set of remarks to a captive audience and I’m afraid this morning is no different. First to the parents and caregivers in the room, thank you for entrusting us with the sacred responsibility of educating and caring for your sons and daughters. As for you new students, let me share a secret with you. I am really nervous right now. Each of us, in his or her own particular way, feels a bit new this morning, but perhaps none more so than I, a brand new head of school working with a brand new faculty on behalf of a brand new group of students in a brand new school in a brand new town. Perhaps like me, you are wondering such things as, “Am I going to like it here? Are they going to like me? Will it be too hard? Who is Mr. Michael and where is his classroom? Or how do I get on the wireless?” If only we knew the answers to all of our questions yesterday.
So, yes, I get it. And that’s why I say, let’s do this hard thing, this new thing together, let’s choose to see the discomfort of newness as the very soil that nourishes us. No easy task for sure, but then again the most worthwhile endeavors rarely are. A question which would be on my mind were I in your seats would be, “Will I fit in?” Let me tell you what I’ve learned so far about fitting in at Falmouth Academy.
I hope you find that fitting in at FA means nothing more than living by a set of shared school values. For example, to fit in at FA is to treat others as we hope to be treated, with dignity, respect, honesty, and fairness. It means pursuing excellence in whatever area, but particularly in the classroom. Fitting in here means doing your best. You will fit in if you seek out and include others at every opportunity, if you agree that every student is entitled to feel safe in school. Fitting in here means that you value working and learning alongside people with different perspectives and life experiences and that you live by that the old Atticus Finch adage, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view — until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” In lots of ways, some visible but many not, you are all different. We believe that diversity, like newness I suppose, is a catalyst for learning and that the less your neighbor’s experience has mirrored yours, the more you are likely to learn. If you are fascinated by ideas, if you like to solve problems, if you take satisfaction in a job well done, you’ll fit in just fine.
As for what fitting in does NOT mean at FA, it does not mean sacrificing your individuality or your principles. Fitting in does not mean adopting the popular position as your own. It’s not about having the same kind of phone, or shoes, or haircut, playing the same sport or activity, as everyone else. Fitting in is not about remaining silent while others are being mistreated, while others are hurting, or while friends are putting themselves or others at risk. You may not fit in here if you think that for you to win, someone else has to lose, or if you seek popularity at someone else’s expense.
And you may not fit in here if you’re a “It’s not my problem” kind of person. Have you heard the story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody? “There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.” Above all, fitting in at Falmouth Academy means taking responsibility for your school community, not waiting for someone else to fix it.
If you have any lingering questions on the topic, it can boil down to this. The famous American novelist, Henry James, once gave this advice to his young nephew, Billy: "There are three things that are important in human life. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind." Good advice for all of us this year and in the years to come.