We wish to make one thing clear: The Tavern is a completely student-run publication. We are a thoughtpaper made by students, for students interested learning outside the boundaries of their own institutions. Yes, we are students: everyday we walk into our classrooms, sit around Harkness tables, and engage in exhilarating discussions with not only our peers, but also our teachers. Although students contribute to the heart of the discussions, teachers are still a crucial presence in any classroom. Whether they are sharing their wisdom or serving as mediators in heated debates, teachers foster our knowledge, passion, and humanity—there is always something we can learn from them. For these reasons, starting this issue,The Tavern staff has decided to include teacher interviews.
Panel members conduct "Ten Minute T(ea)" interviews with teachers they deem to be especially beloved and respected by their respective institutions. The interview takes place over a cup of tea in the span of ten minutes. The interview is recorded and later transcribed by the interviewer. We hope that, by reading through these interviews, our readers will be able to gain special insight on intentional ignorance, insight that can only be brewed from experience and age.
Ten Minute T(ea) with Ms. Johanna Callard
Interview conducted by Grace Eggleston, NMH School
February 24, 2018
Q: Do you think that the school provides enough for student’s well being?
A: Our students’ well-being is really important. My hope is that students aren’t just getting an academic education at NMH but are also learning about what supports well-being in their lives. In terms of what the school provides, much depends on what form of self-care works best for the individual student. Different things nurture different people, whether it’s time spent with friends, sports, time outdoors, or time and space to do nothing. For some people, playing a sport can be really important for their physical and emotional well-being, while for other students, playing a competitive sport may leave them feeling that they have no space and time for what they feel supports their well-being. The same could be true for many other activities that students engage in on campus that are required in some way. So in terms of actual time that’s devoted to student well-being, it really depends on the individual student and what well-being feels like for them.
Q: Would you say it is then the student’s responsibility to identify what is important for their self-care, and seek that out in their schedule, or is it the school’s responsibility to make sure that happens?
A: I would say that both are needed. Students need to know what feels good for them, and the school needs to be trying to offer many of those things. And what the school offers needs to translate into what students view as self-care opportunities.
When I think about students and their access to self-care at NMH, I think about healthy foods, fun, exercise, time with friends, a place for people to have space to reflect and be quiet, opportunities to talk about what matters. We try to offer those resources, like the events that Cris Ramirez organizes: hypnosis, trips to Northampton and Dwight Night. Do they nurture well-being? They definitely could for some. A dance could be something that hugely supports a student’s well-being, but for others, not so much. And the base intention of SLS (Student Life Seminar) is to provide an opportunity to talk about things that matter, and we are working on making it something that translates to students as a worthwhile opportunity. So I think it’s an exchange between the school and the student, but it’s also individual in what self-care means for each student.
In light of the “busy-ness” and the pressure that students are under, things can definitely get out of balance. So it seems like the question is more about balance and how we create balance in our lives. Who’s responsible for that balance? I think it must be a collaborative effort by the students and the school.
Q: What’s been the most common issue that students come to you with, and how might that speak to the effectiveness of self-care efforts here on campus?
A: The most common issue is stress, in many different forms. During the course of the school year, we in the Health Center see about a third of the student body, and stress, anxiety, and depression are the three top reasons for students to refer themselves. What I always tell students when I’m working with them is that I can offer them any number of tools for self-care and stress management that they can try on and see which ones work. What we are trying to do is to help them build skills which are personalized for them and which they can use throughout their lives. It’s great to have three counselors and not just one, because different counselors with different styles provide more options for students.
I’m seeing students come in with an increasing amount of stress and pressure on themselves. I think that’s happening nationally, maybe globally, but certainly nationally. So the question I have to ask is: how do we keep up with that, and respond in a way that’s supportive? We’re always looking for new ways, and adding new things to what the Health Center offers, but students don’t always have the time to access them. So how do we then help students think about balance, and what really matters to them? I mean, we can think well-being matters, but do students think it matters? The NMH website says the NMH student is “Well” and “Grounded” but do students want to be well and grounded? Can they be well and grounded and get into their dream college, because that’s so often the end goal? That’s my work: how can I help students be well and grounded and get to their end goal, or, in some cases, help them decide if their end goal really is their end goal or if it’s something else entirely.
Q: Have the outlets for self-care offered by the school been helpful for students who have come to you feeling distressed, or have those issues been something they had to handle within themselves?
A: Again, I think it depends on the student. Often we start by doing a review of what outlets they are already using, and then do some brainstorming about other outlets that might be helpful to them. We check in about some basics: Are you eating? Are you sleeping? For some people, going to sports or to the gym is really helpful for them. For others it’s finding time to be outside or being with friends or creating space to just chill. Part of it is the student’s mentality and how the student prioritizes, and a lot of students understandably need guidance with that. There are a lot of responsibilities coming their way, in a busy schedule, so having balance is not easy.
Q: I know it is hard to generalize on student wellness, but what would your advice be to all boarding school students on how to help themselves maintain their health and happiness?
A: To answer a question with a question, I would ask, what matters to you? What qualities or values do you prioritize in your life and how does the way you live inform that? Look at the choices you are making and how they support that quality or value, whether it is a value of relationships, joy, creativity, being active and engaged; it could be anything. This awareness can be a foundation for living a well and grounded life.
Ms. Callard is the Director of Counseling and Counselor of Health Services at NMH’s O’Connor Health and Wellness Center. The Health Center is “a free-standing clinic where health care professionals provide comprehensive medical and counseling services to students 24 hours a day.”