Milton Academy’s response to the national tragedy on Tuesday, September 11 centered on the need to take care of students. Head of School Robin Robertson drew the administration together early in the day to structure the best possible plans for dealing with the widespread fear, the potential that many families would be directly affected, and the need for factual information.
The Lower School continued with “business as usual,” asking parents to manage the communications with their small children, consistent with their family patterns and values. Administration and faculty gathered Upper School students at 11 a.m. to share the facts as they were then known, to let students know that counselors, class deans and faculty advisors would be with them all day to help them reach relatives and to stress with students the need to comfort and support one another through the unfolding ordeal. Classes were cancelled for the remainder of the day, and students were grouped in dormitories and within classroom buildings where televisions were available, and where both students and adults could gather together easily.
Faculty identified students with an urgent need to secure information, to help them with their efforts. At each of the set gathering spots, administrators and faculty touched base frequently during the day, updating students as facts were known and as school decisions were made. The chapel was open during the day and the evening, attended by the Academy chaplain; athletic facilities were open and coaches held optional team practices, as it became apparent that the option of physical activities would be helpful to many students.
Robin Robertson, along with Upper School Principal Hugh Silbaugh, opened the Academy Wednesday morning with an assembly focused once again on the need for students and adults to continue supporting one another and on the range of normal responses that individuals in the community would have to the tragedy. Hugh Silbaugh closed the meeting with readings from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, Franklin Roosevelt’s address to Congress and an excerpt from the “Prayer for Social Justice” from The Book of Common Prayer. Mr. Silbaugh’s readings emphasized several themes: the need to help one another heal, the need for the whole world to experience the freedoms we cherish, and the need for social justice.
The administration and the faculty are working to anticipate and to serve the needs of the community as the impact of Tuesday’s events unfold and affect us. “As teachers and adults,” Robin Robertson told the faculty, “we are profoundly affected by what is happening around us. At the same time, we have the extraordinary responsibility of helping to guide the young people in our care, and to model for them appropriate responses to events which can not be explained.”
We are striving, through frequent meetings, advisors working with students, gatherings for dialogue, chapel services, and guidance from counselors to address the emotions flowing within individuals and the continuing need for balance, perspective, and sensitivity.
On Friday morning, for example, Dean of Students David Torcoletti spoke to students and faculty in the Upper Classes, and Associate Dean Lenna Dower to those in grades seven and eight, about the need to think critically as we respond to the media coverage. Both faculty members stressed the need to show compassion for all and to reject any tendency to focus anger on any groups of people, Arab-Americans or others. At noon today, Milton will stop for three minutes of silence to acknowledge our loss, in concert with President Bush’s designation of this day as one of remembrance. Students and faculty are also planning a candlelight ceremony for Friday evening, in the quad outside the dormitories. Milton Academy’s response to the national tragedy on Tuesday, September 11 centered on the need to take care of students. Head of School Robin Robertson drew the administration together early in the day to structure the best possible plans for dealing with the widespread fear, the potential that many families would be directly affected, and the need for factual information.