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From the Schoolhouse: Reflections on First Days and Being New
John McVeigh

There is nothing quite like the first day of a new school year.  No matter our age, hearts pound with an intense mix of excitement and nerves, anticipation and wonder.  


I am feeling the “new” like never before this year.  After close to 20 years of familiarity in one place, I’m living in a new house.  On a new campus.  In a new state.  At a new school filled with students and adults that I’ve only just met.  There are times when I see someone approaching, and I rack my brain for their name, worrying that I’ll get it wrong.  Or worse, that I’ll introduce myself to someone I’ve already met.  People mention a building and I wrestle with whether or not I should ask which one it is or just pretend I know. Every new interaction seems to offer up a coin flip with even odds of learning something exciting or embarrassing myself in some new cringe-worthy way.


So I very much relate to the new students who are feeling that small pit in their stomach this week.  Or the parents who will drop them off this week, sharing their children with Holderness out of love while keeping their fingers crossed that it will go well for them.  It turns out you can be both nervous and excited about the same thing – these are not mutually exclusive feelings.  And you know what?  That’s ok!  In fact, it’s more than ok… it’s why new experiences and getting out of our comfort zone is so good for us.  Things that are known and safe might be easier, but true meaning and growth come when we put ourselves out there beyond our self-imposed limits.        


I had a hard time sleeping on the night of June 30th, knowing that I would officially be the head of school when I woke up. I had a wonderful transition that allowed me to be here on campus frequently last year.  I’d gotten to know a number of people, see everyone in action, and began to know my way around campus.  And yet for all that buildup, July 1 was still a powerful, memorable moment for me and for my family.  I woke up early, took a moment to celebrate that it was finally official, and then pondered for the rest of the morning where this adventure might take me.  So, I can only imagine what is on the minds of our newest community members this week!       


For our new students and families, I’ve learned something critically important over my first two months: Our school is great at welcoming folks and fostering belonging.  I’m grateful for my colleagues that have encouraged my questions and checked in on me and my family.  I’ve been so impressed by the returning students who have reached out to spend some time talking so they can know me better… and occasionally sharing a piece of advice or suggestion for what we might try to do together this year.  I have fed off their enthusiasm and leaned on their experience and care for the school.  I am certain you’ll be able to do the same. Holderness is a wonderful place to be new.


There is freedom and lightness to being new, and I encourage all of you to make the most of it. Ask questions.  Meet new people.  Take advantage of this blank canvas in front of you and recognize this important truth –We admitted you for a reason!  It wasn’t an accident or a random lottery. We believe in you, and we believe in what you will bring to our campus and community.  In fact, we are counting on it.   


We are thrilled to welcome you to campus and can’t wait to be a part of your journey.  We’ll be shoulder to shoulder with you every time you try something new. Holderness is filled with these kinds of moments, and it’s precisely why we start our student experience with Orientation Hike.  That pit in your stomach?  That’s how you know you’re embarking on something special.  And you’ll be doing it alongside some of the best friends you will ever make in your life.   


Welcome to the beginning of the 144th year of Holderness School!

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