INSIGHT: What Really Matters

By Paul Hagen, Dean of Students

Last Friday, we broke our Senior class out of school for the day and took them tubing at Snoqualmie Pass. I was unenthusiastic to go at first. My inbox was full, my to-do list was growing, deadlines were looming, and there was no shortage of projects to tackle. But we needed another chaperone and I’d drawn the short straw, so reluctantly I traded my mountain of work for a hill of snow, I traded my tie for a snowsuit, and I traded time in front of a screen for time spent with students (I am the Dean of Students after all).

We arrived to find the tubing hill meticulously groomed, the tubes neatly stacked, and the sun just beginning to nudge its way through the clouds. It didn’t take long for the racing to begin, and the snowball throwing, and the laughing. And it didn’t take long for whatever disinclination I was holding onto to dissipate—the work that I’d left behind had quickly evaporated into the cold mountain air.

At lunch, a group of students called me over. Many of them I had taught in Middle School, and, over less-than-appetizing lodge food, we took some time just to talk. Not about grades, or upcoming assignments, but about our shared memories from EPS, about all the good, difficult, and hilarious moments that we’ve shared over the years. We spoke about how quickly this year is progressing, and how soon it will come to a close (can you tell I’m already starting to feel a little sentimentality towards our seniors?). We spoke about the future—colleges, jobs, dreams, and hopes. It was a good day. And a good reminder about what really matters.

I don’t know what the students took from this “snow day.” They certainly seemed to have fun, but I also wonder if they took any of the lessons I did from the day spent tubing instead of studying. I was reminded that it is good to take a break, that although there are always more things to do, there are also times to simply unplug and unwind. That no amount of “work” is more important than the human connection. That grades, test scores, college acceptances, workloads, and emails don’t matter much if we forget that we are all in this together—that school, work, and life are social activities. Any of us can easily become the lone wolf; on our own and self-reliant. But it’s healthier, more productive, and a whole lot more fun to have a place in a group, to be part of a community, and to share life with others.

This break I hope that the entire EPS community will get some real downtime and that we will all use at least some of that downtime to reconnect with friends and family—to revel in being a member of a great community.

Happy Mid-Winter Break!