A Sense of Belonging

“Boarding school teachers wear a thousand hats,” says Mathematics Teacher and Mid Class Dean Lindsay Leal. “That you are something different to every student is both the beauty and the challenge of the position.”      

Leal is getting ready to don one more hat at Taft: she will become associate dean of students at the start of the 2017-18 academic year.

            “At first I couldn’t imagine myself in that role,” Leal says. “I thought I would have to change who I am; I thought I would have to change the way I relate to students. But the dean of faculty said to me, ‘We want you to bring the relationship you have with students into this role.’ And I thought, I can do that.”

            In the classroom, in the dorms, as a dean, and on the playing field, the relationships Leal has with students are built on mutual respect and deep understanding, something that is rooted in her own boarding school experience.

            “I felt so important in high school. I felt that I belonged in that community—that everyone there had my best interest in mind,” recalls Leal. “I want the students I interact with at Taft to know that I genuinely think they are smart, and funny, and important to our community. It doesn’t have to be through some formal interaction every time, it can just be little things. We have so many touch points—we see our students in so many facets of their lives.”

            And in each of those touch points, Leal, is watching and listening.

“You have to read every situation, every minute and say, ‘How do we adjust to make this the most positive experience possible?’ Because that’s what I want for our students, for them to have the best experience they possibly can here.”