McFadden '20 and Slaughter '20 Reflect on Springs' Core Values

In the first Town Meeting of the school year, Indian Springs seniors Alex McFadden '20 and John Slaughter '20 shared reflections on the School’s Core Values of Inclusion, Infinite Respect, Innovative Thinking, Integrity, Intellectual Curiosity, and Involvement. McFadden spoke to the ways that Springs' Core Values guide students to becoming better people and making the world around them a better place. Slaughter spoke to the ways that engaging with Springs’ Core Values helps students to learn, adapt, and grow.

These reflections were an introduction to Springs' theme for the 2019–2020 school year, which will focus on our Core Value of Infinite Respect. Throughout the year, in the classroom and in our advisory groups, students and faculty will engage in conversations about the meaning of Infinite Respect and the many ways we can express it in our school community and beyond.

Reflection from Alex McFadden '20:

“I was five years old when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. While my classmates said firefighter or actor or singer with tons of confidence, I had trouble picking. It wasn’t because it was a profound question or because I had a fear of commitment. When I was five, I loved Peter Pan. My dream was to be able to wake up on my twelfth birthday and be able to go to Neverland and maybe visit Pixie Hollow every once in a while. When I grew up, I wanted to be magical. 

But that’s not really the answer the adults were looking for, so I just told them I didn’t know. It was easier that way.

When I was seven, I realized that Neverland wasn’t a real place and that Peter Pan was just a story. My theory was that if those two things aren’t real, it also means magic isn’t real, which also means I can’t grow up to be the magical person I always wanted to be. It was obvious that if someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I answered, “magical,” they would just laugh at me.

I wish I could go back in time and tell my seven-year-old self that he’s wrong. If he said something about how spells don’t exist, I would have told him that he can make someone’s day just by giving them a compliment. If he seemed convinced that magical people don’t live among us, I would have given him Time Magazine’s “30 under 30” to change his mind. If he complained that he didn’t have a wand or any tools in order to be on that list someday, I would have given him the list of the Core Values of Indian Springs and told him that Innovative Thinking, Inclusion, Intellectual Curiosity, Infinite Respect, Integrity, and a drive to improve the lives of the people around you are the only things you need in order to make the world a better place.

I was fourteen when I came to Springs and found a new answer to that simple but annoying question: I want to be someone who loves learning. I want to be someone who accepts people for who they really are. I want to have a strong moral compass and have the courage to do the right thing, no matter how difficult it is. I want to be the kind of person who comes up with creative solutions for complex problems. I want to be so sincere and so true to myself that other people have no choice but to be themselves, too. 

I want to be a good person because if I’m a good person, then that makes me magical.”

Reflection from John Slaughter '20:

“I came in eighth grade in 2015 from Altamont, which is our rival school to those unaware. To be quite frank, I was terrified. The upperclassmen and their apparent confidence contrasted harshly with the fear that I was feeling. Everybody seemed way too laid back, and the campus seemed too big. I knew very few people, and not many people knew me. But as time went on, I got used to Springs.

This school is a very relaxed place, but we also get things done. The Core Values, 
Intellectual Curiosity, Involvement, Innovative Thinking, inclusion, Integrity, and Infinite Respect, should demonstrate this. Springs is a place where students have fun, no doubt, but it is also a centrifuge for growth. Here, and I can speak from experience, you will find yourself more independent, more curious about the world, and more involved both with your respective communities and with yourself, or at least that is the aim of a Springs education.

Springs and its values do not guarantee success. In fact, I would put forward that they guarantee failure. It is our failing at these values that give rise to meaning. It is regret and disappointment that drives us to do better next time. Of course, I do not mean purposefully failing at the Core Values; rather, I mean that at Springs, the natural failure that comes along with life is viewed as an incentive to keep striving. 

Infinite Respect is, in many ways, unachievable. You will fail at it. But do not let this dissuade from practicing respect. It is investing oneself fully in the task of respect that matters. Failure does not entail giving up. Failure is rather a signal that things are moving along. Don’t resist it. Let it be your guide, and be comfortable with it to the point that it motivates you.
The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once wrote: “Perfection is the willingness to be imperfect.” This is Springs’ greatest gift to us as students: we are allowed to fall, and we are always given the space and support to stand back up again. We are given 350 acres to explore, a loving and supportive faculty here to help us learn, and a web of resources meant to harness and encourage our creativity. We are not expected to be innovative thinkers with boundless curiosity, participatory citizens filled to the brim with outward respect, and perfect models for morality and inclusion. These are, quite frankly, impossible to achieve, especially for high schoolers. But we are expected to engage with these values fully, to continuously strive after them with full knowledge that we will fail in the process.

This can be very hard at times and very easy at others, but it really boils down to trust. 
Trust in the core values, trust in the faculty, trust in the administration, and trust in ourselves. This trust is very difficult to both establish and maintain. Nothing is perfect. People and systems fail. Heads of school come and go. Old faculty leave and others take their place. Students are the same. Springs, like everything else in this world, is a changing environment. We must find stability in this change. I think this stability comes in the form of trust, but you must find your own constant. To the newcomers of Springs, I wish you the best of luck, and I ask you to be comfortable with failure, to learn and grow from it. To the rest of Springs, and to the class of 2020, I hope for a wonderful year full of opportunity.”