Mrs. Richardson, do I get points for trying Marmite?
I have been thinking a lot, lately, about the value of trying new things. In my capacity as Director of the International and ESL programs at Kents Hill, I am constantly amazed at the myriad encounters that my ESL and international students have with new things, each and every day. They are bombarded by new words, new phrases, new foods and new ideas – and every week brings a new campus event, the likes of which many of them have never seen.
Try explaining Halloween and Trick-or-Treating to a student from Africa or Ecuador; it forces one to stand back and think about what we do and why we do it. Or a Community Service Day … or a Mountain Day. And I will never forget wishing one of our German students, who was making his first foray onto the stage in one of our productions, good luck by saying, “Break a leg!” The hurt look on his face was a picture of woe, and I hastily had to explain why “breaking a leg” in the theater tradition was a good thing, not a harmful wish.
Next week is the International Dinner, a dinner for the school cooked by the International Club. Sixty to seventy students usually take part, swarming through the kitchen, waving recipes in all kinds of languages and requesting ingredients that are rarely found in this part of Maine. Miraculously, with everyone’s sanity intact, a fabulous meal of all kinds of interesting and exotic foods is always ready to be served by 5:30pm. Talk about trying new things … in my years here I have tried alligator, conch, sauerbraten, buffalo, poutine, ostrich, bulgogi, goose, sushi, kibbee saneeyeh, crepes and more. Each time I try a new dish, I can see the pride on the student chef’s faces as they share something that they love with me.
In reading my seniors’ college essays this fall, so many of them have talked about the ways in which their ideas, their thoughts, their opinions and their status quo have been altered, stretched, changed and expanded by the diversity of a campus where there are many religions, countries and cultures represented. It is a different experience studying Holocaust Literature, for example, when American, Japanese, German, Chinese and Spanish students are all in the same class. Recently, the Economics class had a vigorous discussion about Chinese food standards, a discussion significantly enhanced by the Chinese, Korean and Japanese students in the class.
As I stepped onto the plane in Heathrow, England, last Monday, after an exciting ten days with our field hockey team touring London and playing hockey with our sister school in Kent, Anna B. accosted me. All week, the team had been playing a game, earning “points” for trying new foods and experiences in England. They tried steak and kidney pudding, fish and chips, sticky toffee pudding, Curly Wurlies, the Tube, driving on the left, new vocabulary such as “knackered” and more. What they gained from this were new tastes, new ideas, new friends, and, most importantly, an eagerness to embrace new experiences.
“Mrs. Richardson, do I get points for trying Marmite? I really didn’t like it, but I did try it.”
“Yes, Anna, you get 1,000 points for trying Marmite.”
In my book, everyone always earns a lot of points for trying something new.
About Anne Richardson:
Anne Richardson joined Kents Hill School in July of 1998, and currently serves as the Director of College Counseling and the Director of the International and ESL Programs. In addition to working as the Director of College Counseling, she was also the Academic Dean for 6 years and the Director of Communications for 5 years. Anne is also active in the New England Association of College Admissions Counseling (NEACAC), serving on the faculty and as chair (2006) of the Summer Institute from 2002-6, as Vice-President in 2007-8, and is currently serving as President-Elect of the association. Anne teaches ESL and serves as the faculty advisor to Kents Hill’s Amnesty International program.
Prior to 1998 she was Dean of Middle School Students at Hamden Hall Country Day School in Hamden, Ct. In addition to teaching English there, she also served as Director of Community Service and Director of the Summer School. Ms. Richardson earned her A.B. in English from Oberlin College and her M.A. in Liberal Studies from Wesleyan University.
Photo credit: dontcallmeikke