Rectory’s Legacy: An Interview

Driving down a long, empty road, snow-covered trees come into sight. A cold gust of wind hits my face as my feet crunch in the snow. Filled with anticipation, I step on the porch and open the front door. Despite being 100 years old, it feels quite new. Walking down the corridor during a class transition, loud conversations rush by. Crowded hallways echo with laughter. As people settle down, I walk into the library and a cozy feeling washes over me. I don’t feel like I’m in a library, but more like I am at home. The yellow lights settle me down and the lamps make me feel at ease. A unique Christmas tree made up of books stands at the entrance, inviting me to go in. People are sprawled on the couches, comfortably. Organized shelves consumed with books lure me to pick one and read it. Standing in this building, I feel the success of students who have come before me. Maybe you too can recall the first time you saw Rectory? Filled with nerves and excitement, the memory lasts in my mind.

Seeing the physical appearance of a school is one feeling; however, the inside community is another altogether. Rectory has accomplished much in its 100 years, but what matters most are the people who experience the school. Staff, current students, and graduates are the people who make the school what it is. Rectory is a community where teachers are enthusiastic about shaping students for a brighter future. The Rectory community values diversity, as students come from a variety of different countries all over the world. Therefore, Rectory welcomes everyone. One of the most inclusive students is Carson L. I met Carson upon arriving at this community, and he welcomed me in. Carson is a third-year student at Rectory, originally from DaLian, China. He started 7th grade as a boarding student, so this is his last year. Not only is he an active participant in the school newspaper, but he is also a robust member of our student council.

Carson plays a big role in making the Rectory community special, but he is not alone. Another highly-respected individual who greatly influences the school is our beloved Head of School, Mr. Williams. He has been the head of Rectory School for eleven years. Mr. Williams is the fifth head of school, and he started at Rectory in 2009. Both Mr. Williams and Carson sat down (via Zoom, of course) and talked with me in honor of the 100th-year celebration of Rectory. I found both conversations to be valuable; it was interesting to hear their different perspectives on the school because I believe both these people help to shape the Rectory community. Here is my interview with them.

Rectory student, Carson, on the left, chats with reporter Martin for this interview via Zoom.

The DiRectory: What is the most important skill you learned from being a boarding student?

Carson: Umm, well, first of all, being independent and surviving by yourself is a big one. You are just there on your own. Your family is 10,000 miles away. They can’t really help you with anything. In most cases, you are living in a single [dorm room] at Rectory. Time is important- there is no parent forcing you to work at this time. Keeping track of your own time is really important and is something I learned to do.

The DiRectory: Can you tell me about an experience you had as a boarding student during the pandemic? What support have you received from the Rectory community?

Carson: COVID first hit China and many Asian students could not go home last March (2020). About 30 Asian students stayed on campus last March for spring break. In the middle of spring break, COVID hit the U.S. We had to make the decision to either go back to our home country or stay at Rectory. It was a difficult decision, and it was very scary. You can imagine how scary it was. But the teachers on campus- Ms. O’Neil, Mr. Long, and other faculty members (there were a total of five faculty members who remained on campus) really helped me to get through that time. First, they locked down the campus. Secondly, they planned all kinds of activities for us to do so we wouldn’t feel lonely or even have time to think about the coronavirus. 

Initially, there were thirty Asian students on campus; twenty of them left for spring break. By the end of spring break, only ten students were on campus. Then two weeks after that, only four of us remained. I really have to thank the school for that. With all of the faculty trying to make us happy and make us feel safe- we lasted there for the whole spring term. (Reporter’s Note: The school was basically closed during the spring term of 2020, as the governor had declared a lockdown due to the virus, so all Rectory students were learning remotely.) We eventually got back safely to where we came from. So, I really have to thank the teachers and administrators at Rectory for that. 

The DiRectory: From writing for the student newspaper to being a Rectory Ambassador and giving tours to prospective students and their families, you have been an extremely active contributor to the community—can you share with us a tip on how to stay on top of things?

Carson: Keep track of what is happening. As a tour guide and newspaper writer- there is a lot of stuff going on. You might have a tour tomorrow and you have to keep in mind that you have to go to Admissions at a particular time. For the newspaper, it’s pretty flexible because you can write whenever you want. [For Student Council] Be confident and don’t think you won’t make it. When I was in 7th and 8th grade, I didn’t think that I would be on the student council this year. Many people are stuck on the idea that they have to make a speech in front of the whole school.  So, why not try? Trying won’t hurt. Making student council isn’t dependent on you entirely. It is dependent on others. Keep a good friendship with everyone. Be helpful in your daily life. 

The DiRectory: What is your favorite food from the Rectory dining hall?

Carson: Oh, definitely the chicken fried rice!  They serve chicken fried rice- although the rice isn’t great [when compared to what you can get in China]. It’s great fried rice that you can taste in America. 

 

Head of School, Mr. Williams, on the left, chats with reporter Martin via Zoom.

The DiRectory: As we celebrate the 100th birthday of Rectory, could you share with us a fun story or anecdote in the long history of the school?

Mr. Williams: Well, you know, when you celebrate your 100th, there are a lot of stories- you reconnect with alumni and they talk a lot about their experiences at Rectory and share the different traditions at the time. And those things are fun. There are also stories that come up and you wonder whether they are true or not. There is supposedly a story that there is a car buried at the bottom of the Rectory pond. We have yet to figure out if that’s really the case or not. 

There are also connections, too, with the past and with the present. This year we built an outdoor hockey rink so we can skate outside under the sun and the blue sky. To do so you have to scrape it manually and you have to hose it down and put a new surface down. Mrs. Levesque, our archivist, found an article from many years ago that the students used to skate on the Rectory pond- that’s all they had. They had the same experience- they had to scrape it and shovel the snow off. It was a lot of hard work. 

The DiRectory: What would you deem to be the most valuable legacy of Rectory?

Mr. Williams: The most valuable legacy is the alumni, for sure, and the students. We can talk about traditions, and we can talk about customs, and we can talk about events that happen on campus.  But, the most valuable component of Rectory is our students who go on to graduate and do great things afterward. And you got a chance to speak to some of them. And I get a chance to work with some of them on a daily basis. So, I think that’s the most valuable thing. The alumni.  Second to that is the work that the school does to support those students as they grow into wonderful young men and women. 

The DiRectory: The pandemic has affected everything and everyone in the world. What was its impact on Rectory?

Mr. Williams: It’s been tough, I’m not gonna lie. It’s been tough, the teachers have been asked to do more than ever; their day has been extended because they start at 6:00 am, some of them, with online classes and then a number of them still go to the regular lights-out for boarding students. They um, you know, the move from online to in-person takes a lot of work. The experience in the classroom is different, too. Everyone is wearing masks and, of course, there is some distance we need to adhere to. And even going to the dining hall or going to the bathroom — everything has changed. So that’s been challenging, but at the same time, everyone has faced these challenges. Almost everyone around the world has faced these challenges, and Rectory has done an incredibly good job of making this year as valuable as possible. You’ve experienced this from an online format. And, I’ve been keeping in touch with administrators who are working so hard to make sure the online students are learning on pace, and every sense I get is that they are. Rectory, it’s more than just the classroom experience, it is the community experience as well. And the teachers, again, and administrators did a terrific job working with the online students to make them feel part of a community, not just on their own in a room with their computer. And I think we’ve been pretty successful.

The DiRectory: I heard that during the pandemic, you opened up your house to help some children who could not go home at the time, which is very generous. Would you share with us your thoughts at the time? 

Mr. Williams: So, you’re right- when this hit back in March a year ago some countries stayed shut down and it was difficult, if not impossible, to travel internationally. In some cases, families didn’t want their children to travel because, at that point, the cases were very low in the US and the US seemed like the safest place to be. You know, our commitment is to our families, and if this is the safest place for the children, then we’re going to remain open and we’re gonna let the children stay with us. So, we did that, and it was interesting because all the classes were remote, except that we had this small group of students on campus with us. They didn’t go anywhere; they stayed on campus the whole time. They didn’t need to wear masks or anything then, because they were the only ones here. We were really a closed campus, and we would have them come over a couple of times to cook some meals. We cooked some great, great food too. Ask Carson about it; he’s a terrific chef. And he helped prepare some great dishes, along with Yoyo. I don’t know if you met Yoyo; she left Rectory last year after 8th grade. But, Carson and Yoyo were the prime chefs, and we had some great meals, some great times. That was a special time with those kids.

The DiRectory: As an interviewer, I was really surprised by these teachers’ generous offers to open the campus and allow students to stay over break. From my interview with Carson, I learned some important boarding skills since I have yet to come on campus, such as how to manage a busy activity schedule. I hope this interview gives some insight to my fellow students on what a well-connected, generous community this is. To celebrate Rectory’s 100 years, I want to dedicate this interview piece to Rectory. Many thanks to Carson and Mr. Williams for their time.