Sustaining A Legendary Brotherhood
Those of you who have toured an all-boys private school are probably familiar with the terms “brotherhood,” “community,” “family,” and “fraternity.” Each boys school—no matter how large or how small—will emphasize the cultural construct of male bonding when you visit and tour. Yet, how togetherness is fostered by a school's administration, as well as the undeniable feeling of brotherhood, can mean something different at each institution.
At the all-boys private New England high school, Avon Old Farms, The Brotherhood is the force between all the many moving parts of our school. From how an all-boy classroom is run using interactive encouragement, to the groups of young men that go out in the community to purposefully make a difference in the Avon Outreach program, The Brotherhood breathes life and meaning into individual students and the institution as a whole.
So, what is the secret to nurturing and harnessing the power of this Brotherhood energy? Each school must determine just how important it is for a boy to palpably sense he is championed by the troops of students surrounding him. At Avon, The Brotherhood is part indefinable magic and part intentional development. The magnetic draw and benefit of The Brotherhood can build over time with the proper cultivation: in this blog, I share what we do to ensure our Brotherhood is the stuff that legends are made of.
How important is brotherhood to an all-male school?
At the CT prep school, Avon Old Farms, we boldly lift up brotherhood as our preeminent core value. We used to have eight core values, but we chose to consolidate our original core values into four: Brotherhood, Scholarship, Integrity, and Sportsmanship. The core value of The Brotherhood encapsulates the following four original tenets:
- Respect — A Man of Avon should pay those around him his highest level of respect.
- Responsibility — A Man of Avon should be responsible for his own actions and the actions of his teammates, classmates, and dormmates.
- Tolerance — A Man of Avon should be welcoming of all people. We have a plaque outside of our Brown Auditorium—where we have morning meeting as a school community during the weekdays—that reads, “The ways in which we differ are far more important than the ways in which we are alike,” which were words said by our Founder, Theodate Riddle.
- Honesty — A Man of Avon must hold himself and his brothers to the highest level of honesty throughout life’s endeavors.
For Avon Old Farms, brotherhood is the secret sauce made up of regard for one another (respect); taking charge of one's own life and helping others do the same (responsibility); showing empathy and inclusivity to one another (tolerance); and being true and honorable (honesty).
How can brotherhood be engineered?
A brotherhood as remarkable as Avon Old Farms' didn't just appear out of thin air. Although there is an inexpressible —almost mystical – quality to our Brotherhood, from Avon's inception in 1927, the school has purposed to build a sustainable and marked bond between boys. Our Founder, Theodate Pope Riddle, even planned her architecture in a village-style layout to promote increased interaction between the students. Continuing on to today, our leadership designs ways to build a lasting brotherhood on campus:
Morning Meeting→ Beginning each day together as an entire student body promotes unity and purpose. During the week, we gather as a school community daily for morning meeting. Faculty members and students are offered the opportunity to make school-wide announcements and club members also utilize this time to give presentations. Students sit with their advisors: everyone is afforded the opportunity to begin the day together.
Family Style Dining→ In our current digital age, eating together without devices distracting from face-to-face conversation has become an archaic practice. However, we understand and promote the value of looking one-another in the eye, laughter, and conversing over a wholesome meal as a small group. In the refectory, the boys sit together with faculty members at each end. Three nights a week, we have sit-down dinners during which the individuals at each table converse over a family-style meal without cell phones and social media.
Vertical Housing→ At Avon, you will never find an all-freshman, all-sophomore, all-junior, or all-senior dormitory. Every dormitory holds an equal representation from each of the given classes. The integrated living atmosphere of vertical housing is bolstered by the four to five monitors or ‘captains’ in each dormitory. These individuals are proven leaders on campus who are selected by the dorm parents to serve as mentors for the boys in their hallways.
Big Brother Program→ Upon enrolling at Avon Old Farms, each new student is paired with and can glean valuable life advice from a Big Brother. Like our dormitory monitors, Big Brothers are selected by our faculty as our preeminent leaders and mentors on campus. These boys provide our new students with guidance and they act as resources in order to help our new boys easily acclimate to campus life.
The Avon Army→ Perhaps the most accurate illustration of Avon’s Brotherhood is the Avon Army. Aptly named by a group of onlookers during our 2010 New England Hockey Championship run, the Avon Army has been rooted into the culture of the Avon Old Farms community. Whether there is a game at home or two hours away in New Hampshire, you can be sure that the Avon Army is going to be there and they are going to be loud. However, this type of supportive energy translates into other disciplines on campus, whether it is in the theater, in the art gallery, during community service events or at our concerts. Our boys support one another in every way possible.
What is the key to sustaining an epic brotherhood?
The Brotherhood at Avon Old Farms never dies. After walking through Alumni Gate as graduates, Men of Avon continue to stay in touch with their brothers.
- Diverse Geographic Events→ Our Alumni Office hosts several gatherings every year—spanning the world—in order to provide an event where Avonians from all generations can catch up with one another and with current administrators.
- Career Networking→ We provide alumni with a place to submit their professional resume or a job posting for their business. Using a password-protected website page, we encourage our graduates to utilize The Brotherhood in their business interactions.
- Connected Technologically→ We also have a mobile app where Avonians past and present can connect with one another by geographic location, industry type, and graduation year.
- Uniting Mentors → The Avon Edge Mentor Program creates mutually rewarding relationships by connecting students and alumni with similar major, college, and career interests. The goal of the program is to strengthen The Brotherhood across all classes by creating opportunities for our alumni to share their knowledge and experiences with younger Avonians.
- A Place to Grieve→ We remember and we honor our brothers no longer with us. The Brotherhood extends to a place deep within the heart of Avon Old Farms: a common platform to share sympathy and stories in the time of loss is a powerful tool to process through grief. Our In Memoriam page is the outlet for grieving brothers to express condolences or simply leave a favorite memory of his fellow Avonian.
Brotherhood is a combination of the chemistry between young men and procuring outlets for the elements of respect, responsibility, tolerance, and honesty to compound. The American Poet Edwin Markham stated, "There is a destiny which makes us brothers; none goes his way alone. All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own." At Avon, the Brotherhood is real ...and the results are extraordinary.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Avon Old Farms Class of 2011