Cardigan Mountain School A boarding and day school for boys in grades 6 through 9
The Bullseye of Our Work

The Bullseye of Our Work 

By Christopher D. Day P’12,’13, Head of School

I’ve often heard that championships are won on the practice field, long before the actual game is played. The same could be said for an artistic performance, a debate, or our value system—as individuals and as a community. Similarly, the ancient Stoics believed that the phrase “It’s just the way I am,” or “I was born that way,” was spurious, and a far too simple way of accepting what one has “become.” 

At Cardigan—and in the Cardigan community—our work focuses on developing the mind, body, and spirit of our boys. While many parents and educators out there bemoan teaching and coaching middle school boys and see it as a hair-pulling exercise in frustration, at Cardigan we recognize this developmental stage as the bullseye of our work. It’s work that requires a long view—discarding immediate gratification for perseverance and patience—but it’s also work that is well worth the effort. 

Peninsulating into the clear water of Canaan Street Lake and nestled under the shadow of our namesake, Mount Cardigan, our 500+ acre rural campus, and the wonderful facilities we’ve created to serve us, are our laboratory. Far from any Starbucks or big box stores, and free from the addictive distractions of our hand-held electronic devices (Can we even call them phones anymore?), our programs slow time down and work on the fundamentals in order to better develop more sophisticated skills. 

Chris Day congratulates seniors after Commencement

Central to that work are Cardigan’s Habits of Learning: Growth Mindset, Self-Awareness, Co-Existence, Critical Thinking, Communication, Ownership, and Creativity. The first iteration of these habits was written in the late 2000s as PEAKS was developing into one of Cardigan’s signature programs. While the habits didn’t necessarily change the way the faculty were teaching, they gave, and continue to give, students and faculty a common language to talk about the progress students make as they mature. Posted in classrooms throughout the academic buildings, the skills are formative rather than summative, allowing for the growth and development of good habits that set students up for a lifetime of learning. Cardigan boys are far from complete when they don their white coats and alumni ties, but they possess a deep awareness of self and have agency; they understand that the route to success has no shortcuts and that luck is the residue of hard work. 

For the last few years we’ve all existed in a global pandemic, which not only claimed millions of lives, but also, somewhat less noticeably, claimed years of valuable in-person learning and socialization for kids. That, combined with the breakneck pace of life in which many of us find ourselves of late, has resulted in a loss of the patience and persistence needed to develop kids into mature adults, capable of collaboration, critical thinking, and open-minded decision making. Cardigan’s Habits of Learning, however, have stood the test of time and even through the pandemic, have been a firm foundation on which our faculty teach and our boys learn. In the pages of this issue of the Chronicle you’ll see examples of how, as one of our founders said, “Only on the basis of a good idea,” this school continues to serve boys in the right way, the Cardigan Way

Fall 2022 Feature: Habits of Learning for all Cardigan Students

Early morning view of Cardigan's campus

FROM THE EDITOR: When I look back over the many months it takes to produce an issue of the Chronicle, and I think about the countless conversations I have with the people in this community, there are always details that overlap unexpectedly, adding surprising nuances and subtleties to the stories within each magazine; history repeats itself, characters long forgotten resurface, faces in archival photographs look eerily similar to faces in the present.

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