When the school year begins to wind down, it is easy for students and teachers alike to set their sights on the next great thing that will soon come their way, summer vacation. But an end-of-year White Mountain School tradition has a way of bringing us together for an important moment of reflection that might not otherwise happen until a reunion or special event much farther down the road.
The tradition is called, “Pass the Book.” On the day before graduation, we meet in the Great Hall to share thoughts and reflections on the school year. At the outset, you might think this kind of thing isn’t something a large room of teens would enjoy, or even look forward to. Yet, each year we hear from students who say they’ve been planning their “thank you” messages for months, even years.
Students, faculty and staff find places to sit around the periphery of the room, and the most senior faculty member, Paula Erskine, places a book on a bench in the center of the Great Hall. A pedestal with a box of tissues is strategically set nearby. The “Book” is actually titled “The Book,” and it is in Paula’s care throughout the year until the annual Pass the Book ceremony comes around at the end of May. The cover and some of the pages have begun to fall out, so there is a rubber band around it. Paula says she replaces that rubber band each year. A key was added at some point, and it clings to the center of the cover.
Then, the sharing begins. Paula opens the floor after reminding everyone in the room that this is the last time we will meet together as our boarding school community (parents and friends will soon be on campus for Commencement). Everyone who wants to share a message finds a way to the bench in the next two hours.