With a Scarcity of Meditations, Students and Faculty Wonder What’s Changed

Susanna Montgomery '19

Here at SLS, “Meditations” are a time when the Upper School comes together to listen to a faculty member or student give a short 10-minute speech on a topic of their choice every Thursday. Speakers have shared stories of life-changing vacations, family memories, and lessons they have learned through personal experiences. The testimonies have always contributed to a tightening of the SLS community, bridging divides between teachers and students, and between students and their peers. This year, however, the number of meditations has significantly declined.

I sat down with Ms. Parker-Burgard, the Director of the Center for Leadership, who helps organize and facilitate Meditations, to learn more about this decline. Finding someone to present a meditation every week has always been difficult, Ms. Parker-Burgard recognizes. She attributes this to the fact that students and faculty are shy to sign up and often will cancel before giving their speech, and in the past, it has been a scramble to find someone else to give one after a cancellation. This is an unfortunate pattern.

On the bright side, the spring has always been a far more popular time, as seniors realize it is their last opportunity to give one, so Ms. Parker-Burgard is anticipating more sign-ups soon. Still, it is disappointing not to have anyone interested right now. There have only been a handful of meditations given this year, and only three of those were from students.

In fact, as of now, there are only five meditations on schedule. Two are to be given by female students – a junior and a senior. Two others are from female teachers. And lastly, there is a class signed up to give a group presentation. These demographics reveal that no men have signed up to give a meditation for the remainder of the year.

What does this say about the students and faculty of our school? Should meditations be advertised more? Should we further encourage public speaking? Should meditations be mandatory for more students? Are male teachers and students uncomfortable volunteering?

The questions go on forever, but as a student who has given a meditation, the news of this harsh decline makes me sad. I have always enjoyed Thursdays, as it is has been a time to learn something new about someone. They are often quite personal, and I have found myself in the past going up to people I had never talked to before, to congratulate them on giving their meditation. And what was an even better feeling was when people came up to me to do the same after mine. Giving it and receiving feedback after made me feel closer with my community, and it let people in on a part of my life that I hadn’t previously shared.

Public speaking isn’t for everyone, but it’s a skill that can help just about anyone. There are many mandatory public speaking opportunities through the years at SLS, but why does no one want to do one voluntarily?

I think this could be a reflection of the current climate of our world. Expressing your thoughts, feelings, and opinions has appeared much harder in recent years. So, is this the reason people don’t want to give a meditation? Are people afraid to speak their minds?

I hope not.

If you are interested in giving a meditation or want to learn more about what goes in to giving a meditation, don’t hesitate to reach out to Ms. Parker-Burgard. You won’t regret it.