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A Call for Self-Reliance

David Racine, Dean of Students


“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
―Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is the second in a series on how the School’s core values—Courage, Open-mindedness, Self-Reliance, Curiosity and Compassion—can help guide us during these times.

When we hear the word “self-reliance,” we immediately think of having the ability to take care of our own needs without being dependent on others: parents, teachers, older siblings, etc. We think about the ability to do our own laundry, cook our own meals, and manage our time appropriately in order to be productive, healthy, and happy. At school, many of you have heard your teachers, advisers, coaches, or Mr. Webb express the importance of self-reliance within our community. As a student and a young person seeking independence, self-reliance is important to study and practice. We want you to have the discipline and ability to manage your academic schedule and workload, to wake up on time, to make use of your free blocks appropriately, and to know when and how to utilize your teachers, coaches, and advisers to get the most out of your Fountain Valley School experience. This outlook on self-reliance is essential for you to thrive as both a student and member of society; however, there is a more transcendental meaning to self-reliance that is of equal or of greater importance.

Self-reliance, according to Ralph Waldo Emerson, is your ability to find within yourself meaning and purpose in this world. These past few months have been challenging. The virus has brought with it uncertainty and some necessary changes to the way that we communicate with our peers, family, and community. With these ongoing changes to our every-day lives, it can be easy to focus on things that are beyond our control. It has never been more important to allow your head and hearts to guide you. When you fixate on matters beyond your control, you become restricted and dependent. When you guard your self-reliance above all else and focus your attention on what is within your sphere of control, you gain flexibility, independence, and strength. Knowing what is within your control and what is not, is essential to your wellbeing and growth. The greater your ability to care for yourself, the greater ability you will have to give to family, friends, and your community.

Embracing and practicing self-reliance may look like:

  • Assigning things their proper value. Self-reliance begins with identifying and valuing what is within your control.
  • Creating room for reflection. Create space to process and think for yourself.
  • Embracing challenges. Every day you will encounter short cuts. Building resiliency and strength does not come from the path of least resistance.
  • Listening. It is essential to pay attention to different opinions, thoughts, and ideas. Listen to those around you, but ultimately, process information and listen to yourself.
We have launched FVSV, and you have established your new routines within our virtual world of learning. I admire and applaud your willingness to accept change, to embrace the challenges ahead of you, and to move forward with enthusiasm and fervor. Although we have built an online community for learning and maintaining connections, we are all feeling the distance between us. And now more than ever, you will rely on your self-reliance. You will overcome these challenges, build resiliency, and grow from these experiences. As Emerson wrote, “Do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself.”
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