Mentorship in a Time of Uncertainty

In an uncertain time, being skilled at uncertainty comes in handy.  How can you be “good” at uncertainty?  Isn’t that something you feel, not something you do?  And isn’t that something you don’t want to feel?  

And yet, we urge our young people to be brave, to be confident, and to make strong choices in the world.  How can you be brave and confident without all of the information necessary?  Upon some reflection, it strikes me that this is precisely what bravery, confidence, and other admirable traits represent: a willingness to make strong choices amidst uncertainty, sometimes profound uncertainty.  It takes a certain bravery to step into the unknown, to try something new with no promise of success, and to be willing to make strong choices even when you don’t know what the outcome will be.  In other words, being skilled at uncertainty.

As School Programs Director, I want the students who come to Glen Brook to exercise their Uncertainty muscle, to practice this skill.  So we provide programming where students of all ages encounter things that they may be “bad” at.  We create opportunities for them to settle into situations that are unfamiliar—even something as foundational as sleeping in a new place.  We encourage them to make relationships with themselves and each other that include the capacity for mistakes, errors, and corrections.  

After a long year of COVID uncertainties, we are not quite done with the fog of confusion, the health risks, and social morés formed in haste and borne along by necessity. I’m proud of the way that Glen Brook staff have modeled care and compassion in the face of this fog. Students certainly feel the stress and anxiety of our times, but throughout this year the students have met a gentle, steady poise from our staff, even amidst unfamiliar protocols and changes.  Our commitment to mentorship has not wavered.

The world these students are growing up in is different in so many ways from that of my youth.  Mentorship includes being humbled by that difference, trying to apprentice myself to it.  Alongside all that we do for work or play, our greater aim is to model a kind of mentorship that they might one day mirror—that one day, when other young people are looking up to today’s students for mentorship in a different time of uncertainty, that they will bring a gentle, steady poise, a confidence in the face of the unknown.  That they will enjoy good work and spirited play, to hold to high standards, and to make profound connections in the world around them.

Jake Lewis, Summer Camp and School Program Director

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