On a weekday last December, as scribbling students around campus began work on a midyear exam, Belmont Hill’s Health Team embarked on a retreat. The seven-person body—composed of Upper School head Mr. Bradley, Middle School head Mrs. Hamilton, Mrs. David, counselor Ms. Schmunk, consulting psychologist Dr. Thompson, consulting psychiatrist Dr. Bepi Raviola, and Director of Academic Support Mrs. Richards—capitalized on the rare chance for a longer, more involved meeting.
“We meet every week,” Mrs. Hamilton explained in a recent interview, “and talk about mostly the students, but sometimes the adults too—faculty, staff—it’s a whole family.” Despite weekly gatherings, the team yearned for an opportunity to examine the big picture: health at Belmont Hill as a whole.
An exam week retreat finally represented that opportunity, and the group did not need to travel far. Walking across Marsh Street to the Alumni House, the committee set themselves up in the basement and asked, “if the schedule didn’t exist, what would we want?”
They specifically reconsidered the function and appearance of health education at Belmont Hill, and the meeting—“a fun time to dream,” as Mrs. Hamilton recalls—ultimately resulted in a reaffirmation that Belmont Hill should offer health education to boys in every form and the decision to create a new position on the faculty: “Health and Wellness Educator.” Dr. Melvoin happily approved the group’s recommendation, and as Dean of the Faculty, Mr. Armstrong initiated a formal job search, currently ongoing. Teaching, overseeing, organizing, and further developing Belmont Hill’s health and wellness curriculum, next year’s educator will serve as a permanent, full-time member of the faculty.
“We already do a lot of health and wellness,” Mrs. Hamilton explained. “But we do it in a way that is not as organized as we’d like it to be.” Belmont Hill’s current situation is fragmented. Health education consists of a spattering of sessions during Mud Weeks and random X-blocks, two-fifteens, and four o’clocks, and outside speakers, ranging from Will Slotnick to Bob Bigelow to Peter DiGuilio, almost always do the teaching. Outside speakers offer important perspectives—and their presence will not be completely eliminated after the hiring of Belmont Hill’s new health teacher—but the decision to create the position speaks to the benefits that consolidation and consistency can provide.
An excited Health Team envisions the new educator working with boys in all forms, meeting weekly with groups of students during certain athletic seasons in the same way that Dr. Melvoin currently structures the Form III Ethics program. The team has also brainstormed a curriculum with “age-appropriate topics and an age-appropriate approach” to which the new educator can contribute and finalize. The Form I curriculum, for example, will continue to emphasize puberty and digital citizenship, but might also include education around nutrition and anxiety. As boys grow older and continue to engage in important, occasionally difficult conversations with the health teacher, the Health Team hopes the connection boys form with this faculty member will enhance the effectiveness of what they teach, a motivation that echoes the goals of the School’s teacher-coach model.
Although a vision and job posting exist, Mr. Armstrong and the Health Team purposely included no specific description for the role. Mrs. Hamilton acknowledged, “the job will change and mold after we hire someone.” The team is certainly mandating key qualities—a teacher who will be active and engaged throughout campus; willing and excited to work with Belmont Hill boys of all ages; and appreciate of an all-boys environment—but many of the position’s details remain undecided. Although the new teacher, occupied with teaching during most two-fifteens and four o’clocks, will not coach, potential work with community service, the Peer Leader group, counseling, and advising all remain possibilities and all represent opportunities for the health teacher to connect with students.
Meanwhile, as the search goes on, the Health Team waits in excited anticipation. “It’s such important work, and I’m so glad we do it,” concluded Mrs. Hamilton. “The new teacher,” one with whom boys can connect and grow, “can speak to the needs that the community voices.”
Dr. Melvoin, Mr. Armstrong, and the Health Team expect to interview final candidates on campus in the coming months.