Teaching ESL and mothering the students of a California arts high school.
The popular Dean of Students of a California arts high school is a systematizer who loves making things work.
“The entire boarding school community has ample reason to feel safe,” says Randal Doaty.
Preparing for a long and healthy life at a California arts high school
“As many as one in five teenagers don’t get needed medical care” and those “who did not receive necessary medical care reported their health as fair to poor as adults.”
The story gets worse:
“They also suffered more physical limitations in completing regular daily tasks, and experienced higher rates of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts.”
The bad news doesn’t surprise Daniel Gray, Idyllwild Arts Academy’s new Director of Student Services.
Daniel spent four of his own teenage years at the Academy, graduating in 1997 in Visual Arts. That training and his B.A. in Multi-Media Studies, from the University of Redlands, prepared him to teach ceramics at the Academy from 2004 to 2006. He left the teaching profession briefly, but love of the Academy brought him back, in 2009, to lead an extraordinary Physical Education program that familiarized students with Idyllwild’s natural mountain environment.
Perhaps none of his P.E. students acquired the expertise he possesses in tracking wild animals. But they developed a subtle appreciation of the area’s breathtaking beauty, as well as knowledge of how to stay safe despite often-concealed perils such as rattlesnakes.
In Daniel’s new job he’ll keep teaching about safety, for which he is well-equipped by his studies at California State University, San Bernardino. CSUSB recently awarded his Master’s in Education; Holistic and Integrative Education — honoring him for the outstanding project of 2015–2016.
It’s often assumed that many teenagers neglect health and safety because they consider themselves “bullet-proof.” However, the frequent inability of teenagers to imagine their own poor health or death might be exaggerated among those with strong artistic impulses.
“Our students may not anticipate the common artists’ pitfalls of drugs, alcohol, and suicide,” Daniel suggests.
The exploring, the challenging of conventions, and the risk-taking encouraged by arts education can seem to beckon some individuals onto dangerous paths.
That’s why Daniel will be in charge of a Student Life curriculum “that teaches a holistic approach to health and longevity, specifically with our school and students in mind.”
The Student Life curriculum will continue his CSUSB work.
“The purpose of this study,” he wrote in the Abstract for his Master’s thesis, “was to discover the major concepts of health and longevity and address the best practices for creating an advanced curriculum that addressed these concepts in relation to the context of the students and school where I teach.”
Daniel sits in an Idyllwild Arts campus office on a July morning that hasn’t heated up quite enough to justify turning on the air conditioning. He edges forward in his chair, body language betraying excitement about his new job.
“We’ll teach grade-level-specific life skills and include a fair amount of meditation sessions. Plus we’re still looking for more presenters on important themes like sex, drugs, relaxation, body image, and bullying.
A consummate team player, Daniel takes care to say “we,” since he will lead the Student Life curriculum, not dominate it. For example, Karin Obermeier, a longtime Humanities teacher with a Ph.D. in German Studies, will make a vital contribution with her knowledge of gender and sexuality issues.
“Gender and sexuality are so important to who one is,” she argues, “that as educators we need to teach about this. I want to provide accurate information and a basis for choices leading to a lifetime of positive experience of sex and sexuality.”
Karin views sexuality as “a way to connect to another person spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally, as well as physically.”
Teenagers sometimes appear so desperate to form connections (not only sexually) that they’re undiscriminating about the people they connect to. They are changing so rapidly that they’re not sure who they are, and connections formed quickly and with poor judgment offer the illusion of a stable identity, reflected in a mirror held by others.
College Counselors Molly Newman and Sabrina Strickland will also help teach the Student Life curriculum, as will Sterling Dutton, of the P.E./Life Skills Faculty, and so will the student leaders chosen to serve as dorm Prefects. They will all focus on the kind of personal growth that helps teenagers build a secure sense of self. Greater self-knowledge and confidence in their own identities will help them steer clear of unhealthy relationships and other types of destructive behavior.
As Daniel writes in his outline of the Student Life curriculum, the “goal is for each student to develop the behaviors and habits that will contribute to a long and healthy life in the arts.”
A California arts high school offers extraordinary volunteering opportunities in Africa.
“After all that hard work, the kids would come and call my name. It was really fun!”
As well as she has done during her three years at Idyllwild Arts, however, was it always smooth sailing?