The Power of Hard Times

A Story of Recovery

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“You may have had unfair things happen to you, but the depth of your pain is an indication of the height of your future.”

~ Joel Osteen

    The best lessons are learned through hardship. I experienced my own hardship when I was injured in the fall of 7th grade, but looking back I can see it taught me powerful life lessons. It was a typical autumn afternoon and I was at club soccer practice. After warm ups, I was having persisting pain in my right shin. I tried stretching but I had a dull ache that wouldn’t go away and hurt when I bent or moved my leg. After the practice finished, the pain continued long into the night and the days that followed. Surprised by how long the pain was lasting, the decision was made to get an X-ray followed by an MRI. At Children’s Hospital, they slid me inside a tube for the 30 minute scan and we were told they would follow-up in a few days; however, before we got home, the doctor called explaining my injury was more serious than they had expected. The hospital indicated I had one of the worst cases of stress fracture in both shins that they had seen in a while. For six weeks, I hobbled around on crutches that made my legs feel better, but my arms feel worse. At the time, I felt sorry for myself. But, looking back, there was something powerful that came out of this hardship. I learned I could lean on friends - in fact I needed to - and they were there for me. I learned how lucky I was to not have something more serious or life-threatening, and how satisfying it was to be pain-free. I realized that being able to play sports was a gift, and that as hard as it was not to be able to run around, in time the pain would pass and the injury would heal. There are many ways to gain life lessons and while hardship might not be the preferred method, it is reassuring to know that something good can come out of something bad—if you look for it.

Power of Place

The Field
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Time seems to stop in certain places”

~ Jacqueline Bisset

    There is something powerful about a place that despite having witnessed both your ups and downs, still holds a special place in your heart. Reynolds Athletic Field, otherwise known as Home Turf, is that place for me. A few feet past Fenn’s white buildings and bordered by rows of evergreens lies a 160’ by 53’ plot of green turf. This is my second home - a home that has brought a lot of joy, pain and disappointment. On an overcast afternoon in late-October, this field hosted the Fenn Varsity soccer game against the Rectory School. It was slated to be an easy game, and yet it was a nail biter and full of frustration and anger. In the 36th minute Rectory’s striker slotted a clean shot to the bottom right corner, 0-1. What followed was a series of trash talking which angered our team. The halftime talk helped us refocus and become more determined. It was almost like a spark was ignited in our team. After a corner kick ball was sent into the box the fight for the ball became a fight between teams and the referee sent both teams back to their benches to calm down. When the game resumed, a tripping offense led to a free kick just 5 yards outside the box. The ball was kicked to the left of Rectory’s wall and curved into the net, 1-1. With just 10 minutes left to silence the opposing team, a Rectory defender headed the ball and from the centerline of the field, our right back sent a long shot that slipped over the keeper and into the goal. Our bench emptied as everyone charged the field to celebrate. Driving home after the game, I was struck by the range of emotions I felt on the field that day. There were real highs and demoralizing lows and yet that field held a powerful place in my heart. Most people have a powerful place, somewhere of great joy, good memories and accomplishment or a place that reminds them of sad and heavy times. Or, like me, they may have a  powerful place may hold all of these emotions and that is pretty powerful, too.

The Power of Passion

Tucker Winstanley
Personal Narrative – The Power of Passion

The Ocean is My Refuge

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"Follow your passion, it will lead to your purpose"


    The ocean is a gift to all who passionately enjoy it. It brings me peace and calm in a busy world. Each summer, when school ends and soccer takes a hiatus, I move to Kennebunkport, Maine for the summer. There is much to love about this town – my friends from all over the Country, my job as a CIT teaching tennis, the local Ben & Jerry’s and candy shop, the beaches, skim boarding and tubing. But, I’d trade it all for my time on the water. This summer I spent every free moment on Nemo, a small whaler I learned to drive early in the summer. Nemo is my escape from  chaotic days. One day, in late July, I took Nemo out past the jetty to the mile marker. The seas were fair, with small rolling swells. My goal was to catch mackerel to use as live bait to catch striped bass back at the docks. I cast my line and it was not long before I had five in my live well. One might think with my bucket full that I would head back home and yet, I seem to always find a way to prolong my time on the water. On the water, time stands still, my head clears and my heart is full. It is a refuge from daily life. It’s an unfiltered connection to the environment. Except for an occasional engine roaring by, it is almost silent on the water. There nobody asks me to do anything. I have total freedom to just be. I know it’s not realistic to think that I can always have this peaceful, carefree time, but I cherish it. There’s no question I am passionate about my time on the ocean. I would never presume that you are, but I hope that you have that place that you are passionate about, that brings you peace and calm, and visit as often as you can.

The Call of the Wild

Tucker Winstanley

Freshman English


Adapting to Challenges in the Klondike


“So that was the way. No fair play. Once down, that was the end of you.”

― Jack London, The Call of the Wild (Chapter 2)

    The wild wolf advanced, but Buck held his ground and their two noses made contact. As the wind whistled through the trees, the wolf tilted his head to the sky and howled. Other pack members sat down and howled and Buck joined their shrill call. The wolves were neither friend nor enemy. Suddenly, the leader of the pack dashed into the woods and the others followed. Buck followed and now the pack was complete. Charles Darwin once said, “it is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” In the book, The Call of The Wild, Jack London presents several examples of both humans and dogs who have suffered in the wilderness from the consequences of not adapting. Buck, the story’s main character, quickly learns that not only do adaptors survive, but that his own survival will require him to adapt to an even greater extreme by devolving from a domesticated dog to a wild beast.

    Of all of the humans and dogs in The Call of the Wild, Buck, a half St. Bernard half Scotch-shepherd mix, understands best the role of natural selection and adaptation. Kidnapped and sold by dog traders, Buck is taken from his gentle life as a domesticated pet and thrown into the life of a working sled dog in the harsh Klondike – a role he is initially unprepared for. Used and traded by several masters and working with different dogs, Buck witnesses examples where humans like Hal, Charles and Mercedes and dogs like Curly die because they have not adapted the skills to survive. Buck learns from their deaths. At the end of Chapter Two, Buck is famished due to a shortage of food for the sled dogs. Starving, Buck realizes that he has to adapt new behaviors to survive in the pack:

“He swiftly lost the fastidiousness which had characterized his old life…While he was fighting off two or three (dogs); he ate as fast as they; and, so greatly did hunger compel him, he was not above taking what did not belong to him… This first theft marked Buck as fit to survive in the hostile Northland environment. It marked his adaptability, his capacity to adjust himself to changing conditions, the lack of which would have meant swift and terrible death.” (Chapter 2)

This simple scene around feeding time shows how Buck has adapted to his new life in the traces. In his past, Buck is mindful of being respectful and polite. In the Klondike, however, Buck recognizes that to have the energy he needs to pull the sled and fight off other dogs, he needs to aggressively and quickly eat while at the same time maintaining a watchful eye on other dogs that might attack him. This multitasking proves to be important for Buck’s survival. In addition, Buck is now willing to steal food from other dogs. While this is likely outside the morals of a domesticated dog, it is what is required of Buck to survive in the wilderness. This scene is just one example of small but effective adaptations Buck makes to both his behavior and his mindset to survive life in the wilderness.

    By Chapter Seven, Buck moves past minor adaptations in his behavior to a more significant decision to devolve into a wild beast to survive. While at first Buck’s greatest threats were his masters’ “club” and the “fang” of other sled dogs, it becomes clear that the greatest danger to Buck is the wolves outside of his camp. In response, Buck physically gets stronger and tougher and emotionally he develops instincts of the wild wolves he once feared and devolves into a killing beast:

“The blood-longing became stronger than ever before. He was a killer, a thing that preyed, living on things that lived…surviving triumphantly in a hostile environment where only the strong survived.” (Chapter 7)

Now the stakes are higher. It is no longer about being a messy eater, or stealing from another dog to survive. Now it is about killing to survive. At this point in the story, Buck doesn’t just think he needs to make changes, he is “longing” to be a killer. This shift in Buck, from recognizing that he needs to adapt to devolving to the point that he instinctively and deeply needs to prey as a “killer”, shows he has moved from consciously making changes around how he eats amongst the dogs to instinctively acting and thinking like a wolf.

    The Call of the Wild should be a required reading for all high school students because it is not only suspenseful, but it provides important lessons on survival that humans that can learn from. Most stories need a challenge or conflict that characters face to move the story along. The themes of survival of the fittest and devolution to survive provide this focus to The Call of the Wild. These themes are important to the book because without them this would be a somewhat boring book on sled-dogs and their masters' long trip across Alaska. The need to adapt or die and the decision by Buck to devolve to a wild beast are responses to conflict that make the story interesting. The theme of survival of the fittest and the importance of evolving, or in Buck’s case devolving, provide important lessons for humans who must adapt like Buck. Buck’s example is extreme, but it demonstrates the importance of being flexible and adjusting to meet the situation one has been faced with. The theme of survival of the fittest is right from Darwin’s textbook. The only difference is that here, in a little over 100 pages, London is able to teach the reader this concept subtly and in a way that is more interesting than a textbook by providing examples of how characters’ decisions around adaptation and evolution impact them over time.

    By the end of the story, the change in Buck is significant. He has adapted to his environment. His strategy has been to devolve into a wolf. The reader is left to wonder how Buck has changed so much and what will happen to him. The author reassures the reader in his last few words of the book that there is no question that Buck’s adaptation and devolution were exactly what he needed to do and that all is right because of it:

“He may be seen running at the head of the pack, through the pale moonlight or glimmering borealis, leaping gigantic above his fellows, his great throat a-bellow as he sings a song of the younger world, which is the song of the pack.” (Chapter 7 )


London, Jack, et al. The Call of the Wild. Puffin, 2013.

Family Sticks Together

Tucker Winstanley

Freshman English - Personal Narrative



The Healing Power of Family


“Surround yourself only with people who are going to take you higher”

~Oprah Winfrey

    Healing the sick takes both modern medicine and the old-fashioned support of extended family. When I heard my grandfather had cancer I knew it would take an expert team of doctors and effort from our family to surround my grandfather with love and support in a way only a family can. At six years old I remember being crushed when I heard my grandfather, someone I considered invincible, could die of cancer. That night, as we sat around the family  dinner table, it was clear to all of us, that we could not sit back and hope doctors could heal him. He needed our love and support to get through this. My grandfather received the best care at MGH, for which I was grateful. Extended family cooked meals for my grandfather and helped with errands. But, there was a sadness and tiredness in my grandfather. My response was like any six year old - I colored him a card. He loved it and taped it to the mirror in his house. Each day I drew a card and dropped it off or took a photo and emailed it to him. These cards seemed to lift his spirits and he brought them to his treatments and shared them with nurses, doctors and other patients. Soon, all the grandchildren and children were taking turns making the daily card and the collection grew. At the same time my grandfather’s energy and smile grew. We were helping him by lifting his spirits so he had the energy to handle his radiation. Thankfully, he is now eight years cancer-free. I believe the Western medicine combined with the love and support provided by my family, cured my grandfather. Family brings unconditional love that helps cure those things that hurt us. If you don’t have your own close family, don’t worry. Family does not need to be blood-related. Find that group that cares for you unconditionally, and harness the power of your family to take care of each other.

Defining Relationships

Tucker Winstanley

Literary Reflection

Mr. Fitzsimmon’s Class


Every Relationship Defines Who You Will Become

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You are who you are by virtue of the company you keep.

-       T.B. Joshia

    The people you surround yourself with over time will eventually shape who you become. Jack London’s novel, The Call of the Wild, talks about this idea through the relationships Buck has with his various masters. Personally, the meaningful, long-term relationships in my life are with my relatives, teachers, coaches, and friends. Besides my friends, I have had no control over choosing these relationships. Not all of these relationships have been positive, and yet all of them have shaped me. Although Buck is just a dog, the author is able to use Buck’s relationships with his owners to show the impact close relationships can have in one’s life. While Buck has several owners with whom he has symbiotic relationships, there are others with whom he struggles. But each of these relationships plays a role in who Buck becomes and how he evolves over his lifetime.


    Written in 1903, The Call of the Wild tells the story of Buck, a St. Bernard mix, whose life is defined in many ways by the various masters who come to own him over the years. The story is set on the West Coast of the United States and Canada. At the start of the book, Buck is living with his master, Judge Miller, in Santa Clara California. There Buck has “the dignity that comes of good living and universal respect.” (The Call of the Wild, Jack London, page 3) But when Buck is suddenly kidnapped by the Judge’s gardener, Manuel, he is forced to move north to less civilized parts of Canada where he faces for the first time a number of tormentors who care less about his well-being and more about the money they can make off of him and their ability to dominate him. A stout man with a red sweater is one of the tormentors early on who referred to Buck as a “red-eyed devil” and is the first of many to strike Buck into obedience. Here Buck learns that “a man with a club is a lawgiver, a master to be obeyed, though not necessarily conciliated.” (13) Then there are the French Canadians, Perrault and Francois. He doesn’t love these men, but they recognize that Buck is hardworking and so even though they whip him, they are fair, calm and impartial.  Here Buck learns the importance of hard work and how to lead. When they are forced to give up Buck, he lands with the Scotch half-breed, who is more than willing to shoot dogs who cannot perform, which is a very quick lesson in how he views his relationship between he and Buck. When sold to Hal and Charles, he finds himself with masters who were “slack in all things, without order or discipline” (76), irritable, impatient, willing to beat Buck for not meeting their unrealistic demands, and lacking in gentleness. “They were callous to the suffering of their animals.” (81) With these masters Buck is barely living and has lost all spirit. It is not until the end of the book when Buck is rescued by Thornton that he finds “love, genuine passionate love.” (90) Buck’s relationship with Thornton is based on respect, devotion and faithfulness. It is the relationship that Buck has always looked for, but he cannot forget the relationships of his past. As he has moved from master to master, the harsh working conditions and masters have shaped him in ways that he can never undo. Even though he has landed in a great place with Thornton, he cannot escape the fact that his previous masters have left their imprint on him.


    I’d like to think that who I am is independent of those around me and yet I know from personal experience that I am affected by them. One example, for me is the various coaches I have had in club soccer over the years. There have been those that have been very invested in my development, respectful of me as a player on and off the field, and fair and honest with me as an individual. They have cheered for me when I have earned it and forgiven me when I have fallen short of what they expect. But, there have also been coaches who have treated me and my teammates terribly. They have criticized, instilled fear, embarrassed, guilted and argued for no reason. They show up at the practice or game mad and they take it out on the players. Like Buck, I cherish the coaches who wanted nothing but the best. They worked hard for me and I work hard for them. And, the nasty coaches, well sometimes they just got me down, and other times they made me angry enough to want to be better, to show them, to stand up to them. Buck has both of these types of relationships and both of them define who he is and who he becomes. When I play soccer, I can’t help but have a little bit of each of these coaches in me, for better or for worse.


    London wrote this book not to point out the importance of the relationship between dogs and their master, but to show the reader how important their own relationships are in who they become in their life. Through Buck’s travels with these masters we see the positive and negative impact people and relationships can have on others.


    Like Buck, we all aren’t always lucky enough to choose who we are in relationships with, but if given the chance to choose your company, do so very carefully.



Into The Primitive By Tucker Winstanley

Now What?


“Two people Northwest. I’m pushing.”

“Stop stealing my loot.”

“I’m keeping it, hah.”

“Jack, why has your player stopped moving? I said I needed back up. I have shooters on my back!”

“You jerk, Gavin. Classic you trying to blame me. I’m trying to move but nothing is working – damned controller must be jammed. Jesus, now your messing up my players, too! I can’t move either! All I wanted to do after school is play Fortnite.”

“I’m with you. Let's check out our fantasy leagues? Let’s make some trades.”

“You read my mind. I’m logging on. Are you serious?

“What, wait?”

“I’m getting a message across my screen. Error 404. What the heck is that?”

“I have it, too – it’s flashing on my screen. Maybe it’s the ipads. Could Mr. LaPlante be doing a system upgrade?”

“OK, but that wouldn’t impact our games, would it? Hold on, let me dig my phone out of my hockey bag?”

“Ok, do that – mine has no power. Is it working on your phone? What are you seeing? This is annoying. My mom has been riding me about homework and I have until 6pm to game and then I have to do homework.”

“That frustrating. I don’t think my mom knows when I’m gaming or doing homework.”

“I feel like throwing my phone at my computer. Not going to do it, but feel like it.”

“Raging, Gavin! My dad has a desktop. Let me see if I can get onto it up in his office. It’s not even turning on. I’m confused.”

“You’re confused? I’m so annoyed. There is literally nothing to do.”

“Just come over Gavin, I will unlock the side door.”

“I’m too tired to get off the sofa. I can’t move.”

“You are so lazy. Come over, Gavin. Get up and come over.”

“Why, what would we even do?” It’s too wet outside and mosquitos are bad.”

“Are you serious? Get up and get over here. We can play basketball or hang on the trampoline.”

“Nah, I’m good.”

“Gavin, get over here. Get on your bike and get over here.”

“I am too tired. I am just so pissed. What's going on?”

“Oh my gosh. Turn on your TV.”

“I see it, too. It’s some sort of public service announcement.”

“Is that Trump? He’s got an announcement about a technology ban.”

“Quiet. Just listen.”

“You be quiet. Are you serious? He is banning all technology use during the week. Oh, ok, but HE's somehow still allowed to tweet?! This must be a joke.”

“There is literally nothing to do that doesn’t involve technology. What does he want us to go climb a tree? You go climb a tree. Mother is screaming my name, it’s 6pm...says I have to start my homework. I hate homework.”

“I hate President Trump.”

“She’s still screaming! I hate my life.”


“Gotta go.”


“What....gotta go. She’s screaming louder.”

“Gavin. is down.”


“You can’t do homework…”

"Oh. Coming mother."


Summer Narrative Essay


Summer of Freedom

By Tucker Winstanley



“Summertime is always the best of what might be.”
-Charles Bowden


    From my bed, I open one eye, and glance first at the sky with the flag hanging on the pole, and then at the water to see if it’s flat. It is a daily ritual. Before I look at my phone or rollover, I just need to know what kind of day it will be. I spend my entire summer in Kennebunkport, Maine with my family - my parents and sister, and my extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. This little town, just 1.5 hours north from Concord, MA has foggy mornings, warm, but not hot days, salt water in the air, and cool starry nights that make this place super special to me. Everything I like to do in Kennebunkport is outdoors, so that’s why I’m interested in the weather. This place is where I am happiest. But this past summer was especially different because I found a freedom up there that I never had during the school year and one that had eluded me in years past.

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Belknap Reflection

Lead Your Way

By Tucker Winstanley

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, you are a leader.”
~John Quincy Adams

    The counselor shouted “5,4,3,2,1” and with that began the organized frenzy to grab construction material with which to build our cardboard boats. As each team pulled scrap cardboard, pool noodles and duct tape back to their bases, it was clear that the race had begun long before we even put our boats in the water. What wasn’t as clear at the time, was that this race was designed to highlight the opportunity for each of us to be leaders. I can tell you who built the best boat and I can also tell you who won, but more importantly, I can share that leadership is not a “one size fits all”. Leaders come in different shapes and sizes and it takes all of types of leaders to build a boat at Belknap or to head the School as seniors back at Fenn.

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Fenn Homecoming

No Ordinary Race


By Tucker Winstanley

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”
- Fred DeVito

    The kick-off to this past Saturday’s annual homecoming at Fenn was the Kevin White Memorial 5K. I have run this race every year since I arrived at Fenn in 4th grade. This year, I was sick with a bad head cold. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to miss it and so I took a co-Advil, laced up my sneakers, and lined up at the starting line. Let’s just say, I don’t train for these races, in fact I don’t even run for pleasure. I just love to run 5Ks when I can and this time I came in 5th place. It wasn’t a pretty finish, as I roared down to the finish line and headed straight for the trash can to barf (note: co-Advil and 5Ks don’t mix). I came in fifth place, but it didn’t really matter, because this was no ordinary 5k.

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