Dear Flint Hill School Families,
This week marks the end of the first quarter. Grades will be coming home for our students, parent conferences are looming on the horizon, and it is an ideal time for all of us to stop and take stock of this school year. We are past all the opening events and milestones, and the heart of the school experience is truly underway. To that end, there are two natural areas that deserve our attention.
Grades have become a major benchmark for evaluating a student’s “success” in the classroom. But while we hope that our children are doing well in that area, we have to keep things in perspective, and it is our responsibility to help our children maintain a healthy mindset regarding grades. In reality, tests are a sample of behavior and the concept of grades was created to serve as feedback along the path of learning. They are supposed to promote a moderate sense of focus as a way to assess how students are learning in a particular class, but they are not meant to be a major concern or source of pressure. Unfortunately, too often our national educational culture is fueled by the fear of college looming in the future, which has bred an insane sense of pressure among our students. And on an increasing basis, this pressure is coming from the children themselves. They don’t want to disappoint us, and they have a certain perception of what they believe needs to be accomplished in their classes. It is always troubling when I hear talented youngsters get upset by the prospect of getting a B, B+ or an A- because in their minds, that just isn’t good enough. We want all our children to develop sound habits, a strong work ethic, a motivation to do their best, and the ability to set priorities and manage their time. But let’s not reinforce the idea that grades determine their self worth or serve as a harbinger of future success.
Another area that comes to mind is the broad range of activities in which all of our children are participating. From clubs and sports to performing groups or even activities away from School – many of our children’s schedules are jam-packed. There is always the constant presence of something to do. We cram more into 24 hours now than previously imaginable, and for most kids (and if we are honest, parents too), we add more to the list without taking anything away.
So, what can we do as parents at this point? If the first quarter provided us with an opportunity for reflection, what can and should we do? Please consider these quick thoughts:
- Don’t take time with your children for granted. Time gets away from everyone, and time with our children is a precious gift. As Emily and I reflect often on raising our own kids, we realize that time flew by in the blink of an eye. They have created their own lives and families, and while we can always cherish the memories we make when we get together, we always look back and think, “Why didn’t we take our time when they were children more seriously?” Trips we should have taken with them, the sound of their laughter, and the fun of just being together at the dinner table. There is always that challenge of quality time vs. quantity of time. Quality is always key, but time is time and it is important to make that a priority.
- Keep things in perspective. Don’t overplan, overthink, or overdream for your children and their lives. Planning, thinking and dreaming are good, but it is the “over” that gets in our way. We have wonderful children. However, we need to be realistic about what we should expect of them and what they should expect of themselves. Don’t let the race to college be the driver. Enjoy your children and help them keep things in perspective. Believe me, they can read us like a book, and they can see when we are worried, concerned or when we start to react to a grade or an idea of theirs. They really want to please us, even if they don’t show it to us all the time. But they need us to model maintaining a healthy perspective for them.
- Embrace balance. Let’s all commit helping our children in every age group to maintain balance in their lives. It is okay to say “no” occasionally. This is especially true if the day to day becomes too much for them or for us. Have some family time and I mean just family; get to know each other. Your family is your family for life. Friends are great, but family is critical, and finding a balance that works only comes from knowing who your children are becoming as young people.
It is an exciting time of the year and one that calls on us to be aware, conscientious and open. Our children are accomplishing great things in and outside the classroom. You can see it in the Division Directors’ notes and in our children’s reports when they come home. They are taking meaningful risks, being themselves and making a difference, and we should be proud of them. Together, home and school can help make certain that the pressures and stresses that we too often hear about in the news don’t become companions for our children today.
Best wishes to you! I look forward to continuing to work with you over the exciting weeks ahead.
John M. Thomas