Dear Flint Hill School Families,

As we come to this amazing milestone in the school year, I want to thank each and every one of you for your support, engagement and willingness to be such strong and positive members of our school family. It is amazing that we have already arrived at this point in the year! When we consider how much we have accomplished as a school family, how much our children have done and experienced over these past few months, and how many activities have already occurred, you can’t help but marvel at the multidimensional nature of our great school. The list of what has occurred seems endless, but you can still see smiles on the faces of our students; crowds of people attending our concerts, games and events; and the positive, warm feelings that are very much a part of our school family.

It is also exciting to see how hard everyone is working while balancing this wonderful sense of camaraderie. The holiday season, combined with exam week, can cause people to feel overwhelmed or pressured. While stress can be difficult to avoid, here at school we are working to implement mindfulness as a positive, helpful way to control and manage the pressures that naturally come our way.

As we head into this two-week break, we can never lose sight of the fact that learning is evident in every day, every moment and every activity. While I certainly want all of us to take time to rest, relax and rejuvenate, I also want to make certain that we always maintain a mindset of learning wherever we may be. As we prepare to step away, let’s keep a few things in mind:

  1. Find active ways to sustain learning over the break. Whether you are traveling or staying here at home, take the time to visit a museum or art gallery, hike a trail, venture to a small town you haven’t seen before, or learn more about a friend or family member. The idea is to do something with your children to open their eyes to new experiences so they may learn a bit more about the world around them.  We are blessed to be next to one of the great cities in the world that is jam-packed with museums and other cultural institutions. And many of us may be traveling for part of the vacation. Wherever the break takes us, there is always a chance to see something new and different. We just have to be open to the opportunity.Emily and I will be spending a few days in San Francisco with our grandchildren, and one of the items we already have on our list is to go to the Exploratorium. I have visited the museum before, and while it was referred to us as a science museum for children, I have to tell you that it is just as exciting an adventure for adults as it is for children.
  2. Read for pleasure. We ask all of our kids to read a great deal in school. But reading for pleasure is a quiet gift that we all need to share.  Whether we find a few minutes during the day to read or read while we travel, we can set an example and encourage our children to join us. While some of our children may be reluctant readers — Emily and I raised three of them — it is healthy for us to encourage them to find the excitement in stories that reading can bring. The flow of our imaginations and creativity, which books can stir in us, can make for adventures not yet experienced. It doesn’t matter if it is a hard or soft cover book, a kindle or an iPad. Simply getting the eyes and brain to work through reading makes all the difference in the world.
  3. Social and emotional learning. Holidays like this give us the opportunity to spend quality time with friends and family, and sometimes we are with people we haven’t seen in a long time. For all of our children, we need to work on that personal interaction. Personally, I believe it is one of our core strengths here at school. Our students look you in the eye, they shake your hand firmly, they hold the door for you, and above all, they demonstrate a level of poise that is a distinguishing characteristic of Flint Hill students. It is one of the things we are known for, yet it is something we need to always practice and promote. So as your children encounter aunts, uncles, friends and others, calmly and quietly remind them to shake hands, to make eye contact, smile, listen and demonstrate their great manners at meals and as they interact with others. It is important to keep practicing those good “Husky habits” during the break.

While this joyous season is the focus of our attention, I would be remiss in failing to mention the senseless tragedy that occurred at Peshawar’s Army Public School in Pakistan on Tuesday. Please join me in keeping the families touched by this horrific act and the entire nation of Pakistan, in our thoughts and prayers. While we may not be able to imagine what this experience is like, through our efforts in teaching and learning, we are hopeful that we are raising a generation of amazing young people who will truly bring peace to the world at last.

Please enjoy the journey that this break in the school year provides us. Take time to physically and mentally step away from the pressures of work and the day-to-day.  Take a deep breath, relax, and don’t let traffic, travel issues or whatever may happen get in the way. Above all else, be “present” with your children, be present with each other and come back rejuvenated and ready for 2015. I promise you, it will be one of the most exciting years ever at Flint Hill!

Best wishes to you for a very special holiday season ahead!!


John M. Thomas