August 23, 2017

Dear Flint Hill School Families,

Certain moments mark the start of the school year for me. Many of those moments are annual events and allow me also to mark the passage of time in our school calendar. I happen to be someone who values routine. I think it gives us a healthy structure to organize our thinking, get us prepared and remind us of what we have to do.

Last week we finished our New Faculty and Staff Orientation. It was a vibrant time and an opportunity for team building and sharing our unique school culture. The division directors and our Dean of Professional Development and Coordinator of Faculty Hiring Howard Chang, worked tirelessly to give this wonderful group a well-paced and balanced week. Then, this past Monday, we welcomed back all of our faculty and staff. They have been hard at work in division meetings, working as departments and reflecting on things that were initiated during post planning in June. When you consider that our full faculty and staff here is close to 260 people, you can only imagine the energy, focus and the planning that has to go into pulling off this week.

And then there are our students. For nearly two decades, I was a varsity soccer coach. I loved pre-season camp (which used to be two full weeks of daylong soccer practice), the excitement of the drills and scrimmages, and the talks we had over lunch. I have vivid memories of those early mornings with the heavy dew soaking my cleats. The sound of the soccer balls being passed about, the whistles of coaches and the players’ eagerness to get onto the fields for the first time. On Monday, I could sense that same excitement everywhere. It was something to behold to see Upper School athletes returning in their crisp new jerseys and athletic attire.

In the evenings this week, our college counselors have been helping our Seniors work on their college applications and essays and giving them one-on-one attention before the year starts. And our Counseling Department and Technology Integration and IT Departments hosted the first Parent Education program of the year, with an excellent presentation on digital education.

Each one of those moments tells us all that a new year is just around the corner. When walking the halls on both campuses, you will notice that classrooms are coming together, bulletin boards are taking shape, and class lists and teacher names appear by the doors of the Lower and Middle School Campus. Freshly painted walls and the sound of shoes squeaking on the newly polished floors are all signs that we are ready to begin our journey!

And let’s not forget the excitement of our eclipse gathering on Monday, complete with special glasses to add a bit of flavor to the start of this school year. Several years ago, we had an earthquake that helped mark this time. I’ll take the eclipse any day, but we will have to wait seven years now. You never know what the next adventure may be!

As we approach the start of the next school year, here is my advice to you:

Embrace the moment. The start of the school year is a new beginning for your children, with new teachers, new friends, new classes, new lessons and new experiences at every grade level. Please do not hesitate to savor these special memories. Take pictures. Remember that time flies, and this school year should be cherished for what it is. Make a mental note to reflect on this moment. Right now the school year looks like a long journey ahead, but it will feel like seconds have passed at the end of the year when we find ourselves talking about Closing Ceremonies, Commencement and preparing for summer activities. Eleven weeks have passed since we ended the last school year. We don’t want to wish our lives away — we need to value and cherish every day for the joy and excitement it will bring and for the potential it will hold.

Hold on. There is no question that every school year will be filled with energy, excitement, celebrations, achievements and accomplishments. Yet, we know that life can be messy and there may be disappointments, surprises and frustrations along the way. But if we hold on and keep it all in perspective, you will soon find out that we are helping these great students navigate through their individual journeys, and our partnership — between home and school — will make their experiences stronger and will ultimately shape them to become great people. We look forward to sharing this exciting journey with you and to following our vision for our children/students to take meaningful risks, be themselves and make a difference.

Enjoy the upcoming orientations. Please reach out to us if there are any tears, hesitation or anxiety at home. We want to be as helpful as possible and want you to know that we are here, ready to hold the doors open, both literally and figuratively, to help these great students embark on one of the greatest adventures in their lives.

Best wishes to you!

Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster