August 31, 2016

Dear Flint Hill School Families,

The school year has officially started!  Students are back, our faculty has been back for some time and all seems right with the world once again. It is wonderful to see all the activity, to hear the laughter, and to see the eager anticipation from both students and faculty for what I know will be a tremendous school year.

Last week, all of our faculty and staff spent time meeting in groups large and small to prepare for this new school year. From a presentation by a guest speaker to sessions as full divisions, we worked hard to make certain we could help everyone start the year with a sense of urgency and excitement. As an example, our Lower School faculty spent time on the new Lower School playgrounds, getting a firsthand look at what our students will experience at recess time. It was fun to watch our faculty climb the new structures. This activity was evidence, once again, of our thoughtful and deliberate efforts to make certain that we have carefully prepared for what our students will experience.

Such efforts are an example of what we call “best practices.” You may have heard that expression in other environments before, but I’d like to talk about what it means when it comes to educating your children. Ultimately, it comes down to the learning process — what works best for students, how the learning experience can be made more personal and meaningful, and how to deliver an educational experience with an eye toward the future. Our children will enter a world that is far different than the one you and I entered as we came out of college. Things have been changing for some time. Businesses are looking more and more for collaboration, creativity, the ability to communicate at every level, comfort with technology and leadership. There is an increasing need to balance traditional and contemporary education, as courses in engineering and computer science go hand-in-hand with essay writing and memorizing the periodic table.

So what do best practices look like in education? Where do we get them and how do we integrate them into our efforts to teach children to be confident and competent citizens of the world? How do we incorporate the “hard skills” of collaboration, problem-solving, research, and the ability to apply what they learn on a daily basis? It is a complex, challenging and demanding process, but one that excites and invigorates our teachers today. To foster our best practices takes an enormous amount of work on our part, including leveraging the latest research from our own teachers, brain scientists and education scholars. We attend conferences and educational programs. Faculty pursue advanced degrees in their fields and bring that knowledge back to our classrooms on a regular basis. And we learn with and from our peers in such organizations as the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS), the Association of Independent Schools for Greater Washington (AISGW) and INMAX,  a consortium of 12 large schools from around the country that invited us to partner with them. These opportunities to meet with fellow teachers, share our experiences and exchange ideas have helped us to challenge ourselves and constantly re-examine and reflect on what and how we teach and learn together.

Much of the focus for Flint Hill’s best practices comes down to our mission, vision and core values. Over the next few weeks, I am going to share with you how that emphasis comes together in the work we do each and every day with your children. Linked closely to all of that is the Strategic Vision for Flint Hill that we developed during the 2015-2016 school year and the Campus Master Plan that you will learn more about later this fall.

All of this provides us with a springboard for what I know will be an incredibly positive learning experience for your children. These efforts, grounded in our pillars of strong, healthy relationships, a balance throughout everything we do, and a great drive for innovation and creativity, all add up to our definition of “best practices.”

I look forward to sharing these concepts with you this upcoming month.

Best wishes for a tremendous school year ahead!

Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster