As this week moves on, we have learned of members of our school family who have been touched in various ways by this tragedy. Emotions can come quickly and the senseless nature of it is frightening to everyone who has been affected by the tragedy at the Washington Navy Yard, you remain in our thoughts and prayers. Please know that we continue to be available to help anyone who needs to talk as we deal with this horrific event.

While that local event plays out on our local front, we are now moving well into the start of the school year. Our Back-to-School nights are underway. Last week’s Lower School gathering was a very successful evening. Tomorrow the Upper School has their opportunity to talk to parents about the curriculum and the program, and next week Middle School parents will hear all that we have in store for our students. These are wonderful evenings and provide a framework for you as your children come home to talk about their day.

I thought about our educational efforts as I was listening to the radio this past weekend while driving. A report came on, talking about how businesses across the country are concerned about a weakness they are finding in college graduates. I braced myself as I heard that. I expected one more report about our national low math scores or our reading and writing ability. But the report went on to talk about businesses that were not able to find American students with the necessary “soft skills.” In fact, it was reported that companies were setting up programs to remediate their new employees. The soft skills they were talking about were, “collaboration… communication… creativity… and critical problem solving.” All of those are the traits and skills that we have been talking about for the last few years here at Flint Hill. As I drove down the road, I was sorry to hear that report, but I felt a pride in knowing that we are already teaching those skills and how important, in the long run, those will be for our graduates as they head off to colleges and then off into what their careers may take them. We have made them a priority and have worked hard to find ways to incorporate them into our entire school wide curriculum.

As you go through these Back-to-School nights, listen for some of the new vocabulary: flipped classrooms, collaborative projects, blended and online experiences, developmental design, responsive classrooms, design thinking, Google docs and apps, dashboards, and investigative math. You will hear about math specialists, maker spaces, instructional coaches, and learning specialists, as parents used to hear about chalkboards, handouts, and notebooks. You will also see and experience the technology in action as faculty and students continue to grow in their use and application of it. You will hear teachers talk about skills-based grading and the open grade book. There is still clearly an emphasis on writing papers, reading and solving problems, but we have added the necessary skills to our vision of rigor, challenge and excellence. Our outstanding faculty is working hard to be “leaders” in the educational world. They are striving to make certain our students are fully prepared for what the future is going to hold.

Such a challenge is part of our entrepreneurial spirit. It is incredibly exciting, demanding, and even frightening at times for all of us. But please be assured that there is a great deal that goes into each and every one of those efforts. The extensive amount of professional development we provide our faculty and staff helps build a framework and a foundation for all that we are doing with your children. It isn’t done on a whim or as good rhetoric for an admission open house. It is being done intentionally, deliberately, and purposefully as we prepare our great children, TK12, for whatever the next phase in their education will be.

I hope you will get as excited about what you are seeing and hearing in the classrooms as I do. Please realize that it has pushed all of us out of our comfort zones, but pushed the learning into the comfort zone of our children. They have the capacity, the desire, and the ability to move into this new educational world. They will be prepared for what is coming like a wave of change and in higher education. Our graduates will stand out even further than they do now.

Enjoy the Back-to-School nights. Enjoy the start of this great school year and please do not hesitate to ask questions or engage in the process in any way possible.