Confidence and Competence

Throughout the years I constantly work to share examples or samples of our ultimate end product here at Flint Hill. It is easy for me to talk about our strong academic experiences, our amazing accomplishments in the arts, and our highly competitive athletic program. Above all, I love talking about the personal qualities of the young men and women who go through our school each day and who ultimately graduate and head off to incredible colleges and universities around the world.

As a faculty and staff, we occasionally take time to reflect on what we want our graduates to look like. We talk about the traits that we think are critical for us to be teaching and we reflect on the traits that we know will make our students successful in all that they will do in their futures. We know we have our four core values: Honesty, respect, responsibility and compassion. But more and more, I find us thinking about terms like ethical behavior, resiliency, grit, perseverance, courage, and determination. The bottom line, however, is that I always find myself coming back to two key qualities.  They are confidence and competence, particularly in a world that is hard to predict. I want our children to have confidence and competence, so that they are ready for whatever may come their way.

Confidence is the tough one. It is so personal. It gets into facets of our self esteem; our willingness to risk doing new things or trying new things. It can be as involved as coming to a new school – making new friends and meeting new teachers, moving into a new building, taking challenging classes, trying a sport or an art that is new and different. Or it can be as simple as having the confidence to speak up in class or talk before a group. Would you be surprised to know that in psychological studies, the fear of public speaking ranks up there as the number one fear people have? Death is actually number two! So confidence in life will be a key trait we have to nurture, foster, and instill in our students.

I saw two prime examples of that emerging confidence and competence in just the past week. Last Wednesday night, our great counseling department, hosted 8th grade families at a Community of Concern event. Nearly every student and at least one parent were there to take part in roundtable discussions on drugs and alcohol prevention. The lead speaker was a Senior Bryce Johnson, talking about why he had chosen to remain drug and alcohol free during his high school career. His incredible, open, and honest presentation, showed tremendous confidence and a level of passion and competence that you just don’t see in many young people today. It was very impressive to everyone there and really was a highlight of our efforts in alcohol and drug prevention. He was followed by our guest speaker, who had been working with the students for several days already.

As part of the format of the Community of Concern evening, students and parents sit at separate tables.  Students are at tables with the parents of other students, not their parents. There were a series of questions that our guest speaker provided for parents to ask the students and questions that the students could ask parents. They had about 45 minutes to go through that exercise. It could have been deadly; it could have been quiet, and it could have been awkward.  And yet, as we moved around the room, you clearly got the sense that there were serious discussions going on and that nearly everyone was participating.  After that exercise, our guest speaker wrapped up her comments by calling on folks from the tables to share what the conversation had been like for them.  She chose students first. My initial worry was that there would be no youngsters willing to volunteer to speak up in front of their peers and in front of adults…who would include their own parents sitting elsewhere in the gym. To my great delight, at least eight hands went up around the room. And as each student was given the opportunity to speak and share their views, they spoke with a level of confidence and competence that was impressive to see. And please remember these were our 8th grade students. They shared insights about how pleased they were to hear from other people. They welcomed their classmate’s views, and appreciated hearing from other parents as well. In fact, when it was the parents’ turn to share their reactions, only a few spoke up. But those eight students will be forever in my mind! That moment took courage also, but above all, I came away thinking about their poise, their passion, and their confidence.

And on Thursday evening, we held the Arts Jam Concert at George Mason University. It was the most amazing high school concert, I think, I have ever witnessed. Besides remarkable staging and the ability to really have each of the groups supporting each other, I was blown away by the confidence and competence demonstrated by the students as they stood and played in the different musical groups, as they danced, as they walked to the microphone to sing solos, and how they shared the moment as part as of an ensemble. There was no embarrassment. There was no reluctance. There was only confidence, competence and, this time, a pride. Not an arrogant or false pride, but one of respect for what they were doing, appreciation for what they have learned working with their phenomenal teachers, and an evident joy in sharing this remarkable moment with the audience. Their poise, manners, and ability to step up and perform in that amazing venue were something to behold! It was an evening that will never be forgotten and one that clearly showed that our students were gaining the confidence and competence we all want them to have for whatever future endeavors they may seek.

Such traits don’t come easily. They don’t just happen overnight. They take deliberate work at home working with parents; at school working with great faculty and staff; and from inside themselves as they push themselves to new levels of learning.

Confidence and competence are demonstrated across our three divisions each and every day. I see it in our Lower School students, when I walk through the hallways and students come up to me to say, “Hi,” and to share what they are doing. I saw it in the confidence displayed by our 8th grade students during the Community of Concern evening.  I see it when they do their Inspiration talks. And all the way up to our Upper School students in their performance last week! We should all take pride in these moments and have confidence ourselves that the system is working and that there are great things ahead for our Huskies.

Congratulations to everyone! The future looks bright for our young people as they continue on their educational journey. Challenges will come their way. And they may face moments well outside their comfort zones.  But I know for a fact, that they are developing the confidence and competence to be resilient, to be determined, to make good decisions, and to share their growing skills and talents with us!  As my youngest son often says, “It is all good!”

Have a super Springfest this weekend.  Please join us to cheer on our confident athletes, enjoy the Husky 5K/Fun Run, and enjoy a beautiful day! Next week, brings a beautiful Ceramics Reception on Monday, April 28, at 6 p.m.; the Upper School Honor Society Inductions is on Wednesday, April 30 at 7:00 pm; and the Upper School Dessert Theater production of “Sarah, Plain and Tall”, is on Friday, May 2, and Saturday, May 3 (both at 7:30 p.m.). Watch for the confidence and competence whenever you see our amazing students, and join me in congratulating them on a job well done!