Engineering the Future

Dear Flint Hill School Family,

I hope everyone is surviving this unpredictable winter weather. Constant change is always difficult, whether it is in our daily schedules or our daily lives. But change can also bring about opportunity.

I was thrilled on Friday to see that even on a cold, damp winter night, more than 100 people attended our first annual Family Engineering Night on the Lower/Middle School Campus. While the program was geared toward Lower and Middle School families, it demonstrated our focus on stepping beyond standard teaching practices.  As the concept of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) grows in recognition, the need to prepare our children for the future is a necessitated change.

Led by Director of Maker Education Lindsey Nelson and a host of exceptional teachers, Family Engineering Night was filled with imagination, planning and creativity. Students asked good, sound questions and developed strategies to solve complex problems. Learning about various engineering fields and how pervasive engineering is in todays’ world were great concepts to show.

The need to offer these opportunities for parents, students and teachers to learn together is clear. Our students want to do more and more, and we must provide them with those opportunities. They love what they are doing every day and want to demonstrate those new skills.  A Third Grade class even presented us with their version of a viewbook for the Lower School. The students wrote and designed the piece and want to market it to support our Admission Office. It is impressive and well beyond anything I would have been capable of myself at that age.

The field of education is changing for the better. And as the landscape changes, we remain committed to providing our students with the opportunities they need to learn in more personal, meaningful ways. As we venture forth into this exciting new era, there are three factors that we all must consider:

 

  1. We need to have a strategic look at our entire program, and we are doing that.  Guiding us on this path is the hard work being performed by Assistant Head of School for Academics Bill Ennist, our Dean of Faculty Emily Sanderson, our division directors and department chairs. Our Curriculum Committee’s commitment has been fascinating to watch as they debate topics like homework and assessment and discuss the new and creative courses that need to be introduced. Our institutional Strategic Plan, which is currently in process, will give us all confidence that we are on the right track.
  2. Faculty members will remain the most important factor in executing all of this.  We are blessed with an incredible faculty. Over the last several days, I have seen numerous notes from parents to division directors thanking them for the outstanding comments that their children recently received from their teachers. It was clear in each note that the teachers knew the students; they could speak directly to them about their experience in their classes. Our faculty members are passionate, talented and committed individuals who are deeply focused on their profession. I was also fortunate this week to meet Elizabeth Green, the author of a new book, Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone). A variety of articles on this topic have started to show up in education materials. The bottom line is that we have a responsibility to make certain that we have the right people in front of our children in every environment at our School—from our classrooms and studios to our athletic fields and courts.
  3. Time. Making time to get together to learn, grow and share is critical. This is why we do two-hour delayed openings every month to allow our faculty dedicated time to collaborate. It is why our faculty members are in early every morning before your children even arrive. They do this in order to prepare for the day, to gather as teams or departments, and sometimes just to meet with colleagues to discuss best practices to ensure that we are on task together.

On another note, we thank you as always for your patience as we continue to manage weather-related schedule changes. Please know that I look forward to seeing all of you at Winterfest this weekend. There is an exciting hockey game scheduled for Friday evening at the Kettler Capital Iceplex. The game will be covered by the Washington Capitals and Monumental Network, which will include an event recap and highlights of the game, analysis and post-game interviews with each school. Saturday morning will be filled with games here at School and a host of special events and activities.  Winterfest is another tradition that provides us all with the chance to come together and enjoy being Huskies.

Best wishes to you!  As always, thank you for your support.

Sincerely,

 

John M. Thomas
Headmaster