Growth and Potential

Dear Flint Hill School Families,

Over this past wet and cool weekend, I found myself standing out on our porch, looking out over the garden that my wife, Emily, has worked on for years. During the summer and fall seasons, our garden is as full, big and lush as anything you have ever seen. That is one of the reasons why we love having the Lower School students come to our house at the beginning of each school year. They enjoy ice cream in our backyard while they learn about the different plants and see them in their full glory. But over the winter, the plants literally die down to the ground; the yard looks as flat and plain as you can imagine. However, once spring is here, you begin to see them push through the soil and start to grow again. As I stood there this weekend, it was clear that even though they are not fully grown yet, they will be beautiful once they reach their full potential. They are well on their way in size and in strength. You can see the bloom beginning to come out in many.  And in others, you can see the plant beginning to mature to its potential and you see that it will blossom sometime in the weeks and months ahead. And before we know it, the garden will be in full splendor once again.

As I looked at our garden, I was reminded of Senior Day. It is a very special day of the school year; in fact, it is one of my favorite days. It is a very personal and private moment between the faculty, staff and Upper School students. Last Friday, Seniors had a very special breakfast off campus, and then came back to share a video with the entire Upper School, capturing their journey through Flint Hill, from their JK days all the way to their Senior year. It was fun, and even comical at times, to see these tall and mature Seniors as Lower or Middle School students just a few short years ago.

Then, they were given the opportunity to give speeches — parting remarks — to the entire Upper School. This year, we had the largest number of Seniors we have ever had, with 85 in total choosing to speak. Just as I marveled at the plants in our garden beginning to reach their potential, I stood in awe of all these Seniors, many of whom I knew back when they were in the Lower School. I saw their emerging maturity, excitement and potential as they shared advice, humor, reflections and a few surprises. You could clearly see who these amazing young people are going to become in the years ahead. Their potential was radiating from them as they took turns getting up on the stage. The Upper School crowd was captivated by their comments, advice and example. It was interesting, as always, to hear some of the advice they shared:

 

  • “Take every chance you get.”
  • “Question yourself: What have I done with my time here? Who did I help?”
  • “Ninth-graders, the person you are now, you won’t be that person in four years.”
  • “Be open. Build on yourself. Keep learning.”
  • “Take that chance. Talk to that Senior, help that Freshman.”
  • “Ask yourself: Whose class could I have worked harder in?… What trash should I have picked up?…What student did I pass who looked upset but I could have stopped and talked to and picked up their confidence?”

 

There were acknowledgements of almost every faculty member in the building for wonderful student experiences. Some student comments regarding faculty included sentiments such as “almost like a mother to me” and “the fairy godmother of Flint Hill,” clearly demonstrating the impact experienced by our students. In other cases, students discussed the people they wish they had gotten to know better, the anxiety of that first day of school and, for those who have been with us the longest, their earliest days at Flint Hill. Much of the advice given was direct and to the heart, “You can really make a difference in other people’s lives.”

Some students shared famous quotes that were meaningful to them. One student shared the quote from Martin Luther, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” Or a quote that has been attributed to numerous people, “Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” The insight, the thoughtfulness and the care that we heard from the Seniors was pretty remarkable. Many of them thanked their parents who were not present and made reference to how much their mothers, fathers and siblings mean to them. One Senior sang his “talk.” This young man will someday be an amazing opera singer “who we will all remember when…:”  He took the words of a well known song and put a Flint Hill twist to it. Other Seniors, just thanked students for all kind of things, “Thank you for your support and help.” “Thank you for being there for me when I was down.” Or “thank you for always reaching out.” One student decided to use his time to thank the people who often never get mentioned like the Facilities staff, the people in the housekeeping crew, the cafeteria crew, and even some teachers who often don’t get mentioned, but who obviously work hard to support their students. He wanted to make certain that they knew how much they are valued.

Collectively, it was another example of why, we are so fortunate to have these amazing students here at school. As I heard one time, “You can’t make this up!” These students are ready to take on the world, and I hope the world is ready for them. They are our “garden,” ready to bloom and grow to their full potential! The “soil” and “mulch” of our partnership between home and school has been just right, and we should all stand in awe of the amazing young people they have become!

Have a nice weekend. And join me in smiling with pride over this incredible Class of 2016 as they head off on their Senior Projects!!

Best wishes to you!

Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster