Headmaster’s Note September 14, 2016

Dear Flint Hill School Families,

 

As we continue our look at the concept of “best practices,” we have to consider the outcomes. Where does everything we do lead to? To some degree, this helps determine what paths will be needed to get there. There is an interesting concept in education today called “Backward Design.” It consists of figuring out where you want to go and then moving backwards so that every step you take leads in that direction. It is similar to the way engineers and scientists operate when doing their research. One of the things we created during our strategic planning process two years ago was a new vision for our school, which is framed around what we want for each and every student who walks our halls. I have always said that we need to make sure our students are confident and competent, but why or how do we make that happen? Our vision statement brings clarity to the outcomes we seek for our students:

 

Take Meaningful Risks. We want our students to push themselves out of their comfort zones. We want them to take a class they have never considered, try a course in a challenging area, try out for a new team or direct a play. There are opportunities at every grade level for our students to push themselves, from sounding out a new word in Kindergarten to taking on a student leadership position in the Middle and Upper Schools. And we, as adults, can model that behavior for our students. They will know that they can take risks in an environment where people care about them, value them and will be there to help them if they make a mistake. In the long run, they will develop the necessary traits of resilience, persistence, grit and tenacity, that will propel them forward beyond Flint Hill.

 

Be Yourself. Getting to know who you really are is both a challenging and thrilling part of growing up. For our students, that may mean discovering a passion for writing, a love for reading or an inclination toward leadership. Students may be artists, athletes, advocates for social justice issues or all three. But regardless of where their passions lie, those passions will inform who they become. Having the confidence to be oneself, rather than trying to please or gain acceptance from others, is a powerful characteristic that we want for all of our students.

 

Make a Difference. This is truly one of the most important things we could ask of anyone. Out in the world, making a difference could mean anything from finding the cure for a major disease to volunteering at a soup kitchen. Here at school, from befriending other students on the “Buddy Bench,” in the Lower School, to volunteering and pursuing leadership positions with a number of clubs and organizations, our students find ways to make a difference every day. We encourage them to continue by remaining positive, engaged, and in doing all the things we want young people to do for and with others. Actions as simple as holding doors and smiling at people as they walk the halls make our school a happier, a safer and better place. All of this is making a difference. And then as our students graduate, we hope that they will carry that on in college and, ultimately, in their professional lives.

 

You will hear me come back to this Vision Statement time and again throughout the year, because we feel strongly that it is a best practice for our school and our way of living. At Flint Hill, taking meaningful risks as an institution has to do with offering a broad range of challenging academic courses, talking openly about issues of diversity and inclusion, or offering parent education programming, such as this year’s Digital Education Series, before the school year even begins. From the electives we are offering to students in Grades 5 and 6 and the new “Husky House” program, in the Middle School, to teaching economics concepts to Lower School students, as well as engineering and robotics in the Upper School, we are taking meaningful risks every day. And each and every one of them is tied to making us a better school.

 

To be ourselves means taking pride in who we are as a school. We are Flint Hill, and we  we value and take pride in everything we do right here. That is what makes us unique and special. That is our Driving Spirit. Our pride in who we are and what we do makes a difference in the lives of our students, our faculty and even in our parents. We are a community and a school family that truly can have an impact on the lives of the people who are fortunate enough to share in that experience. And that is how we “make a difference.”

 

Best practices come in both large and small packages, and it is our focus on both that truly makes a difference. Next week, we will talk about our core values and their influence on what we do at school.

 

Enjoy the cooler weather! Thank you to everyone who took part in last week’s Middle School Back-To-School Night. It was a huge success and incredibly informative for the parents who came. Tomorrow night, we have the Lower School Back-to-School Night, and on Friday morning, we have the Parents’ Association Tennis Social. Please join us if you can. Next Monday, September 19, all of our students will attend the All-School-Gathering, an annual tradition for students and faculty to start the school year and when we light the school lantern. I will share more about how that lantern connects to our core values in my note to you next Wednesday.

 

Best wishes to you!

 

Sincerely,
John M. Thomas
Headmaster