Dear Flint Hill School Families,
As we enter mid-January, we are coming to the end of the schedule for our formal admission events. It has been exciting to share with prospective families the realignment of the Lower and Middle Schools, the planned opening of the new Peterson Middle School, and all the work that will be done on the Hazel Academic Building before the start of the next year.
During these events, the division directors share the key aspects of their programs and then lead families on tours to experience our classrooms. I get the opportunity to give an overview of our culture and our approach to education. As I finished a session last week, it occurred to me that I probably should share with you a basic outline of what we are saying. We appreciate the fact that many of the families that I have spoken to at these events are here because of you. In many cases, they are your friends, neighbors, people you met at church or in other areas of your lives. Like you, they have children, and you have recommended they take a look at Flint Hill because of the impact the School has had on your family. We are grateful for that support, so I want you to have a sense of what they learn when they visit.
- “Give our kids unconditional love and get them educated.” The parenting philosophy my wife, Emily, and I used for our three boys was to “give our kids unconditional love and get them educated.” And we know the educational piece is why families are visiting us. Our focus is always on the benefits of the Flint Hill experience. Every private school has dedicated teachers, small classes and rigorous academics, but to what end? We want to make sure prospective families know we are absolutely committed to being student-driven, and that the student experience is at the heart of everything we do here. We talk about the benefit of having teachers who model innovative thinking and inspire our students. These are the same teachers who intellectually challenge our students at every grade level, while also supporting and nurturing them. Our focus is not only to teach our students how to learn but how to love learning and to inspire them to continue to learn in a personal and meaningful way.
- Passion over pressure. We share with prospective families that we are committed to passion over pressure. Everything we do here at school is intentional, deliberate, strategic, and relentlessly innovative. And it is always exciting to talk about our dynamic curriculum and how it will have a lifelong impact on their children. Layered on top of our curriculum is the ability to teach creativity, collaboration, problem-solving, and how to communicate verbally and in written form. I also talk about the relational part of this community and how our graduates often come back to seek advice, counsel and support from their former teachers.
- Happiness matters. One of the benefits I truly believe Flint Hill offers is that our students are genuinely happy. They have a quiet and humble poise about them. They will look you in the eye, say “thank you,” inquire about your day, open doors and do it all with sincerity. Granted, while I say they are happy to come to school, I fully recognize that there are days when every child still loves a good vacation and a snow day. But overall, they love being here with their friends and teachers and being involved in the learning that takes place here. And the learning here is different. It is not sitting in rows, writing down everything that is said, regurgitating it, and then moving on without real contemplation of what it means. The learning here is active and participatory — just like life.
- Our program is always evolving. Particularly among Lower School families, I often share a story about a day several years ago when I joined a group of second graders to take part in a lesson about Native Americans. A Native American Village had been set up on the Lower and Middle School Campus with learning stations for clothing, food, etc. I had been helping a little boy carve a canoe out of a log with a stone. As we headed to a new station, he excitedly grabbed my hand, looked at me with pure delight, and said, “Mr. Thomas, this is so cool! This is so much better than school!” And yet, what I loved about that moment was that we were at school!
Now, years later, I see that same excitement on the Global Day of Play, in Makers classes in the Middle School, and when I walk into a Robotics, English, or History classroom in the Upper School. Students always want to tell me what they are doing and share how they are solving problems. This is all because we constantly benchmark ourselves against other local and national private schools and even innovative companies like Apple Corporation. Who would have thought a few years ago that we would be teaching coding in JK and kindergarten? Who would have thought that learning music and singing at young ages would ultimately lead some of our kids into the arts with a drive to attend art schools? Art colleges have responded by coming to our campus to meet with our students rather than requiring them to go for admission visits. And in athletics, a strong emphasis on the Lower School P.E. program and sports in the Middle School have led to strong performances from our Upper School teams.
The bottom line is that I want to make sure that visitors understand that Flint Hill is all about action and engagement. And that being a member of our school family requires a commitment to a set of core values that are not static. It has been an exciting admission season, and we hope that your support will continue to generate interest, as people get accepted and then have to choose between schools. We all know what this community has to offer, and you are a big part of that experience. Again, thank you!!
I look forward to us continuing to make 2020 the very best possible.
Best wishes to you!
John M. Thomas