January 29, 2020

Dear Flint Hill School Families,

As the first semester of the year came to an end, I am sure many of you started to think about grades. How did your children do in the second quarter? What grades did they get on their exams? What has been the outcome of the first semester? And for families in the Upper School, how does their GPA look? All of these ideas tend to come up at this period of time. But I don’t want you to lose sight of the fact that at Flint Hill, while we take academics very seriously, we also focus on trying to counter some of the traditional paradigms of education. A better question to ask would be, “What did my child learn this semester?”

We all went to school, and we are all familiar with the lecturing and memorization that are often part of more traditional educational models. Research and our own experiences have shown us that, in today’s fast-paced world, those methods just do not work for many children. To some degree, they are “wired” differently and expect more. In today’s educational approach, we are getting kids ready beyond the critical curricula they need to know about writing, math, science, languages, history, etc. We need to teach them to collaborate, to work as part of a team, to cultivate creativity, to communicate in written and verbal form, and learn how to solve problems.

From our youngest children all the way through to 12th grade, we work hard to make sure that this educational experience challenges the traditional expectations of educational excellence … and, in many ways, ultimately surpasses it. Flint Hill is focused on awakening the curiosity in your children and getting them to think deeper in all that they are doing. We work hard to make sure that they are developing an authentic love of learning.

Our teachers and staff, through professional development opportunities, have learned about the neuroscience behind learning. We learned that social-emotional aspects are critical to having an impact on how we learn and that at Flint Hill, we challenge, support, and mentor our students all at the same time. We may worry at times about scores, grades, and all of those outcomes. But remember, those are only samples of behavior. So often, they are momentary victories or defeats. So let’s be honest; learning is not as simple as it was when we were in school. Imagine the history you took when you were in school. Now think about what has happened in the world since then.

Part of the beauty at Flint Hill is that we have taken time to talk about the “why.” We certainly don’t want to be like the traditional textbooks that simply are long in breadth and topics, but only an inch deep in real depth of learning. When textbooks are written, it is often a practice to simply make sure every topic that can be imagined is in there. That doesn’t mean you need to go through everything just so you can say you covered X, Y, and Z. The reality is we want our students to go deeper and understand the “why” behind what they are learning. Above all, we want them to be active, engaged participants in that learning. It is critically important for them to own their own learning and to earn it in the most provocative way possible. And as you see them do that, you can literally see the “light bulb” go off in their eyes and the smiles that can demonstrate the confidence they have gained in their learning.

Our teachers are constantly modeling innovative thinking. In every class, there is a moment where a teacher raises the question, “What if?” And then works with the students to learn how to address that. Our approach does not just demand that they memorize what is in front of them and regurgitate it back out, but encourages them to go deep and to make sure that they are working with a deeper knowledge base as they move forward.

And when it comes to what we see from our students at the end of the journey, I couldn’t be more proud of our graduates — what they are accomplishing at their colleges and universities, the schools that they are attending, and the successes that they are having. Do you know that many of our alumni have gone on to medical schools and are now making careers in that field? As you might have seen in our fall magazine, one alum is a producer at Netflix. We have graduates doing cancer and cardiology research throughout the United States. We have an alumn who is president of the Brookings Institute. We have a number of alumni in military service. We have graduates that are making music careers around the world in a whole host of ventures. Education, law, business, international affairs, the list can go on and on. Ours is truly an impactful program and one that our alumni often tell us, no matter what they do after graduation, that it all comes back to how they learned at Flint Hill. The challenges they faced and overcame. The depth of the learning they experienced. And above all, the support, encouragement, and care they felt from their teachers. We keep “raising the bar” on ourselves each day and the results have been exciting to watch. So if at times, school at Flint Hill does not look the way it did when we went to school, don’t lose heart. A Flint Hill education is preparing your children for their world and future, not ours.

I wish you all the best, and I look forward to what this second semester is going to hold for all of us.

Best wishes to you!

Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster