Dear Flint Hill School Families,

Over the years, I have talked about engagement and how important it is to be active participants in our lives and in our children’s lives. Here at School, we encourage our students to engage in their learning―we want them to make it personal and meaningful. During just the past few days, I have witnessed a number of powerful reminders of the impact that engagement can have on us.

Many of you joined us for Saturday afternoon’s TEDx Youth Day program, “Worlds Imagined.”  You had a chance to absolutely be inspired and encouraged about the future of the world. We had 13 student speakers, representing our Middle and Upper Schools. The themes they covered were thoughtful, insightful and in many cases, well beyond their years. But they were engaged in their dreams, hopes and thinking, and they nailed them!

A big thank you goes to Joey Starnes, Lisa Williams, Rachel Marrion and their team of volunteers for providing the foundation for our students to have this opportunity. Senior Dani Wallace did a graphic rendering of her impressions of what each speaker had to say. If you want to see these graphics, they are displayed this week in the Upper School Commons on the trophy case as you enter the building. This is an example of real engagement at its best!

On Saturday night, our Parents’ Association hosted our School’s Gala. An enormous team of talented parents, led by Kristen Shiveley and Katie Helmer, put together one of the most exciting evenings we have ever witnessed. The venue was beautifully decorated and there were a record number of items to purchase. With no doubt, we all felt the spirit of our community that evening and took pride in being active members of our School family. While I know not everyone was able to attend, it was a moment for people to engage with each other and to support the School in a very special way. We even saw that engagement in a special fundraising activity highlighting the Parents’ Association’s Endowment Fund for Financial Aid in Honor of Sally Hazel. This is a fund for current families who experience unexpected financial hardship that will allow their children to remain at Flint Hill. The initial goal of $20,000 was nearly doubled in the course of just a few minutes. Now that’s engagement!

On Monday night, even with all the pressures of the last week in the quarter and coming off of two consecutive snow days, we hosted more than 260 people for the annual Senior Fiesta Dinner. It was packed, and it gave us a chance to celebrate this wonderful class and look ahead to their fast-approaching Commencement. Believe me, we are all engaged in that exciting event.

And just today, a Third Grade student shared with me the presentation he put together for his Student-Involved Conference tomorrow. I was blown away by the entire presentation, which was beautifully and skillfully done on his iPad. It was personal, professional and effective. He talked about all of his subjects, had included appropriate videos of what he has worked on, shared materials, and offered goals and reflections that clearly demonstrated how engaged he was in his own learning. His parents will not believe he did this on his own, but he did. And that is just one example of what our Lower School teachers and students are doing. They are engaged every single minute of the day.

Now, as we get ready to head off into the Spring Break, I want us to take this message of engagement with us and to engage with our children. Here at School, we share among the faculty much of the material that comes from a group called Common Sense Media. It is a great  organization based in California, and I had the good fortune to meet the CEO last October. This group, while very tech savvy, encourages all of us to keep things in perspective and to make certain that we don’t lose ourselves and our relationships in that process. If you click this link, you will find a host of videos that show us how we can, even as adults, lose ourselves in our phones, iPads and computers and forget about real life.

Spring Break is meant to be a time for real life. Whether it is watching a sport activity, taking a family trip, visiting relatives, or any other scheduled activity you have planned, please take time to unplug. Put the phone away and resist the temptation to check email incessantly. Instead, hold hands as you walk down that street or on the beach, stop and share an ice cream cone just for the fun of it. Let the kids stay up late, watch a movie together, attend a ball game, or play a board game. Above all, whatever you do, make it your time! Those are authentic, personal and real moments you will cherish forever. Your children need you, they need that connection.  Please know that 10 or 20 years from now, we will all look back at those moments and believe me, it won’t be that particular call we responded to or that brief that we finished, but it will be the experience we had as a family that you will remember! Engage!

Let’s finish this week strong, have a tremendous break, and return refreshed and excited for what lies ahead of us.

Best wishes to you!


John M. Thomas