March 29, 2017

Dear Flint Hill School Families,

Gratitude. Do you ever think about that word? I am sure we all thought about it over Spring Break. We were grateful for the time away, grateful for the experiences or trips you may have taken. Some of you may have even been grateful for the snow that finally fell. Bottom line, gratitude is an emotion we don’t focus on enough – here at school or in our personal lives. We need to make it more of a focus for all of us. Prior to Spring Break, I worked with one of our consultants, Ingrid Healy, to finish a series of meetings with families on a “Listening Tour.” I wanted to hear what people were thinking about our school. It is one more effort from our Strategic Plan to communicate more personally and in a more meaningful way. During the sessions, I heard time and time again about the great teachers that their children have had; the transformative experiences that have taken place at every grade level; and the appreciation that they had for all that has gone into our school culture. The process helped me to reflect on my own gratitude ― for the honest, committed, and engaged parents at our school and for the faculty and staff who bring life to this great school every day. For them, teaching at Flint Hill is more than a job, it is a way of life. And they have embraced the opportunity to educate, inspire and mentor our incredible young people.

I also felt gratitude for the great students who attend this incredible school. Their energy and enthusiasm, their smiles, their willingness to step forward when needed, their poise and drive for authentic excellence all make Flint Hill a pretty incredible place. In fact, that critical combination of students and teachers allows us to build a culture that is unique among our peers. Prior to the break, I attended the National Association of Independent Schools’ (NAIS) Annual Conference in Baltimore, where I attended a series of gatherings and workshops with educators from around the world. I was also fortunate to talk to a lot of fellow heads of school about a host of different issues. And while I always glean good ideas to bring back to Flint Hill, I also found myself thinking about how grateful I was for who we are. While our school isn’t perfect ― and no school is ― it is important to stop and think about the wonderful community we have created.

We must also remember the importance of practicing gratitude in our families. While we may feel great love and appreciation for our spouses and children, life can move so quickly that we can often forget to acknowledge that appreciation. That sincere sense of gratitude should never be taken for granted and we need to make a point to tell the people we love how we feel about them. One of our grandsons, who is turning five tomorrow, has a habit when we are with him and his sister to spontaneously say, “I love you, Opa” to me or “I love you, Oma” to my wife Emily. I don’t know what he’s thinking when he does it, but I have to admit that my heart melts every time. We need to be the people that warm the hearts of others more often. Those words can mean the world to people, and, too often, they go unstated until it’s too late.

A friend recently shared a short film with me about this topic, and I would like to share it with you. We can express our gratitude for the warm weather, for the beautiful sunlight, for the beauty of nature and for the people around us. As busy as we all are, it is important to take that time. I hope that as we charge into this final quarter of the year, with all the exciting events ahead, that we don’t lose sight of how grateful we are to be with each other, working as partners to ensure that our students’ lives are balanced and transformative. I am personally grateful for all that you do, for entrusting us with your children and giving us this amazing opportunity to educate your them! Great things are ahead.

Best wishes to you!

Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster