October 30, 2019

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Dear Flint Hill School Families,

It is amazing to think that we have reached a significant milestone in the school year!  We just completed the first quarter. Grades are being calculated and the fall athletic season is coming to an end.

The Upper School fall play had incredible performances this past weekend. Please join me in thanking and congratulating everyone who participated and helped with “Our Town.” It focused on families and family life through life’s journey. And this week, we have two major events, one for students and one for parents! Halloween is coming up tomorrow night, and, on Friday, we will have our annual Parents Conference day for all three divisions. How did we get to this point of the year so quickly?!!

As you go into conferences, please be certain to take full advantage of this opportunity to talk personally and directly with the teachers. It is a chance to ask questions, listen, and truly understand how your child is doing here at school. Occasionally, we find that our experience with our children at home and our perceptions of what is taking place in the classrooms may not fully match. I am sure many teachers will have accolades to share with you, but there may also be an occasional suggestion or concern. Regardless, please know that these comments are being shared with you very thoughtfully with empathy and compassion for our children. We all want your child to be successful, and, like you, we want to do all we can to help them do their best.

One of the guide posts we have created for ourselves is the portrait of a Flint Hill student. This document was put together several years ago. The schoolwide overview highlights our professional and personal expectations for each student, at every age level. Yet, at the same time, how do you translate that document to real life? These are the key factors that drive us to help our students develop the skills, work ethic, and traits that they will need to be successful, not only in their educational experiences but in life. We are playing for the “long game,” and together, I know you join us in wanting to impact your children in a way that influences the kind of people they will become as they grow up.

To be clear, here are the five critical components of that portrait. Here are some tips on how you can use them, as you and your children reflect on the end of this quarter.

  • Self-directed Learners. We want our students to become active learners. They need to realize that a critical aspect of education today is not the grade on a particular test. But are they learning how to learn? Some of that comes from asking the teachers questions if they don’t understand things, meeting with teachers during Office Hours, trusting that the teacher and everyone here at school are here for them. Remember, we are a student-centered school that takes that responsibility/obligation very seriously. It works best when the students are fully engaged participants in this learning process.
  • Problem Solvers. Obviously, all of their school work is about how to get things done. Whether it is a math problem, a science experiment, or working on a project to share in class, it is about solving a problem. And that problem solving is a lifelong skill that they need to develop in all aspects of life. They need to analyze what is necessary and figure out the steps that will take them to accomplish the goal, whether it is improving their grades or getting a project done appropriately and on time. And then evaluating how well they have done and making plans to do it even better in the future. We will always be solving problems, but each step is about learning how to improve the process.
  • Leaders. This is the sense of focusing on listening, supporting and, at times, speaking up — whether it is helping guide a conversation, helping a friend on the playground, working together to make something happen, running for an office or assuming a leadership role. We want our students to find their voice, even in the early years. We want them to find joy and satisfaction in knowing when to lead, when to follow, and when to join together with others as part of our team. Remember, we are Huskies; we are “pulling that sled” together at all times. And just because you are not out front at times, it doesn’t mean you are not a leader. Leadership is an attitude that helps propel all of us forward and inspire everyone around us.
  • Effective Communication. We want our students to learn how to write, speak up, participate in sharing their thoughts and reactions, and be authentic in who they are as individuals. As we talk about our vision of “taking meaningful risks,” sometimes effective communication is a meaningful risk. Mind you, this advice is coming to you from someone (me) who used to be petrified to speak up in class. I stayed fairly mute through secondary school and college. It wasn’t until I was in graduate school that a professor forced me to begin to communicate more effectively. I have never forgotten him or the impact he had on my learning and my life. And I know some of this effective communication is a priority at Flint Hill. Over the last few weeks, I have had communication with a number of great students, including two very well-prepared emails from fourth graders asking some very poignant questions about our school calendar, school policies, and why we do things the way we do.
  • Ethical Citizenship. This trait is critical; it is focused on our core values and who we are as people and who we will become as adults — whether you are learning the Husky Promise for the first time in Junior Kindergarten or learning how to commit to those core values as an adolescent, as we build an ethical framework to all of our experiences, and we are all learning what they mean in our day-to-day interactions. We encourage everyone to own them, to apply them, and to see them as a natural part of who they are as people.

 

For our children, all of this has to do with their journey as learners. And remember, for many of us, the concept of the journey is far more important than the ultimate destination. We are going to reach those destinations, I have no doubt, but how we get there is as important as anything. The tone and the pace we strive to create here, at Flint Hill, with our journey and our ability to learn from each step in that journey, ultimately is made clear for our children and for us as adults and as parents. So as we all reflect on this first quarter of the school year, let’s be sure we are listening to our children and the successes and challenges they may be experiencing. And then, help them find ways to be more self-directed, problem solvers, leaders, effective communicators, and ethical citizens in their approaches to everything they do.

Looking ahead, join me in cheering on our Huskies in the final games still to be played in some of our sports. And remember, the Kaleidoscope Book Club has their first session next Monday, November 4, at 8:15 am, in the Multipurpose Room of the Upper School Campus, to discuss the book “Educated: A Memoir” by Tara Westover. Join us if you have not had an opportunity to read the book. The Holiday Shoppes is only a week away on Saturday, November 9. That event will be followed by the Nutcracker performances on November 15 and 16, and stay tuned for all the concerts by our performing music groups that begin soon as well. And on Sunday, November 24, we will host our first-ever FTC US Robotics Qualifying competition. Go Huskies!!

Enjoy the week, and enjoy your time with the teachers on Friday.

 

Best wishes to you!

Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster

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