October 5, 2016

Dear Flint Hill School Families,

The pace here at school is consistently rapid. I often joke that it appears that we are learning to swim in a fast-moving stream. But when I do have the moment to take a step back, I am always amazed and pleased that the entrepreneurial spirit that has always been a part of our school continues to this very day. Schools have traditionally been among the last bastions of status quo. If you walked into a school in the early 1900s, you would see rows of desks with a teacher’s table and chalkboard up front. Today, many schools have a similar setup, and the teaching style hasn’t changed much from a teacher being viewed primarily as the authority in the room.

For many schools, this has always been the comfortable, safe way. But that is not the case at Flint Hill. While our classrooms may look similar at times, they also change frequently based on the project at hand or the need for collaboration and discussion.  Our teachers are more than authority figures — they are mentors, facilitators and guides for a very exciting new way of teaching. Flint Hill prides itself on having a growth mindset, and as an institution, we are always looking ahead. In fact, everything we do is intentional, deliberate and strategic. We take our responsibility to provide world class educational experience as our top priority. There is a constructive sense of urgency in everything we do. The world is on fire today with change and innovation in nearly every aspect of living. It is moving at an incredible pace. Every day there are lessons in history that are being added to what we will expect students to know. Every day there are changes in the political and social realms and in our sources for news and information. How in the world do you develop a program that addresses what students need to know as a foundation of their learning while keeping up with the pace of change in the world?

While some schools are reluctant to step away from “safe” educational practices, at Flint Hill, we know we have to prepare our students for the world that awaits them outside of our halls. Every moment has the opportunity to be a learning moment. In fact, our full faculty have worked to develop a statement that will soon be on our public website — the Portrait of a Flint Hill Student. This simple, direct document speaks to the characteristics we seek to nurture in every student at Flint Hill, whether they are with us for the full journey or only a period of time. It talks about our students being self-directed learners, problem solvers, leaders, effective communicators, and ultimately, ethical citizens. There is plenty of content in all that we do, but what the Flint Hill experience is truly about is who our students become as a result of our program. There has been this relentless drive for excellence in all that we do. We openly say we are embracing our Driving Spirit here at Flint Hill. It is our passion for learning, our passion for being together as a community, and a sense of momentum in everything we do.

This energetic approach manifests in very quiets ways across campus. In the Lower School, our students not only recite the Husky Promise at every Inspiration meeting, but they have also learned to do it in sign language. In the Middle School, each year, students and faculty work hard to create a Social Contract. This year it is: “Learn from mistakes. Be your best confident self. Treat others the way you would like to be treated.” They all sign it together to publicly demonstrate their commitment. And in the Upper School, every student and adult signs the Honor Board. This board is displayed prominently in the Commons area, so every day as we walk past our signatures, we are reminded of our commitment to our four core values.

In ways large and small, we are making learning visible here at school. For the past two years, our Lower School has been working with a new app called “Seesaw,” which allows parents to get daily updates on what is happening in their child’s class and around the school. Grades 5 and 6 are also piloting the use of the app. A sound booth has been created so we can begin to teach video broadcasting more effectively and efficiently to benefit our Middle School students. The maker space for the Middle School has been refurbished and enhanced, as well as the Robotics Room on the Upper School Campus. In the Upper School, you will see the new furniture in the Learning Commons and in the main Commons to give students more room to collaborate, to be creative together and to learn in new and far more effective ways.

All of this comes back to a very intentional focus with everything we do. Nothing is done haphazardly, and we are never satisfied with the status quo.

Enjoy the rest of this week; it truly feels as though the fall is upon us. I look forward to seeing you tonight at Dr. Andrew Doan’s presentation on “The Impact of Technology on the Developing Brain,” as he will help us understand the impact of technology use on brain development and what it means long-term for our children and for us.

Best wishes to you!

Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster