Preparing Our Students for Life

On the West Campus, the Upper School building, there is an unusual “quiet” that happens at this time, every year. Much of the quiet has to do with the fact that last Friday was Senior Day. Our Seniors were here for the last time, as an entire class, until we reach Commencement Week. The only courses that they are continuing to take are their Advanced Placement classes. Otherwise, our Seniors are off on their Senior Projects. Working with various companies, hospitals, law firms, and a whole host of businesses, they are spending the month of May in the real world. When you have 123 Seniors all of a sudden vacate the building, it leaves quite a void!

Senior Day is a day when we experienced a very touching process as a number of Seniors took the opportunity, in two-minute segments, to leave parting words of advice for the underclassmen.  Just imagine over 500 students and our entire Upper School faculty and staff gathering in the Commons, listening to these heartfelt remarks and sensing the bittersweet nature of graduation. These are students we have watched grow and develop into responsible young adults and now, they are ready to leave us.  Many of the students took this time to thank various teachers who have meant the world to them. This ceremony always makes it very clear that all of our experiences come down to relationships. Seniors sang the praises of teachers, they encouraged students to take their classes, and they made it clear how much their friends and families have meant to them.  What I love the most about Senior Day, however, is the advice they share.  We heard things like:

  • “A teacher once said to me, “Find your ‘person’ in college.” I have already found my ‘person’ right here and I want you to know you can find your person, yourself, right here at Flint Hill.”
  • “It always amazes me how the teachers here all know your name. Take advantage of that.”
  • “Take time to do things. Be conscious of your actions.”
  • “Never expect anything you did not work for.”
  • “Cherish your time left at Flint Hill. Don’t sit back and complain.”
  • “I would do this all over again if I had the chance.”
  • “Find your passion and stick with it. You’ll never know when it can be taken away.”
  • “Do something outside the school, with people from school.”
  • “You couldn’t ask for better role models. Get to know your teachers.”
  • “Don’t hide from your problems. Embrace them. Flint Hill will be there for you.”
  • “Some things can’t be explained. They just have to be felt.”

It was a powerful day and one that students and teachers always appreciate. It is a very sacred moment between students and faculty members.

And this past Monday, our Seniors began to work on their Senior Projects. These projects involve a series of expectations.  Working with a faculty sponsor, they record their everyday experiences in a journal and compile materials from their internships in order to make a final presentation at the end. They ultimately share these materials and they reflect on what they have learned. It is quite an experience to watch them handle those presentations. At Flint Hill, we prepare our Seniors not just for the great colleges and universities that they are about to attend, but we get them ready for the world. This experience draws on everything they have been learning and every positive trait they have developed here. They are pushed out of their comfort zones and they stand on their own – not just among peers – but also among the adults that they may be working with in the years to come.  The confidence and competence they demonstrate is always exciting to behold.

But there is another “quietness” that permeates the building.  It has to do with the Advanced Placement tests.  This year we will be giving over 500 exams. Our Director of College Counseling Suzy Chiarolanzio, coordinates the administration of the tests and faculty and staff who teach the various AP classes, make certain that it is a time to share all that has been learned in these challenging classes. This effort culminates with a two-week period, where different tests are given each morning and afternoon.  It is a daunting process, but one that the students are fully prepared for. Our success in the APs is exceptional and yet it is ultimately the experience of taking challenging and demanding rigorous courses and learning how to synthesize, analyze, and grow from that experience that is the real reward.  Every one of our classes here at school is a college level class.  However, the AP courses, allow students to have a different level of challenge that clearly prepares them well for college. The “quietness” comes because of the respect everyone displays for the different rooms and areas where students are taking those tests.  It is an experience being shared at every high school in the United States that offers the AP Program and the “opportunities” for learning that our selections provide are powerful.

The “quiet” in the building, is a reminder of this special time of the year.  There is still much to cheer about, however, outside, during games on our athletic fields, as all our teams are racing to the end of a very successful spring season.  Or to cheer for the outstanding performances last weekend of our Upper School actors and actresses, in their exceptional production of “Sarah, Plain and Tall.”

If you see weary students heading out of the building after completing an AP test, please give them a big smile or a pat on the back, and congratulate them for a job well done. And if you see Seniors out in the workforce or dressed in business attire as they head back to the building to make their presentations, give them best wishes as well. The maturity, poise, and confidence they now so openly demonstrate will fill you with pride. All in all, the “quiet” is a reminder of a significant milestone in the school year.

Have a great week and weekend ahead!  And to all the mothers out there in our “school family,” we wish you all the best.  Thank you for the tremendous love and care you have shared so openly with our “children” and with your extended Flint Hill School family! You mean the world to us!

Best wishes to you!