Pulling the Sled

I hope each and every one of you had a tremendous Thanksgiving. We hope it was a time of rest, relaxation, and accomplishment in whatever needed to be done.  I also wanted to make certain that we wished our families who celebrate Hanukkah all our best during this very special time of the year.

This point of the year also marked the end of the “first quarter.” Over the past few weeks, I have had the privilege of handing out Headmaster’s Awards for all of those students who received straight “A’s.” Like you, I take great pride in what those students have accomplished, but I also know that a whole host of questions regardless grades and awards always surface at this time.  There are lots of questions worthy of our discussion, i.e. How do you grade projects? What does assessment really mean? How does the rubric apply to learning? What is mastering learning? What is a skill-based assessment? Or how does that convert into the traditional A, B, C…? Should our report cards be more informative? The list is endless. What I can definitely tell you is that all of this focus comes down to how to support and recognize all our great students who are so hard at work.

As I shake the hands of those students who receive the Headmaster’s Award at the Middle and Upper School levels, I am always amazed at how many of those youngsters are also tremendous artists, great musicians, outstanding athletes, and phenomenal school leaders.  Like all of our children, they are working hard to do their best. I can also tell you that I am very aware of the students who don’t get to come forward to receive such an award.  In their case, they have been working very hard themselves and yet, may have just missed that distinction by a grade or two. Does it diminish the effort, the hard work, and the passion that they have demonstrated?  No, but it breaks my heart that this process sometimes makes them feel badly and disappointed in themselves. A ceremony that is meant to recognize and award some becomes a painful and embarrassing moment for others.  To that end, in a recent a Middle School ceremony I tried to make the point that we are all Huskies.  We are part of a team and that by being part of the team means everyone is working together to pull that “sled.”  While we are all working together to pull that “sled,” there may be Huskies in front of us, and Huskies behind us. Each Husky is critical to the success of the team, so our effort in every class and in every situation actually has an impact on ourselves and on others.  We all have key responsibilities as we grow up.  Well all need to do the right things, do our best, and make every effort to learn and grow every single day.  Other important responsibilities are to look out for each other, to see if we can help others, where we may inspire others, where our question may stimulate a class discussion, where our struggle may suddenly bring the support of good friends who are there to help us understand to solve a problem more effectively.  In class and in all we do here, we are doing it together.

The whole question then of such recognition of awards and grades and related comments, is worthy of our ongoing discussion, particularly with younger students.  We need to applaud great efforts and achievements.  But are there other more personal ways to do it? I would love to know what you think. I plan on talking about it as part of the discussion series I will be hosting in February.  I am also always open to your input.  Your input really does matter to me. While I feel like I receive it on a regular basis and sometimes even anonymously, I am asking for it directly on this topic right now. I listen, reflect and consider all that I can hear and learn. At the same time, we know that the school ultimately has the responsibility to make decisions on how our program operates and what we do, but I can assure you that your thoughts, suggestions, and reflections are always thoughtfully and seriously considered. Please join me in this conversation.

As we move forward into the exciting weeks ahead, please look at the school calendar. There is an enormous array of events that begin to show up. We will have various musical performing groups from Grades 5 to 12 performing in their “Pyramid Concerts.”  These are great opportunities even for Lower School families to hear the progression of percussion, choral, band, and orchestra programs.

This weekend we will be hosting the Tip-Off Classic, which is a tournament that annually marks the official start of the boys and girls basketball seasons. This should be a very exciting tournament and one that has schools coming from throughout the region to participate. And on Saturday afternoon, we will also host our second annual TEDxYouth Day. We will have ten students presenting TED Talks; two students are from the Middle School and eight students are in the Upper School. Personally, I can’t wait to hear what they have to say. After last year’s performances, I came away inspired on so many levels because of the tremendous passion exhibited by our great students. Our robotics competition season also gets under way this week with their first tournament of the year.  Most schools only have one team to represent their programs. We have four fall teams! Go Huskies!!!

This is also a prime time for our admission open houses and different programs.  In fact, on Tuesday, December 10, at 6 p.m., we will have a special program for student athletes and artists. Held on the West Campus, this event is for our Grades 7 and 8 families as they look ahead to the Upper School, and also for prospective families from the outside who want to learn about those two very important aspects of our strong educational experience.

And during the week prior to winter break, students from Grades 7 to 12 will go into exam mode bringing their knowledge from this fall season into perspective. While the semester won’t officially end until mid January, this moment is an opportunity for the kids to collectively apply their knowledge on a number of fronts. Our faculty members take great efforts to design very effective and progressive exams.  They work hard to review prior to exams, to make sure that our students are prepared, and to give them the opportunity to shine.

As always it is a busy, but very exciting time here at Flint Hill. If we can be helpful in any way possible as we charge ahead, please do not hesitate to call on us.