Dear Flint Hill School Families,
We frequently reflect here at School on our mission, vision and core values. They guide and direct everything we do. The core values served as the foundation for the recent emails you received from the division directors this week. While the communication focused on updates to our written policies and procedures, they were all driven by our commitment to our four core values. Our objective was to focus on clarity, directness and understanding. We want everyone in our School family to understand that those structures and limits are in place to purposefully provide safety and security for our students.
At Flint Hill, our core values have been and will continue to be a signature aspect of our educational experience. We teach those values in age-appropriate ways in each division. In the Lower School, as part of their work with Responsive Classroom, students learn the Husky Promise. The student-driven Social Contract in the Middle School, which is informed by Developmental Designs, is centered on those values. In fact, our core values are painted on the walls in the Middle School and now are visible on banners along our campus roadways. In the Upper School, much of the focus has been on academic honesty among our students, which was reflected in the Honor Code. This year we are introducing the Upper School Core Values Commitment Ceremony, which will be focused on our institutional values and will serve as a more fitting complement to the traditions that are in place in the Lower and Middle Schools. At the end of this week, students in the Upper School will sign their commitment to the core values. And next week, all the adults who work on the Upper School Campus will sign their commitment in the presence of the students. It is our way of visibly demonstrating that this is not about imposing rules on students, but about the culture we seek to cultivate at this School.
You are key members of this process, this home-school partnership. So I want to make certain that parents truly understand our School’s core values and that you will join us in keeping them top of mind whenever and wherever possible.
Respect. We value the fact that we are a relationship-oriented school. We care about everyone in this community — students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni, friends, etc. You are all important to us. And we want everyone to feel that respect in every interaction. We know that the best way to work with others is to be personal and respectful. That is critical in face-to-face interaction, as well as in a voicemail, email or any other form of communication. At times, we can all get confused, angry or upset, and while we need to occasionally express those feelings, we also need to make sure that we respect each other in a very open and transparent way. We want our children to be respectful to us, and we respect them in return. Respect is also at the core of our belief in equity and inclusion. We want everyone to feel respected and valued here at school or in any interactions with members of our community.
Responsibility. This is a crucial part of everything we do. Whether students are doing their homework, participating in a sport or in a performing group. It includes showing good manners, completing chores at home and meeting the School’s daily expectations. All of these actions reflect this important core value. Responsibility can be a burden at times. People who are particularly charismatic might find themselves with the added responsibility of people wanting to follow or listen to them. If you have that “gift,” you have the responsibility to lead people in one direction or the other. The most significant way to promote responsibility is to live up to what has been set before us. As parents, we know our responsibility is to love our children unconditionally and to get them educated. And our children have a responsibility to work hard, be kind and engage actively in their learning. There will be times when we need to stand by them, as they deal with difficult situations. And because we are true partners in this School family, you may sometimes feel the need to come in, to seek advice or counsel, to make sure that the learning experience for your children is all that we collectively want it to be. We have a responsibility to provide that support.
Honesty. This value is something we always want to uphold, but we also know that sometimes it is not easy. We want our students to understand how important it is to be honest and to live that value. There was a famous math professor at Vanderbilt University who used to tell his students before giving them their exams, “You are going to take two exams today; one in math and the other in character. If you have to fail one, fail math.” Dishonesty stays with you. We all remember moments when we were dishonest; it never leaves us. So help us by reinforcing and demonstrating the value of honesty with your children. If your children are trying to talk you into calling in with an excuse for why they are late, absent or don’t have completed homework, please tell us the truth. This positive, supportive action in itself will teach them so much more than anything we say about core values.
Compassion. This is about being kind and caring. It embraces values like empathy and love. It is our way of making sure that we genuinely have an impact on others that is open, honest, respectful and emotionally supportive. We want to be authentic by caring for others. It is not just about putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes. It’s about truly caring enough to put them at ease, to see what may be troubling them, or to make sure they know how much we value, respect and honor them. Some people wear their sensitivity on their sleeves. For others, it is rooted in their hearts. Regardless, the warm, personal sense of compassion for others is critically important in our relationships here and away from School.
These core values of respect, responsibility, honesty and compassion are terms that nearly every student at the School can repeat. As parents and as educators, it is now our responsibility to work with them in their growth and development. They need to learn that repeating the words is one thing, but living, valuing and seeing the impact they can have on our lives and the lives of others is transformative. We need to instill in them a sense of character as people. We are interested in the long term impact on their lives. Let us incorporate those values into everything we do in our lives and in theirs. I know you will join us in this critically important mission. If you need help in any way further, please do not hesitate to call on us.
Best wishes to you!
John M. Thomas