September 20, 2017

Dear Flint Hill School Families,

I use the expression “partnership” all the time when I talk about the relationship you have with the School. Terms like “team” and “we” frequently appear in anything I write or share. Those terms all reflect the commitment we are both making to supporting your children’s educational experience. And while we each carry unique, and to some degree, very separate responsibilities in our roles, we share this endeavor to ensure that your children are successful. It will take a strong, viable partnership if we are going to see the outcomes we both desire.

But what does that partnership look like for us? How do we make it work? You may have grown up just “going” to a school, and your parents may have had little contact with teachers and school leaders. Parent conference days, back-to-school events or — heaven forbid — a visit to the principal’s office may have been your parents’ key interactions with the school you attended. Obviously, that is not the experience we want at Flint Hill. Here, we look at our partnership as one that involves mutually beneficial goals; engaged interaction; and open, honest and direct levels of communication. Add to that a strong dose of trust that helps inform each of us in ways that will have a positive impact on our Huskies, and then we have a true partnership.

This partnership may be uncomfortable at times. A fear of judgment or confrontation can be a barrier at times. As in any relationship, we have to work through the “courtship” phase and get to the heart of what we are most focused on — your children. It is also important to remember that we see different sides to your children here than you do at home, and until we share those perspectives with each other, we may not have the full picture. My own boys could be tough at home at times, especially in their adolescence. Uncommunicative, confrontational, argumentative, surly, and defiant were some of the words I used to sometimes mutter to myself.  Yet, whenever we met their teachers or their friends’ parents, we would always hear how polite, mannerly, gracious, gregarious, and pleasant they were to everyone else. Emily and I would always look at each other in bewilderment, but we were grateful that they were showing their best sides to the world. We just hoped that someday we would get to see it ourselves. Eventually, we did, and we still do to this day, but it was the partnership with others that gave us faith that our values as a family had been instilled in our boys.

If I had to hit some key points regarding the foundation of the partnership we hope to create here at school, they would be:

 

  1. Assume positive intent. Every step taken on our end is meant to support your child. We never mean to overburden them or put them under any duress. We want to challenge them, but only in ways that encourage them and allow them to grow, to think more analytically, to reason and to learn to value the joy of challenging yourself. Our objective is for them to learn how to think and how to build a sense of character. And we assume that we have your support as we go forward. You are always welcome to share, confidentially, your concerns and disappointments or to even question what we are doing. We want and value that feedback. It gives us guidance on how we are doing and, on occasion, gives us the opportunity to correct misinformation or false perceptions. As good “parents,” we don’t want our children ever to think we are in disagreement.

 

  1. Communicate. We need to talk whenever you hear something that surprises you. And we need to communicate with you when we see changes in your children’s behavior, effort or output. We need to communicate frequently and continuously. How can we help your children if we don’t know what is happening or how an experience here is affecting them? The communication needs to be direct and honest. For more general events and updates, we will communicate through our Coffees, this weekly newsletter and, sometimes, with announcements during events. Whenever possible, I encourage you to attend the events hosted here on campus and to read the Weekly Newsletter. On our end, we want the freedom to communicate openly and authentically with you about what we see happening here with your child.

 

  1. Trust. This can be one of the most challenging aspects of our partnership, but it is a critical one. You love your children and want only the best for them, and believe me when I say we do as well. So please trust that we will also join you in working toward those mutual goals. As educators, we sincerely are here to make your child’s entire educational experience an active, dynamic, meaningful, and personal process. That is all. And if we falter, we want to know about it, so we can make sure we are adhering to our mission, vision, guiding principles and our core values. Trust me on that!

 

I hope that this gives you a better sense of how we view our collective work on our “partnership.” Together, we want to stand with pride as these incredible young people grow up and begin to gain the knowledge, skills and character that we all desire for them. Together, we will all see the impact that our partnership has had on their development and their future selves.

If we can help in any way or work more closely with you to nurture that partnership, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We will always be here for you and for your children.

 

Best wishes to you!

Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster