September 28, 2016

Dear Flint Hill School Families,

As we conclude this month’s discussion of best practices, the final topic I’d like to discuss is our unwavering focus on finding ways to educate our parents. Being a parent is one of the greatest challenges a person can face. It is one of the most rewarding and most difficult things a person can do in life. For many of us, our only preparation was  watching our own parents parent us. There is no definitive rulebook to tell us how we should parent — learning to set limits, to create boundaries, and to find balance between being loving and supportive and being firm and direct are all things we have to learn as we go.

Fortunately, we are all part of a school family at Flint Hill that values the partnership between home and school. We recognize our responsibility to educate your children and help them to become the best people that they can. But we also understand the importance of being available, accessible and open to working with our parents in very direct ways. This is why I host a series of coffees myself, in the fall and in the spring, for parents. This is why the Division Directors each host a Coffee each month, where they make themselves available either with specific topics or open forums for Q & A. We also work very closely with our Counseling Office, College Counseling Office, Learning Center and other offices throughout the school to provide opportunities for parents to become better educated on our roles, either with morning coffees or in evening events. If you look at our school calendar, you will see endless opportunities.

Led by Director of Counseling Barbara Benoit and Technology Integration Specialist Melissa Turner, one new program that has been initiated this fall by the Counseling Office and Office of Instructional Technology is the Fall Digital Education Series. The series is unfolding in three parts. A “mini-conference,” held for parents on August 23,  focused on creating a better awareness of what we as parents can do to support our children at home in their use of technology and digital media. Many resources were made available to parents, as well as information from various groups with lots of good insights and valuable material for parents. In addition, members of our faculty hosted a series of sessions that parents could choose from to build a customized schedule. The list of topics is available here.

The next event in the series will be a keynote, “The Impact of Technology on the Developing Brain,” with Dr. Andrew Doan. Dr. Doan is a leading neuroscientist, who has focused on technology and its effect on the human brain. He will be doing an evening presentation, open to all of our parents, on Wednesday, October 5, from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m., in the Olson Theater on the Lower and Middle School Campus. I strongly urge all of you to attend that program. Dr. Doan is going to provide invaluable information as we look at the impact of technology on our children’s brains and long term development. From using technology for academic work, gaming and social media, to addressing technology addiction, Dr. Doan will share advice for setting boundaries with our children and setting them up for success. How do we find a healthy balance? How do we create device-free zones in our homes, school or even device-free time?  Every parent in our community will benefit from this discussion.

Dr. Doan will meet with Upper School students earlier in the day, and then will provide this very enlightening and insightful presentation in the evening for parents. Too often, many of us have either allowed our children to have too much access to technology, have used it for “behavior management” or withheld it as a punishment. We need to come up with practical and meaningful ways that will help all of us in this endeavor, so please mark your calendars and join me on October 5!

The last discussions in the Digital Education Series will take place in November, during each of the divisional coffees. Each one will focus on the topic of technology at that particular division and age. These sessions will be incredibly insightful opportunities for all us to actively engage together on these important issues.

Part of “best practices” is making ourselves available and recognizing that none of us — at home or at school — are doing this alone. There is so much that we need to learn from and with each other. So let’s make this digital educational piece a meaningful example of how that can work and work well. I look forward to your continued engagement with these events. If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call on me.

Best wishes to you!

Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster