September 4, 2019

Dear Flint Hill School Families,

I hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful Labor Day weekend. Now, it is time for us to get into our routines, get back to school, and look forward to making this school year the very best possible. Over the next few weeks, you will have the opportunity to meet your children’s teachers and get a glimpse of what the school year holds for them. Our annual Back-to-School Nights start on Thursday with the Middle School, followed by the Lower School next Thursday, September 12, and the Upper School on Thursday, September 19. Each one of those evenings is critical. It will provide you with an overview and an outline of everything we have planned for your children’s educational experiences for this year. At the same time, it also is a personal experience. It will allow you a chance to directly meet and begin to build a relationship with your child’s teachers.

The teaching profession is probably one of the noblest callings anyone can have. Teachers go into it knowing full well that they have an enormous responsibility to support and help children to develop their skills, work ethic, knowledge and character as people. In education, especially at Flint Hill, we are playing a “long game.” We want our graduates to be good, solid people. Our ultimate goal is to have humble, confident and competent graduates. Each step along the way is critically important. And you are very much a valued part of this equation. I look at parents as our children’s primary teachers, just as we look at our teachers as surrogate parents at times.

The teaching profession has genuinely been evolving over the years. Here is a link to a teacher’s contract from 1923, just under 100 years ago. Men were not allowed to teach, and the women who took on this enormous responsibility were under tremendous pressure to meet the needs that were thought to be necessary at that time. Today, we view teachers differently. Rather than being a “sage on the stage” who imparts wisdom by lecturing students, teachers are facilitators and mentors. Their vision is to help students learn how to learn. Critical and analytical thinking has replaced the “old” days of simple reading, writing and arithmetic.

At Flint Hill, our teachers have a crafted curriculum that they want to share, and they seek to motivate and encourage students to actively engage with it. At the same time, they know they are teaching our Huskies how to think creatively, how to work collaboratively, and how to own their learning. It is not just about grades or reports. Remember, our teachers are available to all our students, from early morning until late afternoon, in all three divisions. They are here to support your children and learn with and from them. And they want to work closely with you as partners in this process.

So as you get ready for Back-To-School Nights, please keep several things in mind:

  • Listen. There is an enormous amount of information that we will share in those short meetings. Remember that this is the children’s educational journey; it is not ours. Our role is to listen and get excited about their learning opportunities, so we can support their educational experience.

 

  • Be supportive. Teachers are going to ask your children to step out of their comfort zones time and time again during this year; that is part of the learning process. For some children that will be an easy challenge, but for others, it may be more difficult. It certainly was for me when I was in school. All we ask is that you support the teachers. Encourage your children at any age level to advocate for themselves. If they don’t understand things or have any questions, encourage them to go directly to their teachers. Our teachers are here because they care. They believe this field is their calling, and they want to help. You are also more than welcome to reach out to our teachers if you have questions. Please be assured that they will listen, thoughtfully consider your questions, and will value your input. And remember how hard they have worked to become a part of our faculty.

 

  • Value this experience. The Flint Hill experience is comprehensive, in-depth, and focuses on what is in the best interest of the students. It does change at times to match the constantly-changing world we live in. We are not teaching the way they taught 30 or even 10 years ago; we are continually deliberating on what is best for our students. How much technology should be infused into the classroom? How do we teach students to do various projects? How do we make sure we are encouraging them to get as excited about learning as we are? One of the things that I have found over my many years in teaching is that the more I learn, the more I discover that there is still so much more that I need to learn. So valuing that experience puts all of us on that “sled” together as Huskies and ensures that our children will get the very best experience possible.

 

I would also like to share a poem written by Esther Jarratt, who is the grandmother of a Flint Hill student who graduated several years ago. She had been a teacher for many years, but, due to illness, she had to retire. As she reflected on the profession she had given her life to, she wrote this poem that her family kindly shared with me. I have always valued it. It speaks to the question of discovery and the joy and adventure that education presents to us all. It truly is a journey; it is not just a destination. It is the thrill of learning more and more and realizing with each discovery that there is even more to discover.

Enjoy your Back to School Nights! I look forward to seeing you in the halls and joining you in being excited about the experiences that your children are about to have this year. If I can be helpful in any way in this journey, please do not hesitate to call on me.

Best wishes to you!

Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster