September 7, 2016

Dear Flint Hill School Family,

Last week, we initiated a look at the concept of “best practices”  with an overview of what that concept can look like at Flint Hill. To take that one step further, a key element in our discussion of best practices is our mission as a school:

A Flint Hill education focuses on the learner. Within a context of strong relationships, we create developmental experiences that embrace the best practices of traditional and contemporary education. Through continuous growth, we actively and thoughtfully implement the ideas and resources that help each student investigate, create and communicate collaboratively and effectively in a rapidly changing, interconnected world.”  

Our mission statement can be found in a number of places – it’s on our public website, in various publications and can be found posted in classrooms, offices and meeting spaces on both campuses. But what does it really mean? Every word in our mission statement was chosen carefully to effectively summarize our approach to teaching at Flint Hill, and as we continue our discussion of best practices this week, I’d like to break that down for you.

“Focuses on the learner”  

The word “learner” was selected very deliberately. We know that both students and faculty alike are constantly learning. Our faculty is learning all the time both through professional development their time spent with our bright and talented students. And the students are learning from the discussions, opportunities and challenges presented to them every day, both in and outside of school.

“Within a context of strong relationships”

We know that relationships are one of the strongest elements of our program. The healthy bond among students, faculty, coaches and staff makes the learning powerful, personal and meaningful. Every interaction comes back to the relationship. Think back to your own schooling. When you had strong, positive relationships with your teachers, learning came easily. Relationships are at the core of all learning.

“Developmental experiences that embrace the best practices of traditional and contemporary education”

Learning is a developmental process – it isn’t about memorizing something and reciting it back. Every bit of research tells us that this kind of learning is easily and quickly forgotten and has no connection to real world application. The concept of developmental experience is driven by the idea that over time, as learning develops, we come to understand the “why” behind what we are learning.

In honoring best practices of traditional and contemporary education, we combine best practices from the past – from oral presentations to writing a five-paragraph essay – with progressive, research-driven instructional practices. As a result, our students are collaborative, creative, innovative problem-solvers who are prepared for the demands of the future beyond Flint Hill.

“Through continuous growth we actively and thoughtfully implement the ideas and resources that help each student investigate, create and communicate collaboratively and effectively.”

This best practice has to do with making the most out of the ideas and resources that we have available to us. We have to let students investigate, to do research on their own, and to continue with an assignment until it is done and done well. It is an ongoing process that eventually translates into a lifelong pattern of learning.

“In a rapidly changing, interconnected world”

We need to look no further than the walls of our own buildings to see how interconnected our world is. More than 105 flags are hanging on both campuses! They represent the nationalities that are embedded within our faculty, staff, parents and students. That’s the world our children are going to compete in, work in, and learn with and from. We cannot pull back from that reality. It is the world today and every day in the future.

The world is also in a rapid state of change. The technology that our first graders will use by the time they are in the Upper School hasn’t been invented yet. But it will be there waiting for them, and I have no doubt that they will adapt seamlessly to the new tools and ways of learning.

This learning process works! We hear it each and every day from our alumni and their families. They keep us posted on the successes they are having around the world, both in their educational experiences and as they move into the workforce. It is an exciting, dynamic process that we are thrilled to partner with you to bring to each of our Huskies today.

As we move forward, and you have the opportunity to get to know the teachers and the division leaders who are bringing all of these “best practices” to life, please do not hesitate to ask questions. I encourage you to attend the coffees that are scheduled this year and take the time to understand our process and our program. It may be different from your school experience or the experiences of your older children, but it is effective and relevant today. The future is bright for our kids and this 2016-2017 school year at Flint Hill promises to be one of the very best.

Next week, we will look at how our vision for every student and our four core values are related to the best practices we employ here at school.

Best wishes to you!
Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster