Einstein posited that as you approach the speed of light, it can make it seem to the observer as if time slows down, almost to a standstill. In some ways, this is the way school years seem to move. At times, the year feels like it is moving at the speed of light…how can we possibly have completed nine months together?! At other times, the year seemed to be moving quite slowly, giving us all the time we needed to help kids develop the social and academic skills we believe will be most helpful to them in the future.
Part of what Einstein recognized was that so much of what we experience depends on our frame of reference. Am I the one moving close to the speed of light or am I the observer watching that person? The experiences can be profoundly different. I think this is a helpful recognition for all of us who are moving so rapidly from one thing to the next, from a school year filled with activities, opportunities and challenges to a summer that probably looks surprisingly similar. In this sense, I hope you will join me in using school close as a chance to intentionally change our frame of reference, to slow down and take stock of the changes in our children that have occurred little by little over the course of the year.
When you do this, I hope you will notice that your son or daughter is both quite similar to the child you shared with us back on August 30 and in important ways a new person. School has always been a change agent in society, a doorway through which young people step to become transformed. My hope is that you will notice that your child is more skilled both interpersonally and as a student. That her writing is slightly more thoughtful and complex, that her reading for meaning is more nuanced, that she knows a little bit more about how she learns and can apply this to novel situations, that she is a bit more proactive about asking for help and that her problem-solving skills (both academic and interpersonal) are growing. You may even be able to find an instance during the year when you were worried about something that happened – a movement between friendship circles or a bump in a child’s relationship with his teacher – that, in hindsight, was just that, a transient moment of concern that proved to be short lived because he was able to rebound and move forward successfully. Taking stock at the end of the school year allows us to appreciate the cumulative effect of the many, many small steps our children have taken.
On my part, I try to take a few minutes to be grateful for the partnership I experience with this parent group…the many times that we have worked together to make the best of a challenging situation, the times that parents have given us the leeway to pilot new curriculum or to experiment with a new trip format. We truly are ALL working for the same outcome, student growth and success, even if, at times, we may see something from slightly different perspectives. I am lucky to get to work with this set of children and with all of you.
The same is true for how grateful I feel toward this faculty. They care about the kids, try at all times to be professional, and do their best to support and challenge their students in the right measure every day from August till June. Getting to sit in on their deliberations about how to help individual students is a true pleasure and why kids make the progress that they do. The end of the school year also gives us a chance to assess our program and think about those changes we believe will advantage our students next year. Most broadly this takes the shape of the “80-20” rule. We keep approximately 80% of our curriculum and replace about 20%. To make this happen, each teacher reevaluates her program, culling projects and assignments that did not hit the mark and adding new activities and opportunities for learning that she believes will be more likely to encourage understanding. This annual “churn” in the curriculum is essential to keeping it rich and vibrant AND takes significant time and effort on everyone’s part over the summer. We will also be adding a new 7th grade overnight trip in the fall and are excited to show off a new Middle School Design and Innovation Studio that will be used by our Computer Science classes and available to all students.
I hope the summer months are filled with family, friends, adventure and good books. I wish our continuing Eighth Graders good fortune in the Upper School, and I look forward to sharing next year together in the Middle School. If I can be helpful in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me.