As we enter our second month at Colorado Academy, I thought I would share some tips for students and parents about how to have a positive experience this year. It is so great being on campus all at the same time, even if we have to mask up indoors. You can feel such a positive energy on campus. During the pandemic, one parent told me their child said, “I will never take school for granted again.” I hope that is true, but, having taught for 25 years, there are some realities about school that can be tough to manage. Challenges are inevitable, and hopefully these thoughts can help guide you through.
Sleep is critically important for our health and wellness. Children aged 6-12 should get 9-12 hours per night and 13- to 18-year-old students should get 8-10 hours. Getting the right amount of sleep takes intentionality on the part of the student and family. Time management for Middle and Upper School students is essential. Also, avoid electronic devices for 45-60 minutes before going to bed, because light from devices can impact one’s sleep cycle.
Limit social media and electronics
Although it can feel like one has to be constantly connected to social media, one really doesn’t need to be. Now that we can be in person, try to encourage human-to-human connection. Smart phone apps are intended to be addictive. Too much use can undermine the development of critical social skills needed for effective in-person communication. Some of these apps can be damaging to a student’s sense of self, as the apps feature users who curate lives that appear to be perfect. Also, a significant percentage of disciplinary issues that arise at CA happen via social media. This is a hard ask, but teaching young people when and when not to be on their screens is as important as ever.
Know that there are people here to help you
Teaching is really about service to others. When a student is struggling, there are so many people here for their support. Our teachers are obviously here to help with a classroom or academic challenge. It’s always been tough being a kid. They are discovering all kinds of things and confronting all kinds of new challenges. If you or your student is feeling down, anxious, or depressed, don’t power through by yourself, seek help. Our counseling staff is incredible and is here to support you.
See the shared humanity in your fellow community members
Colorado Academy is as racially and ethnically diverse as it has ever been, with 29 percent of students identifying as having a racially diverse background. We have 25 percent of our employees who identify as people of color. We have families representing a variety of religions—Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, among others. We have gay, lesbian, nonbinary, and transgendered students and families. We have people who have different political worldviews. In this amazing mosaic, we always must respect the dignity of all. We all want the best for our kids, and we want them to be in a school that fosters community. Some schools talk about “tolerance.” That really is the lowest bar. We are all about trying to do everything we can to make sure everyone feels like they truly belong at CA.
We do a lot to try to arrange the flow of work to make it manageable. Each division has limits on the amount of homework per class, and there are limits on how many major assignments are due on any given day. Learning to manage one’s time is a critical skill. Try to set up a schedule that allows you to get your work done, but also has times for you to relax with family and friends.
Try something new and be involved
There are so many amazing programs and activities at CA that it is hard to keep track of them. I would encourage students to dive in and try as many things as they can manage. At CA, we are academics, artists, and athletes, and so much more. There are many ways to get involved and help make our community stronger.
If you are a student, get involved with as many clubs, sports, arts activities, and interests as you can. Don’t overschedule, but try new things to challenge your growth.
For parents, know there are many volunteer activities to help you connect. There are community-building parent clubs like the biking and climbing clubs. There is our wonderful SPEAK lecture series. Attend sports competitions and cheer on our athletes at games. You will meet amazing other parents in the process.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
No matter what pressure you feel, you are going to be okay, and there are few things that are going to affect a student’s long-term success. Take it from someone who started at a school like CA in ninth grade and nearly flunked out. I struggled mightily that year. There were times when I felt like I couldn’t make it. But, at that school, I built a foundation and practices of how to work that helped me get my PhD and eventually become a Head of School. This is a time when students can fail and make mistakes.
I also say this as a parent who had three children attend CA’s Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools and are now in college. The journey can be bumpy at times, but those bumps make us stronger and give us perspective. Look at the challenge before you as an opportunity, and remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint.