There are many ways to kick off a school year. We do it by first bringing together the 6th through 8th community and then coming together as a whole school. Our message to the students is that we are ONE school composed of 14 grades. This matters and is one of the aspects of Colorado Academy that makes it both special and unique. The little ones on the campus know that they are participating in a greater community and can look forward to one day being a middle schooler and then moving on to high school. At each stage and developmental level, the school helps students feel a part of the whole by supporting each to build skills and abilities to be ready to take on the next challenges.
Coming together as a whole school also reminds older students of the nature of the journey from being a young girl or boy to becoming a senior poised to launch in June. There is something powerful about witnessing this cycle of growth year over year. Of course, what I am most excited about are the Middle School years, not because they are better or more important than the others, but because they are so much fun. Middle School teachers get to see students come into their own as social, emotional, and academic beings. We get to mentor students through the rough edges of social awakening with all the precipitous joys and rocky pratfalls. We get to support young people to be more brave, as well as more empathetic than they thought they could be. We also get to encourage students to take their first sometimes shaky steps toward increased independence.
‘Teach her how to fish’
I’ve been thinking a bit about what the essence of education should be, and I’ve landed for the moment on the old chestnut, “Give a person a fish, and you feed her for one day, but teach her how to fish, and you feed her for a lifetime.” To get my full meaning, please substitute problem solving, being creative, collaborating, writing with clarity, including others, and taking care of oneself for the “fish” part of the adage. This really is what schools do; we teach students how to independently do ALL of these things and more. It is not easy to do, and it takes many years and many hands to do well. If we all pull together, parents and teachers, we help young people skill up and practice what we believe is important, so that when they leave our school and your home they are ready to jump in and swim in the unpredictable and choppy waters of life.
In my first article, I often emphasize the opportunity that students have to make of themselves whatever their imagination can conjure. If they want to be a great student, or kind friend, or thoughtful artist, or resilient athlete, they can with hard work and diligent practice. It is what is so amazing about a school year. It is a blank slate begging to be written on by each student. The sky is the limit. While all of this is true, this time, I would like to focus on the fresh start the school year offers parents. We often forget that we have this same opportunity each fall to reflect on how we can best support our children anew. We can’t change the decisions we made last year…how we spent our time, what messages we sent about gratefulness, kindness, inclusivity, achievement, and all the rest, but we can take stock of what our child needs now and do our very best to deliver. These subtle parenting changes year over year create the space for new growth in our sons and daughters.
There is so much that I am looking forward to this year. My hope is that we will support one another and not get too caught up when our students’ “fishing lines” get tangled, as they inevitably will. As their guides, we will help them untangle whatever mess may come their way, and hopefully, skillfully get them back on the water casting again. Ultimately, though, if we stick with it and support each student, we will one day be rewarded to see independent, masterful, and self-sufficient fisherpeople. If there is any way that I can be helpful to you or your child, please do not hesitate to contact me.