Wednesday, January 24, 2018, marked the midpoint of the school year. I imagine there was not a lot of fanfare at your house, nor was it marked in any significant way here at school; still, I believe it is a significant date because it affords all of us, parents, students and teachers, the opportunity to stop, take stock and think purposefully about where we are now, where we were at the beginning of the year, and where we want to be in June. In this sense, I encourage you to take a moment to think about your Middle School son or daughter and consider the distance he or she has come over the past three years and, equally important, to consider what the priorities are for him or her in the future. When you do, I hope you will think broadly about the social and emotional growth that you have witnessed, the quality of decision making, character development and, of course, athletic, artistic and academic skill development.
It is intentional that I ask you to think in terms of three-year blocks of time. If your child is a sixth grader, remembering what you were helping her with as a third grader gives perspective on the dimensions of growth she has experienced since that time. If your child is in eighth, thinking about fifth grade is the ticket. Growth unfolds at what feels like a glacial pace. It is only over time and with intention that we see the beauty of children being able to take on increased responsibility or the unfolding of complex thinking and organizational skills.
My hope is that you will be both patient and strategic as you think about the next steps that will support your son or daughter. We know as adults that we do best when we choose wisely what we want to take on regarding self-improvement. This is, if anything, even more important when we are thinking about helping children grow. The best teachers at CA intentionally don’t notice everything that a student could do to improve writing or study skills; instead, they think strategically about what ONE thing the student could change that would create the largest cascade of improvement and then help the child begin the process of moving toward making that change little by little, giving caring feedback, strategic support, appropriate recognition of effort and plenty of room for the inevitable backslides and mistakes that are necessary ingredients for progress to manifest over time.
I also encourage you to consider our partnership as you take stock. One of the great parts about a CA education is that your child will be supported by many caring adults and have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of school experiences. She will be challenged academically, artistically and athletically every year. She will also learn from the extremely complex social interactions that come from being surrounded each day by hundreds of similar age children. All this is a given because you have chosen CA. Because you know your child will have these opportunities at school, you are able to consider those experiences outside of school which may best complement the work that we are doing with your son or daughter. This may be spending time with grandparents, camping as a family, a summer camp program, or, equally valuable, making sure that your child has sufficient down time and the opportunity to experience the gift of boredom. Being strategic about providing the “right” opportunities for children of this age most often does not include lessons or great intensity.
January is also admission season at CA, the time that we look across hundreds of potential applicants and try to make just the right matches between children, families and the school. Whenever possible, I try to be in the hallways to say “hello” to our visitors and share a bit about CA with the prospective families. I almost always ask the parents what kind of school environment they believe will be the right “next step” for their child. When you are looking at school, this is the sine qua non of queries. It is what the whole school game is about, matching the needs of the child with the school most likely to provide those opportunities that encourage growth.
On our end, we, too, are looking at each of our students with fresh eyes as we know that what was the right move in September is probably the wrong thing to focus on in February. We are having open and honest conversations with our classes and grade levels about what growth we have seen and what our next goals will be between now and June. These are exciting conversations as they recognize that each has grown as a student and young person and is ready for new challenges and next steps. Each day, each month and each year, it is our promise as a school to try to continue to be the right match for your son or daughter right up until she walks across the stage to receive her diploma.
If I can be of help in any way during the second half of the year, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am truly looking forward to our next five months together.