It’s been a great start to the 2023-24 school year. The energy on campus feels very positive. Our athletic teams have hit the ground running and have played a key role in bringing students together. The arts are ramping up in all kinds of creative and positive ways, lifting everyone’s spirits. The Lower School playground is full of laughter and joy. And work is getting done in the classroom. Students are getting back into the rhythm of school, and it’s been fun popping into some classrooms to see learning in action.

As we enter the school year, I thought I would share a few tips for a successful school year. 

  1. Be positive. There is no doubt that aspects of CA’s curricular program are challenging. Having a positive and optimistic mindset can be essential to high performance and being able to manage various challenges. When I played little league baseball, I used to get nervous when I went up to bat. I remember my dad telling me to smile when I was at the plate and that would help me relax. I am not sure if it was because I did relax, or it was unsettling for the pitcher to see a grinning kid at-bat, but I got to be pretty solid at getting on base. Sometimes it can be hard to formulate a positive mindset when one is facing deadlines and academic pressure, but working to see the good in others and in one’s self can be so helpful.
  1. Do the work. Being organized and disciplined about homework and studying is essential. Being prepared can help one be more confident. If a student is having trouble with the workload, it is important to reach out early to their teacher, an advisor, or a member of the counseling team. CA has limits about minutes of homework per night, as we know students are managing multiple classes. Setting up a work schedule can be really key. And, ironically, being involved in other extracurriculars can help students manage their time better. A challenge for all students is thinking beyond the next day. So, having a calendar that captures various projects, assignments, games, performances, and other obligations is an important organizational tool.
  1. Get some sleep. The science is clear: sleep improves mental health. Too many students do not sleep enough. Children aged 6-12 years should regularly sleep 9-12 hours, and teenagers aged 13-18 years should sleep 8-10 hours per night. Not having phones or connected devices in bedrooms can really help, as can a good schedule.
  1. Get to know your teachers. The faculty at CA are here because they love to pass along their passion for learning. We have office hours and time for extra help. Take advantage of these opportunities to expand your knowledge and understanding. If you are having challenges, go see your teacher for help. Even if you don’t need help, learn the key skill of cultivating relationships with mentors. Students can do that by engaging in class discussions and asking questions.
  1. Don’t get derailed by failure. We all make mistakes, and we all fail at some point in our lives. That is okay. Learning how to respond when bad things happen is such a critical life skill. Even though our students can feel a lot of pressure, the stakes are low. If you get a B- or C, or even fail a quiz or test, all will be okay. I have seen students overcome all kinds of adversity over my 16 years at CA. Many of my most important lessons have come through some kind of failure. To be sure, it is not fun. Yet all will be well in the long term—provided you learn from the experience. Parents, please avoid putting pressure on your children for specific grades. Our students already feel pressure, given the quality of their peer students and program. I have met so many alumni who are super successful but felt as though they were mediocre at CA because they were surrounded by such amazing fellow students. Let’s have some grace for our kids. All we can ask of anyone is to try their best.
  1. Know your values. Young people will find themselves in all kinds of situations that require navigating social relationships. Students will face temptations—these can run from plagiarism to underage drinking or vaping. Or, it could involve witnessing others being unkind to another person. Students will have to learn how to stand up for themselves and for others. It’s important to have conversations at home about how to manage situations that are simply part of growing up in America. We want to see our students make healthy decisions. This doesn’t happen in a vacuum and comes from the school-family partnership. Taking the time as parents to come to our SPEAK events will provide great resources. So too, will speaking to our counselors if you are navigating an issue. 
  1. Laugh and have some fun. School should be joyous. We are here every day surrounded by friends. We can define and shape the quality of our experience.
  1. Turn down social media. We are going to look back at the past 20 years at some point and wonder how we, as a society, allowed social media to dominate our lives. The evidence that social media is not good for young people is overwhelming. I will be writing later about this subject. Social media can cause mental health issues, affect one’s sense of self-worth, and create needless friend drama. It can also lead to disciplinary issues. I know it is hard for students to go cold turkey on social media, but working on limits and having conversations to ensure healthy use is so critical for student well-being.
  1. Get involved. At CA, particularly in high school, you will never again have the opportunities you have here to try different sports and arts. We just had a club fair for the high schoolers—everything from Dungeons & Dragons to Mock Trial was on hand to recruit student members. Being involved in the life of the school will elevate your own experience and make CA better.
  1. Live the mission. Our mission is aspirational and achievable. We all are kind, curious, courageous, and adventurous learners and leaders. These are concepts that we all can understand and we are all capable of achieving.