As I write in January, I note the days are just beginning to get a bit longer. Winter is a busy time in the life of a school: Teachers and students have hit the midway point; students double down on coursework for the current term; and teachers begin to measure the remaining time to master new material, while administrators begin planning for the next school year.
Studies of behavior and performance in schools conclude that as stress rises in the winter months among students, their performance tends to drop. This is not surprising. We have less daylight; weather drives us indoors; and despite those external factors, at a school like CA, we don’t really slow down. In the depth of winter, year-end goals can seem distant, even difficult, to reach. The pace can be hard to sustain (particularly for older students). Here are some thoughts about how to have a healthy and rewarding winter term.
Remember why we are here
It’s easy to forget why we all chose Colorado Academy; operative here is the word “chose.” We are each here voluntarily. True, getting an education is somewhat of a compulsory duty, but we ALL chose this school for a reason. Among the common values that draw us and keep us at Colorado Academy is that students can receive a fantastic education in a supportive, caring, and inclusive community. The students, with their enthusiasm and their diligent efforts, serve as constant reminders of why I find it so meaningful to be part of this school. No matter the day, it is possible to end each and every one with gratitude for being part of this community.
Ease up on the pressure
We say it to families and students all the time: It’s okay to make mistakes. When it comes to academic achievement, it is important to put our work in perspective. All students, by virtue of the fact that they are students, are a work in progress. For each person, there are many things beyond his or her control that can impact academic success. I believe we learn from failure and adversity. Speaking now to the adults in the community, we must remember that a poor outcome on a single assignment still leaves plenty of room for a child to turn out just fine. In fact, doing poorly and being held accountable might be the best thing for a child’s long-term development. We want our kids to TRY to do and be their best, but let’s remind ourselves that no one is perfect, and the process of growth inevitably involves constructive criticism.
The pace of the school year can feel unrelenting, particularly in the dark days of winter. There are lots of breaks along the way and always plenty of things to look forward to, including athletic contests, artistic performances, mid-winter traditions and time off. Getting and staying organized helps students best manage their time. For older students in particular, it can be helpful to take a longer view of the calendar and to know what major assignments are on the horizon. When I talk to students about homework load most report that it is manageable. It gets harder when multiple assignments are due at the same time. Our homework policies empower students and, ideally, protect them from having too many assignments due on a single day. They can always speak to an advisor or administrator when there are conflicts.
Take care of yourself
In the winter, it’s a lot easier to get sick and even deal with a little seasonal depression because it’s hard to get outside. I encourage students and families to develop a schedule that includes time for homework, but also includes unstructured personal time, dinner together as a family, and SLEEP. No matter if you are in the Lower, Middle, or Upper School, you need sleep. In fact, you need more of it than you think. The American Academy of Pediatrics says young people ages 6-12 need 9 to 12 hours of sleep, and those ages 13-18 need 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. I love the quotation: “Nothing good happens after midnight.” Well, I am pretty sure that homework completed after midnight probably doesn’t represent your best work, either. Stick to a schedule, turn off those electronic devices, and get plenty of rest. You will be happier, healthier, and more able to do quality work.
Again, this is for older kids who tend (appropriately) to have more open-ended assignments. Be reasonable in your ambitions. Learn to say no. And figure out ways to manage your workflow, so that you preserve your well-being. While CA offers so many choices of activities, electives, and events, remaining realistic about just how much you can do will help you enjoy more and stress less.
Know there are adults who care
There is not a teacher on this campus that doesn’t care about your well-being and safety. We have phenomenal, caring counselors who are there for you. So, too, are homeroom teachers and advisors, who are there to be your advocate. Students, if you ever feel you don’t understand something or are facing a challenge, there are teachers who will be there for you. All you need to do is ask for help.
Parents, if we calculate the combined years of experience of this faculty, the total would be more than 1,500 years of experience working with young people. There are few circumstances we haven’t seen or thought about, and we are here to help you, as well. We all need to work together to serve students. Communication is key to building community.
We are a little over halfway through the school year, and, already, it has been an incredible one. Just so far this year, we have:
- Launched an academic intensive program in our Upper School for freshmen as they study all aspects of the topic of immigration
- Reinvigorated CA’s Hockey program and reinstated a Hockey Team at CA
- Celebrated a sold-out STEAM Night in our Lower School, with dozens of science, math, and design-learning activities for students
- Created and launched a new architectural drawing elective as part of our visual art program
- Doubled student participation in programs like competitive climbing, girls swimming, Middle School mathematics club, Lower School coding, and much more
- Refurbished and resurfaced Slater Field and nearly completed construction on Phase I of our new Field House/Athletic Center
- Celebrated top-notch dramatic performances in the Middle and Upper School, complete with a traveling production for children
- Provided students with dozens of learning opportunities outside the classroom, from Lego League Team competition and the Global Water Challenge in the Middle School to the Stock Market Challenge in Upper School
- Involved dozens of students in everything from a record-breaking Students H.O.P.E. event to the Student Diversity Leadership Conference
- Most of all, we’ve continued to work together to build a community around the students of our school, providing support, friendship and camaraderie. Here’s to everyone’s continued success.