Middle school started on a rough note for me. I moved from the comfort of a neighborhood school to the city’s junior high which housed over 1000 students. I felt lost and scared most of the time.
Years ago, I had a student who wrote an outstanding paper for me on The Diary of Anne Frank. Her compassion and understanding for Anne - someone who was unjustly persecuted - ran deep throughout her analysis.
Parenting can be equal parts amazing, lonely, and overwhelming. Here are three recent articles that offer some helpful nuggets as we try to raise good kids in a complicated world.
I was running late for work, and I wasn’t happy about it. It was a morning of lost shoes, spilled tea, sibling name-calling, and unfinished homework. One kid boarded the bus in tears and another was melting down in the backseat because I refused to return home to grab his stuffed tiger.
“Let me do it. I can do it! Let me try…. I want to try!” is both a familiar and endearing toddler refrain. Young children are wired to ask questions and explore their world. As kids grow older and social expectations set in, the stakes become higher. And often we, as adults, are not as comfortable “letting” children do, try and get curious about solving problems on their own. Once they seem hesitant, we are all too ready to leap in, fix and give advice. But should we?
Many years ago, I heard an Oprah interview with the novelist Toni Morrison, who passed away in August. Morrison described how, when her children came into the room, she thought she was showing care by fussing over their appearance, “to see if they had buckled their trousers or if their hair was combed or if their socks were up.”
But that was not what they were looking for, she said. Instead, she offered a different measure for care, “Does your face light up when your kid walks in a room?” Does your expression say, I’m so glad you are here?
In a recent report, the Lean In organization wrote that “mentorship is critical to the success of women across industries,” opening doors and providing vital training and support. According to one study, the majority of women in business view mentoring as “highly valuable” in advancing their careers, yet 63% report never having had a formal mentor.
Near the end of their senior year, as Montrose twelfth graders turn their sights to college and beyond, we wanted to address this opportunity and gap head-on in our first annual Senior Summit. The students traveled to the boardroom of The Bowdoin Group, an executive search firm, and engaged in mentoring conversations with women leaders who offered candid insights into the habits, experiences, and mindsets that have helped them flourish professionally.
As students head into the final two months of the year, they sometimes feel like sheer grit takes over: an inner strength that propels them forward through the “home stretch.”
Grit is a wonderful trait, something that helps us persevere toward our goals in the face of ordinary and extraordinary challenges. Dr. Angela Duckworth, researcher and author of Grit, describes it this way:
Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals. . . . [G]rit is about having what some researchers call an”ultimate concern”– a goal you care about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything you do. And grit is holding steadfast to that goal. Even when you fall down. Even when you screw up. Even when progress toward that goal is halting or slow.
In our middle school Habits of Mind classes this month, we are taking a look at this and the other strengths that can help students end the year on a high note. And like most of what we cover in the class, it’s a useful reflective exercise for adults, too.
In our polarized political climate, how can we help students engage in constructive dialogue? To communicate without attacking? Even if two parties do not change their views, can they change the way they relate to one another? Do we reduce people to their opinions, or do we see their full humanity?
Each spring, Montrose faculty engage in a two-day intellectual retreat. This year, we heard from Dr. Jenny Driver, who presented a workshop called “Dialoguing Across Divides.” Driver, a research physician and a professor at Harvard Medical School, is invested in helping doctors and patients communicate more effectively – and in bringing these key skills to schools and families.
In February, Montrose School hosted visiting research fellows from the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues in Birmingham, England. One of the researchers, Rachael Hunter, described what she learned about "What Can We Learn From Character Education in America?" We reprint it her post here with permission.
A thorough response to this question would take many more words, and hours, than a blog post. However, having just spent a few days in Boston with leading Character Education advocate Karen Bohlin, I wanted to briefly reflect on some of the more pertinent lessons that I took away from the experience. Karen is a senior scholar at Boston University and head of school at Montrose School, a private girls’ school, which seeks to embed character education into every element of school life.
At Montrose, character education is taught discretely, but it is also embedded across all subjects in the curriculum. This means that character education forms a consistent thread through the pupils’ educational experience, allowing them to see how their character development is happening in every moment of school life.