Family dinners at my house can be messy – and not just the dishes. It’s not always easy to coordinate schedules, pull kids away from homework/books/sports/screens, put my own devices away, and figure out what to cook that the majority of people will eat. But most nights all of us are together in the same room, eating something at dinner-ish time.
Upper School Director Barbara Whitlock sends a monthly message to upper school students. In her January message, she coaches students to think about how the way they communicate.
What’s the best thing about returning to school after a break? Reconnecting with others.
And how do we connect? Through talking.
Aristotle says that what most distinguishes humans is our ability to communicate. The fact that we can talk in complex ways is unique to humans, and communication is the foundation of community. Note that these words share the Latin root word cum or with. Talking is how we connect with others. Connecting with many people in a shared context -- such as at school -- is the way we weave the fabric of community.
A couple of years ago, I was planning a workshop for Montrose School’s Sophomore Symposium. Specifically, I was searching for a powerful story could I use to remind students of one of the core lessons from the middle school’s signature “Habits of Mind” class:
The days have gotten shorter and the weather chiller. ‘Tis the season . . . for your child’s parent/teacher conferences.
Every parent – and every teacher – can feel a little anxious leading up to parent/teacher conferences. Yet this annual passage is an important touchpoint in the school year. At Montrose, we know that parents are the first and most important educators of their daughters. That means that our November conferences between parents and a student’s teachers and mentor are essential to forwarding our aims to partner with parents to support their child’s academic and personal growth.
How can parents best prepare to engage in these short but important conversations?
If someone asks you -- how are you doing -- where does your mind tend to go first?
To your worries about what you need to get done? I have so much work to do…
Stress surrounding upcoming tests or other deadlines? That test is going to be so hard…I’ll never get that paper done…
Some slight you perceived from a friend?
As the leaves unfurl and new flowers pop out every day, we’re reminded that it’s a season of change. As fellow New Englanders who have longed for spring, we know how to welcome that change, even if it leaves our sinuses a little itchy.
Some say it strikes like lightning: that spark that sets the mind on fire and ignites the spirit. We grasp it in an instant and recognize it despite its ever changing form, in the capture of a scream on canvas, our country’s origin story told in rap, or the wordless story expressed in an animated short film. It has directed humanity’s course, both in ancient times and present day. With it, our ancestors made sense of the stars; our contemporaries plan a pathway to Mars.
When I was a young teacher – years before I had children – a wise head of school pulled the faculty together before parent-teacher conferences and shared this quote from Elizabeth Stone.
“Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ”
"Remember," he said, "when you talk about someone else’s child with them, you are talking about their heart."
Parenting is such sublime, scary, soulful work – and we can use all the help we can get. Here are four recent articles that might provide a slice of support: